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2003 Bonhams Gstaad Auction
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Click here to open the slideshowIntroduction
Hosted in one of Switzerland's finest hotels, the annual Bonhams Auction of 'Exceptional Ferrari Motor Cars, Automobilia and fine Wristwatches' was held for the sixth time this year. The Palace hotel is located in Gstaad, which is considered by many as the 'jet-set capital' of the Swiss Alps. Like each year before, a collection of very diverse Ferrari models were on offer.We traveled to a snow covered Gstaad and are proud to present a review of the cars available and a 75 shot slideshow.
The heart of the offered Ferraris was formed by the fourteen-car collection of the late Michel Lepeltier. Thirty-two cars filled the hotel's underground parking garage and the two 'star cars' in the first-floor auction room. Included were many important Ferrari road and racing cars ranging from a historic Ferrari 342 America of 1952 to a modern 360 Challenge.

The Lepeltier Collection
To create his Ferrari collection Michel Lepeltier and his wife worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for many years in their two garages. All the profits went into his collection. He first acquired his first Ferrari, a one year old 250 GT Lusso in 1965. From that year onwards he purchased almost every newly launched Ferrari up until the F40 he ordered in 1989. Having worked so hard for every Ferrari he purchased, Lepeltier treated his Ferraris with the utmost care, always storing them indoors and never taking them out on a rainy day.

On Easter Monday in 1990 Lepeltier was shot dead in his F40 after he refused to give up the keys of his precious car to two armed thieves. From that tragic day, the fourteen-car collection was stored and not seen in public until they were offered in this auction. Prior to the auction the collection was the subject of a long court battle over ownership between the family and the creditors of the now bankrupt garage. All of the cars are in incredible original condition and have a long single ownership provenance.

Lepeltier's love of Ferrari GT models is quite obvious when viewing his collection. After the 250 GT Lusso, the Swiss 'garagiste' purchased every 12 cylinder GT model launched up until the 512 BB of 1980. He was particularly fond of the 365 GTB/4 Daytona of which he owned two, an early plexiglass-nosed version and a later pop-up light model.
One of the most interesting cars of the Swiss collection was an early 308 GTB, which featured a fiberglass body only fitted in the first two production years. With less than 8,000 km on the odometer it must be one of lowest mileage examples of the 308 GTB in the world. Two other V8 engined cars were included in the collection, the 288 GTO and F40.
A Ferrari 250 GT SWB 'Lusso' (s/n 2649 GT) of 1961 was the collection's oldest and most valuable car. It was no 'ordinary' steel bodied SWB, as it is one of just two 'Shortwheelbases' fitted with covered headlights. This was just one of many unique features that make '2649 GT' a true one of a kind. As one of the auction's two star cars it was lined on display in the auction room.

Three unique examples
As stated earlier, a Ferrari 342 America was the oldest on the auction block. Although it was conceived strictly as a road car, it was stamped with an even serial number (0246 AL), which were traditionally used for Ferrari competition cars. Only six 342 Americas were constructed in 1952 and 1953, three of which were bodied with fairly similar Pinin Farina styled Coupe bodywork. One of the coach-builder's first 'big' assignments for Ferrari.
Ferrari's most expensive work in the 1950s were models modified to customer's individual requests, resulting in many unique cars. One of Ferrari's most prominent clients was Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. In 1964 he took delivery of a custom bodied and engined Ferrari 500 Superfast. This was the only one of the 37 Superfasts built that received custom coachwork. Livered in the Prince's favorite color green, it featured a 4-litre engine, rather than the 5-litre engine found in the other 36 cars produced, making it a truely unique example.
The Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona (s/n 15275) is an extreme example of customizing. It is fitted with
a unique 'Shooting-Brake' (estate) type bodywork. The design was originally drawn by NART's Luigi Chinetti Jr. and executed by Panther Westwoods. The interior was also completely modified with all dials relocated to the centre console. All dials were moved to the center-console. This unique car is just one of a handful of Ferraris ever fitted with a Shooting-Brake style bodywork.

Privateer GT-racing
Motor Racing has always been the core-business of Ferrari, but the Scuderia focussed their efforts on Formula 1 racing in the early 1970s, leaving GT racing to the privateers.
The first of the privately developed Ferrari GT racers was the Daytona Competizione. The first of these were built up by privateers, using a street Daytona as a base. After these proved successful, Ferrari's client department constructed three batches of five Daytona racers with competition parts from Ferrari. These modifications were again carried out on completed road cars. An perfect example from the second batch constructed in 1972 was available for bidding.Because of their versatility, Competizione Daytonas can be entered in many historic events, therefore very popular with historic racers. Undoubtably these circumstances deemed it necessary to include it with the Lepeltier SWB in the auction room.
Ferrari replaced the Daytona with the mid-engined 365 GT4/BB, which was then superseded by the similar but larger engined Ferrari 512 BB. Again after privateers gave it a promising shot, Ferrari set out to construct a 'competition package' for the 512 BB. This time it also included a completely restyled silhouette body which was assigned to Pininfarina. The result was the Ferrari 512 BB/LM, of which 25 were constructed. For various reasons the 'BB/LM' never matched the success of the Daytona Competizione. One of the more successful 'BB/LMs' was included in the Bonhams auction.
After the 'BB/LM's' disappointing results, it took almost twenty years before Ferrari privateers started modifying Ferrari GT cars for racing again. Their subject was the Ferrari 550 Maranello, considered by many as the true successor of the Daytona. This eventually resulted in a GTS class-victory for Ferrari in the 2003 24 Hours of LeMans race. Offered by Bonhams was the very first of these privately modified 550 racers, which raced most recently raced in the Le Mans 1000 km race.

The auction and results
To give potential buyers ample opportunity to inspect the cars on offer, the Palace hotel's underground parking was open for two days. A huge crowd gathered for the auction on the afternoon of the second day. The well known Lepeltier collection must have drawn the unprecedently large gathering. For the first time in the auction's history entry to the sales room was restricted to registered buyers only. The excitement of the auction also reflected in the sales; 23 of the 34 cars on offer found new owners, including the complete Lepeltier collection. An old friend of Michel Lepeltier's bought his F40 and gave an emotional speech after acquiring the car, declaring that Lepeltier was a "great friend and a good man." On Lepeltier's 250 GT SWB the hammer went down at over 1 million Swiss Francs, making it the highest sale of the auction. It was followed by a completely original 275 GTB/4 from the collection which was awarded to the highest bidder at just over 500,000 Swiss Francs.
Of the none-Lepeltier cars the Ferrari 500 Superfast Speciale and 512 BB/LM fetched the highest prices at 422,100 and 444,145 Swiss Francs respectively. The ex-Prince Bernhard Superfast returned to The Netherlands. Unfortunately the offers on the Daytona Competizione failed to meet the reserve set by the seller. The sum of all sales, including the automobilia and wristwatches was well over 6 million Swiss Francs! (All prices mentioned include the buyer's premium.)

A perfect location, nice winter weather and a superb collection promissed a great auction, but the results suprised even the most seasoned Ferrari expert. Every Bonhams Ferrari auction in Gstaad seems to be getting better, but this year's event will be hard to surpass next year!

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We would like to thank Bonhams and the Palace Hotel for their hospitality and for giving us ample opportunity to take pictures of the fine automobiles offered in the auction. For the complete sales result we would like to refer to the Bonhams website. Report and images by Wouter Melissen.