Who Does Own This Unique Ferrari?
|   Sunday, November 16, 2014
Sometimes it pays to read the fine print. When Bonhams put up a 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus, one of the four still in existence, it put a note at the end of the listing. The note indicated that the vehicle was still subject to judicial action.

So, why did Leo Wexner, 77, of Ohio, owner of Victoria's Secret, The Limited and other chains, bid a record $18.3 million for the sporty Ferrari at the auction house's premier auction recently? The answer is that Wexner is an avid classic Ferrari collector.
He owns 12 Ferrari, many of them examples of the marques early years in racing.

That he would part with that much money for the 375-Plus indicates not only that he wanted to own the vehicle, but that he must also have considered it a good investment. After all, classic model prices are at record levels and they show no signs of cooling down anytime soon.

It turns out that the 375-Plus has an interesting history. The 1954 Ferrari was the winner of the Silverstone F1 event and led the 24 Hours of LeMans. The 375-Plus was purchased by Cincinnati resident Karl Kleve in 1958 after it had caught fire.

Kleve then pieced out the classic Ferrari, selling the engine to a General Motors engineers as well as removing various pieces and storing them elsewhere around Ohio. By this time, a tree had started to growth through the vacant engine compartment.

For three decades, the Ferrari sat in that sad state. In 1989, it was stolen and eventually turned up in Belgium, owned next by Jacques Swaters, an avid Ferrari collector and restorer. The vehicle underwent a complete restoration.

Apparently, Kleve still believed the 375-Plus was where he had placed it, not knowing of the theft and subsequent removal to Belgium. Finally, Kleve discovered that the Ferrari he thought he owned was missing, even though it had been displayed at Ferrari's Maranello plant for some years.

When he discovered the vehicle was alive and well in Europe, Kleve started a legal fight to recover the car from its present owners that was never really settled. Indeed, the courts ultimately decided that the Ferrari should be sold to settle claims regarding the vehicle between Kleve's estate, Swaters, others who owned parts of the Ferrari.

Bonham had claimed that the vehicle that Wexner purchased at the Goodwood concours was ready for sale as all court actions had been settled. That did not appear to be the case and Wexner, a billionaire, has sued Bonham's for false representation.

All of this action has spawned a new round of legal claims and counterclaims some of which may hinge on when the state Department of Motor Vehicles identified the owner of the vehicle and released information regarding ownership.

It is likely that this will take several years to settle.
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