Pay to Play or Walk Away

In the 1950s, Greg Garrison was the producer of the Dean Martin show, and just as Martin was well-known for his love of wine, women and the good life, Garrison was well known in the Ferrari world as an aficionado of the best coachbuilt Ferraris.

Garrison’s collection consisted of the best of the Lampredi-powered, coachbuilt Ferraris of the 1950s. He held in his collection the only 250 Europa convertible built, S/N 0311 EU; a foursome of special “one-off” bodied 410 Superamericas, including S/N 0483, 0491, 0671 and 0719 SA; and a trio of “production” 410 Superamericas.

Attesting to the quality of his cars is the fact that, over the last 15-plus years, many of them were invited to and shown at Pebble Beach.

Among the many unique 250 “speciales” was the Pininfarina special S/N 0725 GT built for Prince Bernhard of Holland; a Series I Cabriolet S/N 0729 GT; a Tour de France S/N 0895 GT; and one of only three alloy-bodied competition short wheelbase California Spyders built, S/N 2383 GT. Also included in the collection were a 330 GTC Lilliana de Rethy “speciale,” a special-bodied 275 GTB/4 and the last Daytona Spyder built, S/N 17073, sold new to Garrison, and today with only 70 miles on the odometer.

All Garrison’s cars were regarded as “unbuyable.” He didn’t need the money, and he only bought, he didn”t sell. However, as the collectors in Garrison’s generation reach the age where estate planning takes precedence over car collecting, some of these collectors now are selling all or part of their collections.

In Garrison’s case, his children apparently had little interest in coachbuilt Ferraris, so cars that had been “unobtanium” for decades unexpectedly became available.

In early May, the word was out that some of the cars might be available. Within weeks, about half of the collection was sold to a small circle of friends, all well-known collectors. There were no negotiations, no package deals, no tax trades. You had to pay to play or walk away.

In speaking with collectors who each purchased several cars from Garrison, all felt that having the opportunity to talk with Garrison—and inspect and walk through his collection—was much like an audience with the pope. Although these collectors were aware that they were paying a premium for the cars, they knew they were the buying the best examples, with no questions or stories in their history, and they knew that the cars would immediately be sold to the next person in line if they did not buy.

While buyers have been reluctant to discuss exact prices, this author can report that the alloy-bodied SWB California Spyder that many valued around $1,250,000 sold for much closer to $2,000,000. And the one-off Lilliane de Rethy speciale, valued at about $500,000, actually sold closer to $800,000. Simply put, these collectors paid up to own the best.

Garrison held on to a dozen or so important cars. Certainly, there will be no lack of buyers when he decides to hold his next garage sale.