Originally designed and built by Franco Sbarro, the maverick Italian-born, Swiss-based automotive legend, this ‘Ferrari’-style children’s car is a faithful scaled-down replica of the legendary 1950s 250 Testa Rossa, the racing sports car built by Ferrari between 1957 and 1961. While the latter measured 164.5 inches, or 417.8 cm in length, this smaller model is 143 inches, or approximately 365 cm, long.
The Ferrari ‘red-head’ was designed in response to a rule change in sports car racing in 1957 that enforced the use of a 3.0-litre engine. A team of legendary drivers, including Phil Hill and Peter Collins, scored early racing victories behind its wheel in the 1000 Kilometres of Buenos Aires and the 12 Hours of Sebring, among others. By 1961, variations of the car had enjoyed successes at 10 World Sporting Championship races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This almost-life-size Sbarro ‘Ferrari’ car was a gift to a young member of the Royal House of Savoy. It was sold on 15 October at Christie’s London for £23,750.
‘It is a remarkably lavish children’s gift,’ says Christie’s specialist Adrian Hume-Sayer. ‘And what could be more appropriate for a young member of the Italian royal family than a scaled-down version of the ultimate Italian sports car?’
Powered by a single-cylinder 15hp engine and boasting a four-speed gearbox, independent suspension, front disc brakes and bolt-on wire wheels, this vehicle stretches the definition of ‘toy’. It weighs 300kg and has a reported top speed of around 55 miles per hour (90 kmh).
This example is one of a very limited number of high-quality, small-scale Sbarro replicas of the 250 Testa Rossa. Other limited-edition children’s cars made by the Swiss factory include the Bugatti Royale, the Ford GT40, the BMW 328 and the Mercedes-Benz 540K.
These exclusive miniatures, of which the Testa Rossa baby is the largest, rarely come to market and are highly prized by collectors. ‘That this car has royal provenance makes it all the more appealing to discerning collectors the world over,’ adds Hume-Sayer.
The toy car came to auction as part of an eclectic royal collection of around 150 lots, ranging from Daunian pottery dated to circa 4th-6th century BC to 16th-century family portraits, rare manuscripts, Chinese porcelain and 20th-century prints.
Additional highlights included a 1955 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith; a splendid illuminated manuscript on vellum from 1470, St Thomas Aquinas and Ptolomy of Lucca’s treatise on kingship, signed and dated by Giovanni Marco Cinico and illuminated by Cola Rapicano; and an important grouping of post-war works by artists including Lichtenstein and Pomodoro.
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The Royal House of Savoy continued a series of successful sales from the collections of S.A.R. La Principessa Reale Maria Beatrice di Savoia in 2005 and S.A.R. La Principessa Reale Maria Gabriella Di Savoia in 2007, and is the latest in a long tradition of holding royal collection sales at Christie’s.