Florida is a land of incongruity, where high and low cultures rub elbows to the point of romance. So, I guess it’s unsurprising that centered among the farm stands, flickering neon signs, cheap wigs and chintzy jewelry of Ft. Lauderdale’s sprawling Swap Shop stands one of the world’s greatest supercar collections, amassed over decades by the late racer and entrepreneur Preston Henn.
Photography: Christian Cipriani
Beauty in Unexpected Places
It’s hard to imagine a more outlandish setting for such a collection. It should be in a Swiss bunker or a modern glass box, and yet the surroundings are so perfectly Florida. The museum is a ramshackle dump with crumbling drop-ceilings and free admission to draw people in so they can spend a few bucks on cell phone cases and fast food.
Among the many admirable cars on display are four of the five anniversary Ferraris. Just before he died – as the story goes – Henn sent Ferrari a $1 million down-payment and a letter asking to buy the LaFerrari Aperta. They returned his check uncashed with a polite “no.” Insulted, he filed an international defamation suit. Again, Florida.
A Nine-Figure Automobile?
The crown jewel of Henn’s collection is an unassuming aluminum yellow racer situated near a Chinese food stall, one floor down from the arcade where teenagers with face tattoos skip school to shoot at zombies.
Experts believe his 1965 Ferrari 275GTB/C Speciale could be the single most valuable car in the world. If it ever goes to auction, we might see sheiks and oligarchs jockeying the price toward a record-breaking $100 million. Of the three examples built by the legendary Italian coachbuilder Scaglietti, chassis 6885 is the only one to ever see a racetrack.
For perspective, imagine Van Gogh’s “Irises” hanging on the wall of a food court while people sit nearby, oblivious, photographing their lunches…so bizarre is this home for what may be the Holy Grail of collectible autos.
Savoring the Moment
I did the only thing I could do to pay my respects – ordered a pair of two-dollar slices and admired the car from a wire metal picnic table parked under bare fluorescent lights.
Other people with nothing better to do on a Monday afternoon kept passing me, and between mouthfuls of hot pizza I waved them over to explain the importance of the collection, telling them all about the one-of-a-kind 275.
Some were appreciative, but most gave me that “okay, buddy” look and went on their way – the same look I might have given my father if he started going on about the band Chicago. So I ate my lunch quietly, alone, one eye on the Speciale as a steady stream of strangers passed by unaware of the treasure sitting beside them.