A few miles up the road from Mar-a-Lago sits The Breakers, a historic oceanfront resort that overlooks the equally historic winter playground of America’s upper class. It is here, each January, that many of the finest Ferraris ever built gather in Palm Beach for an exclusive week of events known as the Cavallino Classic.
The Cavallino is the kind of blue-blood atmosphere that would have made Hunter S. Thompson sweaty with glee if he wasn’t already perspiring from drugs and alcohol. The characters, the pageantry, the casual excess. He’d have declared it a grand symbol of American hubris and set out writing an incisive narrative that ends with him being forcibly ejected from the premises.
Instead of HST, though, it was I, CAC, walking into The Breakers on this unusually brisk and slightly overcast Saturday morning. I stepped through the courtyard towards a perfectly manicured reception lawn and collected my press pass from a woman whose flowing red dress had a cavallino rampante emblazoned across the right shoulder.
The Cavallino Classic is a days-long experience full of soirees and gentlemen’s racing, but Saturday’s Concorso d'Eleganza is the main attraction, with dozens of high-pedigree Ferraris neatly organized along an impossibly green fairway. You couldn’t wish for a more appropriate setting for one of America’s marquee automotive events, where ticket packages start at $200 and quickly climb into the thousands.
The upper lawn is home to the best of the best, and this year’s capstone was undoubtedly a 1963 250 GTO, chassis number 4153 GT. This car became infamous as the most expensive automobile ever sold when it brought the hammer down at $70 million. In person, it is quite beautiful, if slightly unassuming. Certainly nothing about it looks worth that much, but so it goes with blue-chip collecting and their emotionally driven markets.
The rest of the upper tier was equally extraordinary – a stunning 1960 250 GT SWB Competizione, a teal 1958 250 GT Ellena, a surprising number of mint-condition Californias and an exquisitely restored 1964 250 GTL Lusso. From the diamond-tufted luggage rack to its delicious burgundy paint job, this Lusso looked as new as the day it rolled off the assembly line in Maranello.
I strolled among the crowd admiring their trophy wives and eccentric color choices. Well-dressed schoolboys ran circles around me while the ocean breeze blew bits of conversation my way.
“How is your half-Japanese wife?“ one man asked another. “Good,” he replied. The first man laughed and said, “Mine is full Japanese.” Beside me, a young woman inserted herself into a group of men to breathlessly thank a Mr. Fisher for allowing her to attend his party the other night.
In the center of the lawn stood one of my personal Ferrari unicorns – the 2018 Monza SP1. I typically withhold full judgement of a new Ferrari until I’ve had the chance to see it in person and digest its materiality, and the Monza did not disappoint.
The example before me was finished in grigio titanio with deep red accents. Up close, it’s all swooping forms, sharply sculpted carbon fiber and a cockpit that seems to float an inch above the rest of the car, just as Flavio Manzoni described. As I tried to make my phone’s camera do justice to the Monza’s curves, an old man hobbled up and whispered in my ear, “Two million.”
“No,” I corrected him. “Two million and an invitation to buy one.”
Further down the fairway were dozens more well-preserved Ferraris from across the decades: A 4,000-kilometer 288 GTO with original tools and luggage, three F40s, an entire row of Dinos and a suite of Superamericas. There was even a Special Project – the 2011 Ferrari SP30, designed and built for Indian petrochemical tycoon Cheerag Arya, and now the only SP to ever be offered for sale.
The man selling it said that he bought Arya’s entire 30-some car collection at auction in Dubai, and everything from it resold except SP30. I can’t say that I’m surprised. I wrote a long piece arguing that most one-off Ferraris turn out odd because the client has so much input. The seller has been asking north of $5 million for at least a year with no takers, but his luck might change in a few weeks when it goes up for auction at the RM Sotheby’s event in Paris.
As I rounded the last row, which included a gorgeous 812 Superfast in blu scozia opaco with full red leather interior, I heard a deep rumbling from beyond the hedge, peeked over and watched three Apollo IEs roll through the gates – three, and they’re only building ten. The sheer scale of collector power at the Cavallino is hard to describe, but here’s some context: Security let me into the hotel’s private lot to get a closer look at the Apollos, and there were at least 100 other Ferraris parked there. These were just the cars that attendees drove to the event.
By the time I saw the Apollos, I had just about overdosed on luxury cars and bid arrivederci to The Breakers and the billionaires and all those beautiful Italians, knowing full well that when I see her again next year, Palm Beach won’t look one day older.
Words & pictures by Christian Cipriani.