By on August 6, 2013

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?

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45 Comments on “Is Ferrari Putting The Smack Down On “Cut Cars”?...”

  • avatar

    What a dumb issue for Ferrari to be engaged in.

    Do they even still make parts for many of these cars anymore? Yet they suddenly care so much that someone modifies it?

  • avatar

    So where would this leave someone like Glickenhaus with his enzo based 330 p pininfarina special? does the fact that Pininfarina did it make it ok? I can’t imagine that Ferrari was all that excited about the fact that the car both outperformed the Enzo (as I recall it was lighter) and is generally considered better looking. Hell, if I had an Enzo, I’d want the treatement done to it.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Wasn’t Crocket’s Daytona really a Corvette?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yes it was. Under pressure from Ferrari, the producers moved Crockett to a Testarossa which wasnt nearly as cool and took the show’s defining shot — that slow mo top down sequence — off the table.

    • 0 avatar

      The 250 GT Spider California in “Ferris Bueller” was also a knockoff.

      • 0 avatar

        One of the bonus materials on the “Ferris” DVD says the one they drove was a knockoff, as was the one they destroyed, but they also had a real one used in close-ups.

    • 0 avatar

      It was and Ferrari donated 2 black Testarossa to the show as long as the replica was destroyed(see vid above). The Testarossas were later painted white because it was easier to shoot night scenes with. The crew also kept a Testarossa replica for scenes that involved very serious driving to avoid damaging the originals.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, the Miami Vice Daytona was a C3 Vette with a replica Daytona body produced by McBurnie Coachcraft. McBurnie was litigated out of biz by Enzo. I really wanted to build a McBurnie Daytona, but I was in college at the time, and I didn’t have a trust fund.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        It was amazing how thoroughly that conversion fooled people; one friend adamantly insisted I was wrong in my Corvette callout despite his never being able to adequately explain why that particular Ferrari displayed rectangular headlights. For those who do not yet know, all Ferraris featured round main headlights prior to the 456.

        • 0 avatar

          Back in the day I assumed it was a real Ferrari as well until I read a story about the TV car in one of the auto rags.

          I sent a letter to McBurnie and they were nice enough to send me a brochure. McBurnie offered complete “turn-key” cars or DIY kits. Kits came in different levels. Some were just the body, others were body and interiors.

          I’m not sure, but I believe a compete kit, with a Ferrari like interior was around $7K or so….a lot of money in the mid 80s, especially for a college student. Of course you needed to supply a C3 donor as well.

  • avatar

    I have read a similar story somewhere. Ferrari takes the view that these “cut cars” are not Ferraris but replicas built on Ferrari running gear. In my view, a defensible point of view, to say the least. Today, there are some highly desireable classic cars that exist in higher quantity than originally left the factory and it is not known any more which is original. I think that happened with a few Bugattis and prewar Mercedes Models.

  • avatar

    “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. ”

    While it’s not exactly a confirmation, Gooding & Co. hardly made a ringing denial about being leaned on by Maranello:

    Gooding said, “Ferrari has been diligent and quite vigilant about protecting what is one of the greatest brands in the world. We can understand why they would do that, and we philosophically support it and get behind it.”

  • avatar

    It’s odd. I saw one of five Zagato bodied Ferrari 250GT cars that were made while visiting Mike Kleeves’ amazing shop near Port Huron. It’s actually a one of one because it’s the only one of the five that doesn’t have Zagato’s signature bubble roofs because it was slightly more luxurious than the other five, less likely to need the bubbles for racing helmet clearance. The car was wrecked back in the day and when they fixed the nose, it didn’t come out the way Zagato had done it in the first place. Kleeves’ job is to take it back to the original form.

    Now I don’t recall Ferrari objecting to it when this altered Ferrari went on the auction block in the past.

    It’s a stupid position in any case. As Jack pointed out, the emptor has been caveated. Nobody buying one of these thinks he’s getting an original. One reason why the NYT picked up this story is because at Pebble Beach, an original spider and a cut car will be auctioned at different sales. Nobody expects the replica to get more than a fraction of the price the real car (I think it’s a 250) gets.

    I don’t see how at all Ferrari is harmed by this any more than they are harmed by any customization.

    Hell, I don’t recall Ferrari complaining about stuff that Galpin, West Coast Customs, et al have done to their cars, and that stuff is a lot more egregious than just turning a GTB into a Spider.

    • 0 avatar

      How do you feel about cutting up 250 GT Lussos to turn them into fake GTOs? Considering that the former is already a very rare (ca. 350 built, unknown to me, how many still exist) and highly desirable car, I think that’s heresy.

      • 0 avatar

        While the historian in me isn’t thrilled about people hacking up historical cars, property rights are still property rights. If you want to turn your 250GT into a Fiero replica, go right ahead. I may not applaud but I won’t stop you.

  • avatar

    There’s really no way for Ferrari to put the hurt on the auction houses because Ferrari doesn’t have any significant bargaining chips. Ferrari doesn’t supply cars for auction; the cars come from private owners. The auction houses don’t apply for certificates of authenticity; the owners do that. When the worst Ferrari can do is not return phone calls, that’s not much of a threat. From what I understand, Ferrari isn’t good about returning phone calls as it is, so that’s not much of a change anyway.

    FWIW, Ferrari Classiche has already returned several chopped (fake, aftermarket, whatever) “spyders” back to their original hardtop form. Ferrari won’t give certificates of authenticity to chopped cars, so if you want the certificate, having Classiche put the roof back on is the only way to get it. However, those certificates are most important to buyers who want to identify original, factory spyders, so having one that proves your hard top coupe was originally a hard top coupe is nice but not critical when it comes time to sell.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not a trademark lawyer but I think Ferrari can prohibit the use of the Ferrari trademark for the sale of anything that hasn’t left their factory in the shape it’s in at the time of sale.

      • 0 avatar

        FWIW, Mercedes goes even further: Here’s a story how they shredded the body of a 300 sl gullwing replica:

      • 0 avatar

        I would think not.

        If it left the factory as a Ferrari, it’s a Ferrari. If someone modifies a Ferrari after it left the factory, it may be a modified Ferrari but it’s still a Ferrari.

        I can’t envision any scenario where where Ferrari has any say in the matter after they issue a bill of sale.

      • 0 avatar

        vaujot – jrhmobile has got it right. Ferrari can not prohibit anyone from describing a legitimate Ferrari as a Ferrari, modified or not. Once Ferrari has manufactured a car, they can’t stop anyone from accurately describing it as a Ferrari.

        The gullwings referred to above do not fit into this discussion. Those bodies were 100% fake, unauthorized replica bodies. This article is about modifications made to legitimate cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Remember, Ferrari is the company that has a very long waiting list if you’re a first time customer, a company that picks and chooses which customers will be lucky enough to part with mid six figures for a limited edition Ferrari. Ferrari can make it known to private Ferrari collectors that if they sell a car through a blacklisted auction house, they can expect the cold shoulder from Maranello and maybe difficulty buying new Ferraris.

      • 0 avatar

        The article talks about Ferrari putting pressure on auction houses, not sellers.

        However, since you brought it up, creating a blacklist system as you describe it that penalizes sellers and doesn’t violate both civil and criminal law is impossible. Even making threats about such a thing will get Ferrari hauled into court by dealers, Ferrari owners, auction houses and state AG’s. Picking a fight with rich, politically connected Americans is never a smart idea.

        Marchionne would have to be a knucklehead to allow his tiny yet profitable Ferrari unit set itself up for such a massive black eye. He doesn’t have time for an unnecessary distraction and it would be unfortunate if he was prevented from acquiring the rest of Chrysler due to a criminal conspiracy charge against a unit of his company.

        Ferrari is a toothless tiger in this one.

        • 0 avatar

          Me to Cauley Ferrari rep at a major car show: “Is it true that if you’ve never bought a Ferrari before, Maranello wants you to buy a used, not new Ferrari? That the company plays favorites with customers?”

          Rep, smiling broadly (paraphrased): “Oh, no you can walk in and order a car. You just might have to wait a long time for them to build your car if you’ve never bought one before.”

          BTW, the two Ferrari collectors that I have contact with do not deny that the company plays favorites.

        • 0 avatar

          They had no problem giving doctored cars to reviewers and people still bought them. I suspect they think they are bulletproof.

        • 0 avatar

          I believe Silvy_nonsense is incorrect about the legality issue. The law is mostly open about companies’ choice of business partners–it’s a case of “right to deny service” There are some things prohibited, e.g., they can’t choose to sell to men but not women, but other than civil rights limitations, businesses can do what they want if they have a reasonable business case.

  • avatar

    With Ferrari it’s always, always, ALWAYS about the money. The bet that this is a ploy to get Classiche into the business of re-bodying Ferrari fakey-doos (meaning, cars that have Ferrari engines and Ferrari chassis plates but not the bodies they were built with, which includes everything from cut Daytonas to the various 330GT 2+2s and 250GTEs that have been given fake 250GTO etc bodies) back to “original” for insanely huge amounts of cash dollars is a very good bet, almost a slam-dunk.

  • avatar

    It’s a cute story but amounts to maybe a few hundred people affected. I would be better off spending money on a fun kit car or that minority share, Porsche 911. Ferraris are beautiful but exist in a realm beyond both normal means and reason.

  • avatar

    Ok, now I’m curious about the horror stories behind Cobra replicas, especially the ones from Mr. Shelby himself.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      IIRC, he tried to pass of as authentic 427 replicas his company built from chassis they “found” lying around, claiming they were original 1960’s chassis, partly to avoid safety and emissions regulations that went into effect in the intervening years and partly to cash in on the early ’90s collector-car craze.

      Hey, I DID recall correctly:

      Later, went directly into the replica business himself. They would have more cachet, being from the right company.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        It is always, always, ALWAYS about the money with every carmaker!(and virtually every business enterprise)

        When Shelby made the continuation Cobras, they were certainly NOT replicas!

    • 0 avatar

      From what I recall Baruth had a fake Seven (Se7en) kit car that fell apart on him.

      But I hear good things about the V8 AC Ace kits (out of respect for Shelby’s cold, dead carcass I will not use the name he came up with for an AC Ace with flared fenders and a V8), especially from Factory 5, which is by far the biggest V8 AC Ace replica seller.

      I hadn’t been to the Factory 5 site for a while. The 818, which is uses a Subaru WRX as a donor, looks particularly interesting:

  • avatar

    This is an interesting story and there is a lot of ways to argue here are a few things I’ve come up with:

    1) Ferrari sold the car and someone modified it. The sale is pretty clear that its a modified Ferrari and thus not deceiving in anyway. If they were to actually get this sale barred there would be a lot of celebs and shieks with now unsalable cars due to wacky mods. I don’t think Ferrari is allowed to say that you cant sell modified Ferraris, or even say they are not Ferraris. The car is the chassis.

    2) If in fact it is Ferrari’s position that this car is no longer a Ferrari because the body panels are not as they left the factory could it be argued that a Pontiac Fiero frame with full authentic Ferrari bodywork attached is now a Ferrari. Silly I know but worth a chuckle.

    3) A lot of these auctions are directly affected by how much hype they can give the car before the auction. Whats even more sinister than a fake Ferrari? A fake Ferrari that Ferrari itself has condemned. You too can own this condemned and excommunicated car. For a nominal fee of course.

  • avatar

    “. . .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’. . .”


  • avatar

    “It’s not always as simple as Mister Twos pretending to be 360 Spyders.”

    Or better yet, the ’87 Pontiac Fiero ‘option’ of dealer changing the original body to a Ferrari-type body, called the Fiero (sometimes Ferrari) Mera. Once the kit was complete, the transformation was so stunningly 360 Daytona that Ferrari sued. These are extremely rare and honestly I haven’t seen one since then.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    “…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…”

    That’s hardly fair…I think the Bentley Continental is a very lovely AWD-equipped land-yacht.

  • avatar

    I’m inspired. I want to make a Pontiac Fiero replica and use a Ferrari TestaRossa as the donor car.

  • avatar

    Worst Ferrari hack-job I ever saw on eBay (years ago, sorry no link) was a fellow who had taken what-I-am-guessing was a pretty tired ‘deferred maintenance’ 328 GTS, and bond-kinged that poor thing into a faux-288 GTO.

    It made Fiero hacks look good, a metaphor for why pretty girls who score 8.x on the hot scale are fools to go under the knife trying to become a supermodel 10.

  • avatar

    The Ferrambo is an answer to what a 1960 Ferrari station wagon might have looked like. It’s a 1960 Rambler American wagon with a 360 Modena drivetrain stuffed behind the front seats. Google it – I smile every time I take a look at it. A one-off rod (Divers Street Rods) with body work that is immaculate. I don’t think the builders would be too impressed with any pressure from Ferrari.

  • avatar

    Words you’ll never hear at Barrett-Jackson;
    “Sold! Someone got a real deal on that One-Off 1985 Testarossa Roadster. And next on the block, a Corvette-based Diablo clone!”

    What does Ferrari care? People buy what they buy. “I don’t know art, but I know what I like.”

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