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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Even the ugliest classic Ferrari should bring a pretty penny in Pebble Beach




1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Navarro Special
If we know the name Enzo Ferrari more than any other Italian racecar builder, it's not just because he knew how to make his cars go fast, but that he also appreciated how beautiful they could be. The golden era of Ferrari from the 1950s to the 1970s built the company's reputation for sports cars as art and art as mechanical power.
But even Ferrari has seen its name attached to a few less-than-attractive models over the years, and next week in California, Gooding & Co. will auction a car that many Ferrari enthusiasts consider the ugliest classic vehicle ever to wear the Prancing Stallion: the Navarro Special.

The Special left the factory as a normal 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, a luxury four-seat coupe powered by a 300-hp, 4-liter V-12, wearing graceful if slightly staid Pininfarina bodywork. Three years after its construction, it was bought by one Norbert Navarro, the wealthy owner of an eponymous night club.

There's precious little surviving evidence for why Navarro disliked the 330 GT's original look, and it's not clear how much of the new design was driven by Navarro's own ideas or that of Piero Drogo, a former racer who ran a sports-car building shop and agreed to do the work for him.

Photo: Mike Maez, Gooding & Co.
Photo: Mike Maez, Gooding & Co.
Whatever the inspiration, the results were outré even by the standards of a '70s-era Italian disco. Drogo's team lengthened the front and rear, giving the Ferrari an anteater-like front profile and flying buttresses in the rear that ended in weird, squared-off fins. Across the body, Navarro specified a golden paint color that only added to the effect.

Yet after all that effort, Navarro only owned the car a couple of years, before it was bought by Luigi Chinetti, Ferrari's chief U.S. importer, who hauled the Special to America. Chinetti used it as a show car for a few years before the shine fell off for him as well; at some point it was painted red, then fell into disrepair.

After a lengthy restoration, the car has been making public appearances over the past couple of years before joining the lots at Gooding's auction in Pebble Beach.

 While many people might demand a payment to park the Navarro in their garages, its gilded singularity will likely make it more attractive to Ferrari collectors. Where a typical 330 GT 2+2 from 1966 might sell for $250,000 to $300,000 today, Gooding expects the Navarro to bring between $400,000 and $600,000.

And faced with promoting an exceptionally bizarre car, Gooding's catalog-writing team dug deep to convey the Navarro's strangeness in the polite argot of Pebble Beach: "With its unique exterior design cues, (chassis number) 7979 is exceptionally striking and engaging as the physical manifestation of Norbert Navarro’s singular simply commands attention everywhere it appears today."
Art — in words as in metal — always lies in the eyes of the beholder.