Carroll Shelby helped Ford beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but he wasn’t always on the American side of this rivalry. He won more races in a 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider than in any other car, and the example that he competed in will be auctioned in August.
Assigned chassis number 0598CM, the 410 Sport that’s headed to auction was developed for the 1955 edition of the Carrera Panamericana, a five-day rally that took competitors across some of Mexico’s most unforgiving terrain. It was given a short wheelbase to better handle rough roads, according to auction house RM Sotheby’s, and it was powered by a 5.0-liter V12 that delivered nearly 400 horsepower thanks in part to a twin-spark ignition system and three twin-choke Weber 46 DCF carburetors. It was one of the most impressive Ferrari models to date; the fact that the firm was less than a decade old at the time (it was founded in 1947) made the 410 Sport even more stunning.
Ferrari built two examples of the 410 Sport for the 1955 Carrera Panamericana, but the race was canceled after 83 spectators were killed and 180 were injured at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans. The crash marked a turning point in the history of racing; Mercedes-Benz notably stopped racing until 1989. Ferrari wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, and it had two newly-developed cars to put on a starting grid. Both 410s began racing at the 1,000 Kilometers of Buenos Aires in Argentina in January 1956. Famed pilot Juan Manuel Fangio notably drove 0598CM, and he asked Ferrari to install the accelerator pedal between the clutch and the brake pedals (it has since been moved back).
Ohio native John Edgar bought 0598CM from Ferrari and put Carroll Shelby behind the wheel. Shelby won the first race that he entered in the car in 1956 and went on to take 11 victories and 19 podium finishes (out of 40 races) until 1958. “It was the best Ferrari I ever drove,” he reportedly said. Edgar later began buying cars from Maserati, though some of the other pilots who raced for him continued to drive the 410.
Luigi Chinetti, a race car driver who rose to prominence as the first official Ferrari importer in the United States, bought Scaglietti-bodied 0598CM from Edgar and briefly raced it. He kept it in his collection until he sold it to a collector named Howard Cohen in 1980. It was restored and it has been sold several more times since; it has also participated in vintage rallies and won a class award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Shelby notably wrote, “Mr. Ferrari told me that this was the best Ferrari he ever built” on the gas tank in 2006.
RM Sotheby’s will auction this unique piece of both Shelby and Ferrari history in Monterey, California, in August. The car will be sold with a bill of sale, the first-place trophy from Shelby’s first win in it, and even a handful of congratulatory letters sent by Enzo Ferrari. RM hasn’t provided a pre-auction estimate, but we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this 410 Sport trades hands for an eight-digit sum.
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