The stunning and totally unique Ferrari 212 Inter with coachwork by Ghia that was first shown by Ferrari on its official booth at the 1952 Paris Salon and counts Juan Perón, President of Argentina, as its first owner, is coming to auction in just over a week’s time at RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale.
More recently restored and recognised with awards at prestigious international concours events, chassis 0191 EL is in the first rank of unique, coachbuilt Ferraris. RM Sotheby’s estimate the price it’s set to fetch when it crosses the block during the Arizona auction on 18-19 January as being in the region of US$1,600,000 - US$2,000,000.
The sensational Inter began life as the 49th of 73 examples built, completing assembly in late summer of 1952 as chassis no. 0233 EU (in one of the earliest uses of the EU suffix, presaging the forthcoming Europa model).
Intended as a show car, the chassis was sent to Ghia in Turin and clothed with one-off coachwork, featuring many of the design cues common to the firm’s Virgil Exner collaborations of the era. The elegant fender and front-fascia treatments echo similar cues found on show cars like the Ghia GS1 and Chrysler D’Elegance. Like those luxury models, the Ferrari was trimmed with a particularly sumptuous interior that abounded in thoughtful ergonomic details, like folding window winders to ease exit and entry and driving comfort, as well as a thickly padded console armrest.
The Inter debuted at the Paris Motor Show in October 1952, perched on the Ferrari stand alongside 0235 EU, a Pinin Farina-bodied cabriolet. It was there that the car was reportedly first spotted by its future owner, Juan Domingo Perón, President of Argentina. A remarkably diverse and divisive leader who was both adored and vilified by his own people, Perón rose to power in the Cold War climate of 1946 behind a populist agenda, and the ideology named for him, Peronism, actually lives on to this day in elements of current Argentine politics.
A true motoring enthusiast, Perón was famed for amassing an immense collection of luxurious automobiles, ranging from Ferraris to Packards. He loved racing, and was a key financier of the careers of two of the country’s rising stars, Juan Manual Fangio and Froilan Gonzalez, supporting their 1950 entry at Le Mans in a Gordini, and putting significant weight behind Fangio’s Formula 1 efforts.
Perón financed the construction of a Formula 1 track in Buenos Aires called the Juan Perón October 17 Circuit (in honor of the date of his rise to power), and created a state-funded car company called Justicialista that offered a Porsche-powered two-seat fiberglass sports car.
After seeing the one-off Ghia coupe at Paris in October 1952, Perón made inquiries and a purchase was arranged through an intermediary in Rome. It is likely that the President wished to minimize any publicity surrounding his purchase and its tax consequences, as he faced increasing scrutiny at home. Argentine import taxes for new luxury cars are notoriously steep, and for this reason, the car presumably returned to Maranello so that it could assume the identity of a used car, which happened to be Milan registration number MI 197153.
This registration had been in use by another Ghia-bodied Ferrari, chassis 0191 EL, and due to the registration switch, the factory conducted a commensurate chassis renumbering to seal the car’s new identity. It is important to note that this numbering swap involved no exchange of bodies, chassis, or motors; both cars were originally built with the chassis and bodies they wear today, and merely exchanged numbers for the sake of a powerful client’s aversion to taxes and any unfavorable publicity associated with his extravagant tastes.
In 1955, Juan Perón was ousted from power by a military coup, and after he fled the country, the Ghia coupe remained in Argentina, eventually passing to a dealer by the early 1970s. The car was purchased in August 1973 by Conrado Tennina, an Italian living in Buenos Aires, and he retained possession for 14 years before selling it into European ownership in 1987.
At that point, the Ferrari was treated to a comprehensive restoration, including a complete mechanical refurbishment, while the exterior was returned to its original and stunning 1952 Paris Salon livery, a two-tone combination of yellow over black with correct whitewall tyres.
In December 1999, the car was acquired by the consignor, a highly respected collector of one-off Ferrari show cars, who presented the Ghia coupe at the 2001 Cavallino Classic. In mid-2002 he entrusted the car to the Ferrari specialists at Motion Products in Neenah, Wisconsin, and some minor cosmetic corrections were undertaken in the engine bay to return the finishes and hardware to factory-correct specifications.
The 212 was then displayed at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2002, where it earned a 2nd-in-class award, in a strong endorsement of the European restoration and its more recent freshening. Chassis no. 0191 EL was exhibited at Cavallino again in January 2003, this time garnering a Platinum Award and winning the Excellence Cup, and a month later the historically important Ferrari was the subject of a cover feature in Forza magazine.
Now available for the first time in nearly 20 years, 0191 EL claims rare history and remarkable ownership provenance. It was personally viewed at the 1952 Paris Salon and then acquired by Juan Perón, one of the most significant figures in Latin American politics, and a diehard motorsports enthusiast whose automotive legacy includes the triumphs of Fangio.
Furthermore clothed with one-off Ghia coachwork that ranks among the carrozzeria’s finest efforts, and benefiting from a Pebble Beach and Cavallino award-winning restoration, this exquisite 212 Inter is currently undergoing certification by Ferrari Classiche. It all but guarantees entry to prestigious international events such as Pebble Beach (where it is once again eligible) and the Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza.
Few early Ferrari road cars offer such extraordinary cachet, and the Ghia coupe’s current availability should merit the attention of the world’s most serious collectors and Maranello connoisseurs.