Andreas Birner is a professional broker from Germany and worked with a lot of astounding historical Ferraris throughout the years. We asked him about his passion for the brand, how he started and a bit of advice for youngster who may want to pursue a similar career.
Photography: Andreas Birner
Could you tell how you became the Ferrari historian and professional broker you are today?
I became interested in Ferrari in 1985 at the age of ten (I was born on December 26, 1974). I began to “spot” (as we would call it in today’s language) Ferrari when on holiday at fancy places like Monaco or Munich, or I asked my parents to drive me to dealers which had a nice Ferrari inventory. Through some of my first Ferrari books (“Ferrari Legend” by Antoine Prunet and “Ferrari 250 GT Competition” by Jess Pourret) I learned very early that the chassis number of a rare car is very important because it is the key to its individual history.
In 1991, shortly after I had turned 16, I joined the “Ferrari Model Club” in Germany which published a monthly magazine. My “colleague” Marcel Massini was very active as a writer in that magazine and, needless to say, his articles usually included MANY Ferrari serial numbers and were very precise most of the time. I understood that just taking photos of Ferrari was not sophisticated enough and would have a very limited value of information in the future. Thus I started to compile a database in my computer by serial number, collecting all accessible information on each individual history of a Ferrari. I focussed on Ferrari road cars from 1947 through 1980 because I had the impression that the histories of the important race cars had already been researched by knowledgeable Ferrari historians like Marcel Massini, Gerald Roush, Alan Boe or David Seielstad, to name a few.
But there were so many road cars of which the individual histories were still completely or widely unknown. And I started to write articles for the magazine of the Ferrari Model Club, as well as for the German issue of “Ferrari World” and soon even in English language for “Cavallino” and “Prancing Horse”. Through research, through my articles and through visits to Ferrari events I got to know more and more Ferrari people, and they kept telling me which cars they would love to own in the future and for which cars they were thinking about selling. At the age of 19, I managed to broker my first Ferrari, a 250 GTE. I continued to do so while in university, and eventually turned this passion into my business.
Where does your interests for Ferrari come from?
My interest was clearly ignited by the design of the cars, especially of the late 1950s and 1960s Ferrari models. The sound and the pleasure of driving them of course added to this; luckily I had found some very relaxed and generous supporters who occasionally allowed me to drive their classic Ferrari sports cars, and thus I was able to experience a 250 GT Coupé Boano and a 365 GTB/4 Daytona from the driver’s perspective at the age of 19, and soon after I was allowed to drive a 330 America, a 365 GTC and a 328 GTS, followed by a 308 GTS QV, another 328 GTS, a Dino 246 GT etc. etc. I am extremely thankful for this incredible support. One thing which is extremely fascinating about Ferrari to me is the number of different models and variations which were built by this small company! The sheer variety of different models makes the history of this small manufacturer incredibly versatile. The mix of design and history keeps the subject “Ferrari” interesting for me on a daily basis.
You sold and bought tons of Ferraris through the years, but is there one that was a highlight for you?
There were several highlights.
First of all I would like to mention that I sold several 250 GT California Spider SWB, which is my personal favourite model among the road cars. Among them was the prototype for the SWB Cal Spider, s/n 1795GT, which I sourced through a friend in California.
The greatest race cars which I handled were a 375 MM Spider Pinin Farina and a 250 LM. Another highlight was the sale of an entire collection consisting of several Ferrari and some rare Mercedes-Benz models; I brokered the entire collection from the heirs to an investor.
And the last one I would like to mention here was one of the few 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione “SEFAC HotRod” which I sourced on the U.S. East Coast in 2010 and which I resold in a package with a 250 GT California Spider SWB in 2012.
You are given the opportunity to pick three Ferraris. Which three would be in your garage, regardless of the price tags?
It’s very tough to pick only three for me… I give it a try:
Dino 308 GT4. I simply got smitten by this model, after I had really disliked it at an early stage of my passion. As you know, I currently have two in my garage – a Series I and Series II example. One is medium metallic green, the other one brown. I would keep one of them, no matter which. But whichever 308 GT4 I would own, it would need to have a typical 1970s colour, like the ones which I already own.
250 GT California Spider SWB Competizione, s/n 2383GT; it should be this particular chassis number because s/n 2383GT unites my ultimate dream Ferrari with a German racing history! I would have it restored back to its original silver-grey livery.
F40. The icon. My poster car. Anybody who was born in the 1970s will understand me without further questions. Together with the 288 GTO, these are the ONLY two Ferrari models which I would like to own in red, simply because they were originally only available in red, and originality is very important to me.
You drive a brown Dino 308 GT4 yourself. Could you explain why this particular Ferrari caught your interests?
I found my brown one via www.mobile.de in early 2013. It was for sale in Como and had been advertised for quite a long time. At this time, my 456M GT was my only personal Ferrari. I wanted to add a classic one which I could afford. This 308 GT4 was ridiculously cheap, it was soooo 1970s in brown and it looked like a proper example (this wild guess has later proven as being very correct!).
Furthermore, it would allow me to take part in many different events, including the annual Dino Tour of my friend Matthias Bartz. I had been told by knowledgeable people before that the 308 GT4 was actually an insider tip, because of its fantastic handling. And last but not least, I am quite chubby, but the GT4 offers a lot of space and is very comfortable for me to drive.
What advice would you give people that want to become a Ferrari Historian/Broker?
Start to collect information by serial number in a very professional way. Collecting photos and sorting them by registration plate will not help. Registration plates change, the chassis number is the key to everything. And start to specialise in a few models; in the surprisingly wide Ferrari market, there are still niches for upcoming specialists.