Other than the AC/Shelby Cobra, which has been ineptly reproduced in horrifying bulk by various people up to and including Carroll Shelby, and Bentley, which for the past decade has been the unwitting target of a sustained global counterfeiting operation in which Volkswagen Phaetons are refitted with welded-up pairs of turbochaged VR6es and cross-eyed Kia Amanti front ends to make so-called “Flying Spurs”, no major automaker has been the subject of so much fakery as Ferrari. It’s not always as simple as Mister Twos pretending to be 360 Spyders. Some of the most controversial “fake Ferraris” started their lives as real Ferraris.
Now, a prominent Ferrari broker (and faker) says that the company is taking steps to prevent the sale of fake Ferraris, even (or perhaps especially) ones that originally hail from Maranello.
Michael Sheehan, whose rantings and ravings are familiar to, and cherished by, many a reader of Sports Car Market, recently told the New York Times that Ferrari is discouraging the big auction brokers from permitting “cut cars” to cross their blocks. Contrary to what you might think, a “cut car” is not one driven by LL Cool J’s DJ, nor is it a Ferrari that was originally delivered to a mohel instead of a dealership. Rather, it’s a Ferrari that started life as a coupe/berlinetta and later on found itself “rebuilt” as a convertible. The Ferrari Daytona was a particular victim of that procedure, which in many cases was carried out by Mr. Sheehan himself with assistance from two different coachbuilders.
There’s something endlessly fascinating to your humble author about the dynamic between tin-top and convertible variants of sporting cars. For example: Did you know that most Porsche 911s sold in the United States are convertibles? It’s true. The droptop body style has been the most popular variant almost since it was introduced. At new-Porsche showrooms, convertibles are in demand even given the considerable premium Porsche charges for them. In the used market, however, where the buyers tend to be thinking less about Rodeo Drive and more about Laguna Seca, coupes are in greater demand. Same goes for supercharged Jag two-doors; they’re bought by plasticized ex-wives and sold to wannabe Stirling Mosses.
No sane person in the Sixties bought a Ferrari convertible. Convertibles were associated in the upscale mind with MG Spridgets and ragged-out Mustangs. Instead you bought a proper Grand Touring koo-pay and drove it across Europe or California at the kind of breakneck velocities that today you’d need a Kia Optima Turbo to reach. It wasn’t until the coke-addled Eighties that people started deciding that they needed to be seen with the top down, largely because convertibles were only found at Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler dealers at that point.
As of yet, nobody’s confirmed Mr. Sheehan’s allegations, but you’d be a fool to bet against the guy when it comes to Ferraris. It’s entirely possible that Ferrari is leaning on the auction houses. But why? Well, the non-cynical half of me says that Ferrari wants their owners to have real Ferraris, not chop jobs — as if anybody planning to pay two million bucks for a faked NART Spyder doesn’t know what he’s buying. The rest of me says that at some point, Ferrari’s Classiche department will start offering the owners of these poor bastardized droptops a convenient service to re-hard-top their cars for increased authenticity and, it must be said, access to auction blocks. Could it also be possible that Ferrari might place itself into the fake-droptop business themselves, creating “authentic” Daytona Spyders in their own facilities and charging a high-six-figure price for the operation? Perish the thought? But, as with Mr. Sheehan, it never pays to bet against Ferrari’s greed, does it?