Ferrari 400 Superamerica: the motor show starlet


Words and pictures: RM Sotheby’s

As the undisputed mecca of speed in the United States, thousands of enthusiasts make their way to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah each year, seeking to test both themselves and their machines at the limit. With miles of unobstructed salt on a dry lake bed, it was the perfect place to drive an automobile flat out.

 In the early 1960s, Bonneville was the domain of hot rodders and American racers. The last vehicle people expected to see flying across the salt at over 140 mph was a Ferrari, and not just any Ferrari, a 400 Superamerica SWB Cabriolet, the most expensive Ferrari produced. It was assumed that such reckless behavior was simply beneath the owner of such a refined automobile.

 Unless, of course, that owner was R.J. Stallings. 

However, before it was making tracks in the salt in Utah, Stallings’ Superamerica lead a different life, one that was arguably much more glamorous, yet just as exciting. 

Chassis 3309 SA’s tale started earlier in 1962, albeit thousands of miles away from the salt flats of Bonneville. This Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet was built in March, and it would be the last short-wheelbase model built, as noted by Ferrari historian Marcel Massini. It was finished in Rosso Metallizzato Speciale Italver (262) over Avorio (3323) and fitted with both covered headlights and a factory hardtop. It goes without saying that this was perhaps the ultimate example of its breed.

Interestingly enough, the Ferrari’s first destination would not be to a private owner’s garage, but to the 32nd Geneva Motor Show, where it was displayed on Ferrari’s stand just over one week after it was completed. However, this would not be the last event 3309 SA would attend. After being airfreighted to Luigi Chinetti Motors in Greenwich, Connecticut, it was displayed by Chinetti’s distributorship at the sixth annual New York International Auto Show at the famed New York Coliseum. Sometime thereafter, the car was sold to its first private owner, R.J. Stallings of Phoenix, Arizona.

Perhaps Griffith Borgeson of Car and Driver told Stallings’ story best in December 1961:

J.A. [sic] “Gus” Stallings…a dedicated follower of C/D, is a semi-retired Phoenix, Arizona, automobile dealer who, though rich in years, stays exuberantly youthful thanks to straight-away racing and a charming, equally enthusiastic wife. In ’59 he drove his ’57 300 SL to the D Sports Racing class record of 143.769. Due mainly to the Salt’s superior traction this year, he raised that record to 144.839 mph with the same car. In ’59 and ’60, Stallings also drove a 4.9 Ferrari, with which he clocked a one-way 154.90.

Needless to say, Stallings was quite familiar with high-speed machinery, and chassis number 3309 SA eventually found its way to the salt flats. Clearly looking to test his new car’s limits, Stallings took the Ferrari to the Jerome A2 Hill Climb in his native Arizona and then made the pilgrimage to Bonneville, where the car achieved a top speed of 145mph, which was a very impressive time for the car’s first stint on the salt. His outing with the car was chronicled in the November 1962 issue of Road & Track and it can also be found pictured there. 

Two years later, Stallings sold the Superamerica to Robert M. Grossman, of Nyack, New York, and in his custody, it was apparently loaned to Ferrari and Superamerica enthusiast Peter S. Kalikow for a day. By 1967, it was back in the hands of Luigi Chinetti’s distributorship, and in February of that month, it was sold to another well-respected enthusiast, Norman Silver of High Point, North Carolina, along with a 212 (chassis number 0076E), in trade for his new 330 GT 2+2 Series I (chassis number 7023 GT).

Norman Silver would go on to keep the car for the next year, parting ways with the Superamerica in May 1973. The car then traveled back across the Atlantic to Europe and was purchased by Charles Robert, of Nogent-sur-Marne and Paris, France, through noted Ferrari dealer and customiser Tom Meade. Robert had the car restored by Carrozzeria Fantuzzi in Modena, which repainted it in a darker shade of maroon and fitted it with a tan interior. Robert retained the car for the next 20 years, showing it at the Club Ferrari France Meeting in Mas du Clos in June 1994. Six years later, Robert showed it at the special Ferrari exhibit at Retromobile in Paris. In 2005, he parted ways with the car, and it was subsequently sold to William Grimsley.

Upon its arrival in the United States in 2005, Grimsley commissioned a no-expense-spared, full restoration with a team of California’s best restorers. The project was managed by noted Ferrari restorer Patrick Ottis, of Berkeley, California, who was also responsible for restoring the car’s mechanical components. The body was finished in black paint, and the chrome trim was restored by Brian Hoyt, of Perfect Restorations in Hayward, California. Finally, the interior was trimmed in red leather by Ken Nemanic. 

Chassis number 3309 SA’s first outing following the completion of its restoration was to Cavallino Classic XVIII in 2009, where it was awarded Platinum and pictured in the April/May 2009 issue of Cavallino magazine. Following a return to California, where it received further preparation by the restoration team, the Superamerica graced the 18th green at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August, where it earned Third in Class and 98 points in judging. 

Since their acquisition of chassis 3309 SA in 2010, this Superamerica Cabriolet has remained one of the crown jewels in the Andrews Collection. Just shy of 50 years after its motor show premier, the car was displayed by the Andrews’ at the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and it received just as many compliments as it had while on the stand at Geneva and New York in 1962.

This incredibly well documented car is accompanied by numerous invoices from its most recent restoration, a detailed historical file that has several photos of the car from its early ownership, the sales invoice from Norm Silver’s ownership, and judging sheets from Pebble Beach in 2009. The car is also accompanied by its Ferrari Classiche certification binder, tools, a jack, and an original owner’s manual.

The Ferrari 400 Superamerica, perhaps the most exclusive automobile in the world when new, was a vehicle fit for royalty, and it was one that would suit its owner’s every desire. While most Superamericas were indeed destined for the carriage houses of royalty, heads of state, captains of industry, celebrities, and the like, chassis number 3309 SA’s history, characterized by its appearances at two of the world’s most famous motor shows when new and the Bonneville Salt Flats, is truly unique. The acquisition of such an automobile is to be taken seriously, as there is no limit as to what 3309 SA can do with its next owner.

Be it concours events, vintage rallies, or even a high-speed run at Bonneville, make no mistake…this Superamerica is ready for anything.

Click here to see the full list of auction lots from RM Sotheby’s Fort Worth sale


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