Elton John’s Ferrari 365 GT4 will be auctioned at Members’ Meeting
Two cars of the rich and famous will be among the highlights of the Bonhams 77th Members’ Meeting auction at the Goodwood Motor Circuit on 7th April: a Ferrari delivered new to Sir Elton John and an Excalibur owned by Dean Martin…
It is difficult to think of two cars more different than this pair. In 1974 Britain’s songwriting superstar splashed his cash on a Ferrari 365 GT4, more popularly known as the Berlinetta Boxer, or simply BB: a beautiful, fast, mid-engined Italian with a heritage to die for.
Across the pond a year earlier, in contrast, “That’s Amore” for American crooner and Rat Pack member Dean Martin proved to be a 1973 Excalibur Series II roadster: a Yankee pastiche with a mighty V8 under a long bonnet in the style of a Mercedes SSK.
Apart from their superstar provenance, both the Goodwood sale cars are rare – the Ferrari one of only 58 right-drive BBs, the Excalibur one of just 22 cars made in 1973 – and both have covered very few miles in their lifetimes. But that’s where the similarities end…
At the time of its launch in 1973, the Ferrari Boxer was among the world’s fastest and most expensive cars, not to say the most gorgeous looking with its exquisitely proportioned and flowing Pininfarina-designed, Scaglietti-built bodywork. Powered by a flat 12-cylinder race-derived engine, its 360bhp at 7,700rpm was enough to propel it to 175mph.
Sir Elton bought his BB in ’74 (big hit that year: Bennie and the Jets) from H R Owen, specifying the options of air-conditioning and a Voxson radio. In the 45 years since, the car – registration 98 BOX – has covered fewer than 10,000 miles. It had an engine-out service in 2012, is Ferrari Classiche certified and Bonhams has put an estimate of £250-300,000 on it.
Striking a very different pose is Dean Martin’s Excalibur, restored to its factory-original livery of Bamboo Cream with Royal Maroon fenders and a tan leather interior. It has been in the UK since 2018 and Bonhams says it performs like new.
It was no Ferrari in its day but with the optional big-block 454 cubic-inch (7.4-litre) V8 from the Corvette fitted, it boasted 250bhp and, of course, no shortage of torque. A present to the American entertainer from his wife, the archetypal Beverly Hills boulevard cruiser also came with the very Dean Martin options of dual side-mount spare wheels, whitewall tyres, Frigiking air-conditioning, a factory hard-top, a Mota-Lita wood-rimmed steering wheel, and a Blaupunkt stereo.
Dean Martin wasn’t the only US star to fall for the extrovert Excalibur’s retro, fibreglass-bodied charms. Other owners included Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, Dick Van Dyke, Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Ronald Regan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Excalibur began in 1964 as a show car, designed as a “contemporary classic” for Studebaker by industrial designer and Mercedes SSK enthusiast Brooks Stevens. The resultant “Mercebaker”, described at the time as a “fun machine with antique class”, went on to spawn versions that continued to be built in Milwaukee until 1990, when around 3,500 had been built.
Dean Martin’s Excalibur, in restored condition with a UK MOT and just 20,932 miles from new, is a Series II roadster which Bonhams experts say is one of the most collectable models of the Excalibur marque. It comes with a presale estimate of £60-65,000 – not bad for the King of Cool’s car!