John Fitzpatrick tells of his brushes with the ultimately elusive Ferrari 250GTO


The insiders

I was sad to hear of the death of Chris Renwick, probably the most knowledgeable man in the classic car business and a walking encyclopedia of post-war classics. Chris lived close to me in southern Spain and we had recently been working together. In the late Sixties Chris was instrumental in putting together a collection of classics as an investment for John Calley, then CEO of Warner Bros and later Sony Corporation.

Renwick decided that the Ferrari 250GTO was a good investment and managed to buy six cars for around $6000 each. Although those six Ferraris would be valued at anywhere between $400-500m today, Renwick and Calley kept them for just four years and only doubled their money – still not a bad return in those days. Who at the time could have dreamt of the incredible value of the GTO today?

Chris was one of the founders of Coys of Kensington and was asked by The Honourable Patrick Lindsay, chairman of Christie’s auction house at the time, to find suitable cars in America for consignment into its European auctions. If one looks at the London and Geneva auctions in the early Seventies, all the significant cars were Renwick purchases for Lindsey, and all were sold successfully.

In 1997 I was Secretary of the BRDC and part of my job was overseeing the format and programme of the Coys Historic Festival at Silverstone, now known as the Silverstone Classic. We decided to celebrate Ferrari and as part of the programme we organized a race for Ferrari 250GTs and GTOs. We received an amazing entry of 12 GTOs and 19 GTs. The winner was Frank Sytner in Anthony Bamford’s ex-Maranello car followed by Nick Mason. Even in the late Nineties the value of the GTO was in the low millions and people wondered how anyone could risk racing such a valuable car. But the cost of repair from a racing accident would cost in the thousands, not millions, and I suspect most of the cars were insured. It is doubtful if any insurance company today would take on the risk of racing a $100m car, regardless of the premium.

One of the owners was Brandon Wang, who also owned a beautiful country house not far from Silverstone. Brandon invited all the GTO owners and myself to dinner at his house after practice. Everyone arrived in their GTOs after a hectic drive from the track, except Lawrence Stroll who arrived by helicopter – he had ‘his man’ deliver the car for him, but if he had asked I would have delivered it for him gladly!

Another instance that made me realise the value of a GTO was in 1993. I was attending the funeral of that great British F1 driver and BRDC President, Innes Ireland. On the grass outside the church was parked a GTO. After leaving the church I was admiring the Ferrari when the owner came over and introduced himself and told me how sad he was to have to be selling it. I asked him why and he replied that he needed the proceeds to buy a factory estate near to where he lived!

Ferrari 250GTOs relax on the lawn of Brandon Wang’s mansion, after practice for the Coys Historic Festival

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