This 212 Inter has an extraordinary history. Not only is this car outfitted with tremendous one-off Ghia bodywork and gorgeous paint work, it was built as the 49th of just 73 examples, used as a Paris Motor Show display car, and was owned by infamous Argentinian dictator, Juan Perón. And now it’s for sale.
Because of all this, the gorgeous two-tone yellow over black car you see here is my pick for this week’s Esoteric Auction, and it can be found crossing the dais at RM Sotheby’s Scottsdale sale in January.
Every old Ferrari seems to have some sort of “grand” and typically excruciatingly boring ownership history. This one, however, is different.
Presidente Juan, along with being a noted protector of Nazis dodging their crimes against humanity, was well known for being an automotive enthusiast of the first degree, collecting everything from Ferraris to Packards during his time in power. He was also a proponent of Argentine drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and José Froilán González, providing monetary backing for their careers. When he saw this 212 Inter by Ghia grace the stage in Paris, he immediately contacted Ferrari to attempt purchasing the car for his own.
Perón was elected to power in Argentina in 1946 with populist support and through a bit of suppression of his opponents, though he was popular enough to have been re-elected in 1952, purchasing this car in celebration of his continued power. It was hardly hidden from plain sight that Juan ruled as little more than a dictator, if not in name, breeding oppression of the people and encouraging servility. He maintained a popularity, particularly among the poor, however, because of his beautiful and charismatic wife, Evita. And also, because people who opposed him tended to disappear.
While Perón ran his campaign on the backs of the working class, he instituted increasingly authoritarian policy throughout his rule. The early 1950s were not kind to Argentina, and the country’s economy collapsed. Juan’s policies had helped the working class before, but they were losing faith in him.
When María Eva Duarte de Perón died of cancer in 1952, Juan’s world, and by extension the world of the people of Argentina, was turned upside-down. His popularity sharply declined without Eva at his side. Argentina was a deeply Catholic nation, and the church was embedded deep within the government. When the Vatican refused to canonize Eva following her death, Juan began the processes of separating church from state, removing religious teaching from schools, and threatened to legalize divorce and prostitution. This was seen as not a really great move.
At the height of his battle with the Vatican, Juan had two Catholic priests deported, and he was promptly excommunicated by the church as a result. An uprising was staged against Perón, many people died, and following an inflammatory speech encouraging Peronist supporters to kill the opposition, Juan was deposed by a military force and sought refuge in Paraguay.
When Juan Perón was ousted from power in 1955 by the military coup, he fled the country and the car remained in Argentina. It remained in situ for many years, finally passing on to a dealership in the early 1970s. An Italian collector living in Buenos Aires purchased the car in 1973 and continued driving the one-off car for 14 additional years. In 1987 he then sold it on to Europe where the car was given an extensive and sympathetic restoration to 1952 condition and livery.
The car was then sold again in 1999 to a collector of unique and coachbuilt Ferrari cars. That owner has continued to keep the car in near-perfect condition, showing the Inter at Pebble Beach, Concourso Italiano, and Cavallino Classic shows, where it has taken home quite a lot of hardware.
This may rank among the most beautiful Ferrari cars of all time, considering the traditional egg crate grille and elegant Ghia body. Further, this 212 Inter is finished in perhaps the greatest color combination for a performance touring coupe from the 1950s. Normally I’m not one for chrome or white wall tires, but somehow this Ferrari manages to pull it off in style. This Ghia designed body is strikingly reminiscent of the Chrysler D’Elegance concept and Ghia GS1 they’d already finished by this time, but somehow unique and instantly recognizable.
Chassis 0191 EL will be available for bidding during the Scottsdale auction on January 18th and 19th. The pre-auction estimate is currently stated to be between $1,600,000 and 2,000,000. While that’s certainly a lot of dosh, all you need to do is take over a South American country, institute your Peronist policies, and spend money like it’s going out of style. You’ll have a unique Ferrari 212 Inter in no time. For a lot more photographs and more information on the car, check out the full listing on RMSothebys.com.
So therein lies the dilemma. Would you be able to own this car knowing the atrocities associated with the original owner? If you had to sit where Juan Perón’s murderous, fascistic ass once sat, would that bother you? I certainly don’t think the car once belonging to a South American dictator adds any value, but given a money-no-option circumstance, I wouldn’t hesitate to bid on this beautiful Ferrari. It may seem callous, but after all, it’s just an amalgam of metal and rubber.