J. Edgar’s Folly: ’97 Ferrari F50
Our friends at Symbolic Motor Cars are representing this extraordinary Ferrari F50. It isn’t just any F50 (not that any of them are ordinary). This one is a story car making it slightly more interesting than your everyday F50. Rather than rewrite a perfectly good listing story, we will present it just the way our California scout, Tony B. received notification of its availability.
There are few more famous, or infamous, Ferraris than this particular F50. Almost anyone with an interest in such vehicles knows at least some part of the tale of the “Stolen F50.” In today’s age of instant information, you need not dig deep to learn the details and a simple on-line search will reveal some very entertaining facts and more than a few myths and rumors as well…This was the 29th of only 349 F50s completed in a short two-year production run that ended in 1997 and one of only fifty F50s imported new to the States. Number 29 of the limited production run was a normal USA version and it was finished like 302 similar F50s in Rosso Corsa (Racing Red) with standard black with red insert seats. The initial delivery was to collector and enthusiast Ted Conrad, who enjoyed his new Ferrari for several years before consigning it for sale to Algar Ferrari in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. On September 16th, 2003 a salesman of Algar (now former salesman) allowed Thomas H. Baker to take the Ferrari for a test drive. As most of you now know… this test drive was one of the longest in history, not ending until the car was finally seized five years later by the FBI in 2008. While Baker may have stolen the Ferrari by all accounts he cared and loved this very special vehicle, as would any legitimate owner. It was not so once the Ferrari was in the hands of the FBI. For unknown reasons, on May 27, 2009, FBI Special Agent Frederick Kingston was apparently instructed to move the car from the FBI garage and decided to invite Assistant US Attorney, J. Hamilton Thompson, the man charged with prosecuting Baker, along for the ride. Less than 100 feet from the parking lot, Kingston lost control and drove the car up and over a curb into a hedge and against a small sapling. In an email to the insurance company after the accident he stated; “Just a few seconds after we left the parking lot, we went around a curve and the rear of the car began sliding.” Kingston said he tried to regain control but “the car fishtailed and slid sideways up onto the curb. The vehicle came to rest against a row of bushes and a small tree.” Fortunately for enthusiasts and the curious around the world, a few hundred photos were taken by a variety of individuals of the Ferrari shortly after the accident. The car was inspected and assessed by the insurance company as a total loss and not long thereafter the legal battles unfolded. The crash was a low speed impact estimated at not more than 40 miles per hour but extensive body damage occurred to both sides, the lower right front and the bottom of the Ferrari’s removable under trays. The insurance company wanted the car “totaled” and they sued the FBI for full actual cash value of $750,000. The FBI initially claimed that the damage was purely superficial. They maintained that the carbon fiber tub was undamaged and the car would still be fully drivable after minimal repairs to the body work. Their story and defense quickly changed after receiving guidance from justice department lawyers and the new defense claim was immunity from prosecution under the auspices that the damage occurred during official duty and as such they were not accountable. After several years of court battles, U.S. Federal Judge Avern Cohn dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that while the wreck of the F50 with an FBI agent at the wheel was “certainly unfortunate,” federal law grants immunity to the government for damages to property in law enforcement custody. In order to recoup their losses, the car was serviced and partially repaired into a drivable state. With a new “theft recovered” title having been issued, the Ferrari was publicly auctioned off and purchased by a West Coast dealer who recently completed the final repairs and services that were needed. Today this F50 is being sold with all the repairs and services completed. All warning lights and sensors are clear and no known mechanical defects were noted after a thorough test drive and comprehensive inspection. A current California title has been issued will accompany the vehicle, along with a full CarFax that documents the vehicle’s 7,101 original miles and the fact that (despite lots of drama) the vehicle has had just one legitimate retail owner from new. The hard top box and kit along with the large luggage bag and all of the vehicle’s original books and manuals are included with the sale. Ownership of an F50 is never an easy pursuit. The few that do come up for sale are increasingly expensive and out of reach for most collectors. This F50 represents a singular opportunity to have ownership rights to one of the most unique examples that exists. It is also one with a story that will unlikely ever be equalled and a constant conversation piece for her next fortunate caretaker. If you are interested in reaching the seller, click here.