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Canadian okay if rare 1971 Ferrari doesn't sell at famous U.S. auction

Larry Titchner has the jitters. The fate of his Ferrari GTB/4 Daytona Competizione is dogging him.

He's driven 3.5 hours to RM Auto Restoration to take one last look before it's trucked to the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in Florida.

The Daytona Competizione is to be on the RM Sotheby's auction block on March 12, the day before the concours, with a catalogue estimate of $1.25-million (U.S.) to $1.5-million.

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As shop foreman Ernie Morreau leads him on a tour of cars undergoing restoration, Titchner's mind is on the Daytona. "I'm really 50-50 in my thinking on this car," he says. "If the bidding doesn't reach the low estimate, I'll be fine with it not selling."

Ironically, he has never driven the Ferrari.

Titchner, president of Protagon Display Inc., which designs and manufactures retail displays, has a collection of 22 cars, including an Austin-Healey 100M undergoing preparation at RM for the Amelia concours.

He made up his mind to sell the Ferrari in the midst of its five-year restoration at Rock's Automotive Restoration in Toronto. Upon seeing the finished product in the liver of long-time Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team, hearing the V-12 Allegro through the competition pipes, he reconsidered.

Collectors generally determine which cars are keepers, and which will be culled to make space for new fancies. The elegant 100M, for example, is securely in Titchner's no-sale zone.

"A '67 Healey 3000 was my first collectible," he says. "I was 22, working in my first job out of college in 1976, when I saw it at a local used-car dealer. I drove that 3000 for years, drove it everywhere. It's also untouchable."

The 100M – perfect for Amelia with its rare Florida green finish, Morreau convinced him – is one of 640 Austin-Healeys produced in 1955-56. Their raked windscreens, louvered bonnets and increased horsepower reference racing Healeys' 12th and 14th at the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans, ahead of the Porsche 550s.

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Any Healey certified with the 100M Registry as one of the 640 becomes premium: One sold at a Phoenix auction for $165,000 in January, another at Paris in February for $213,700.

The Daytona's racing pedigree also explains why RM Sotheby's estimate is double that of another Daytona on offer at $600,000-$700,000. Of 1,383 Daytonas, only 15 were made for competition, thus the Competizione designation. Another nine were converted. Although his Daytona never raced, Titchner knows it was ordered as a competition car, only to be sidelined by a legal dispute between the dealer and his client.

Proving it's a true Competizione was essential in establishing its value.

"It was Rocco [Solnito], my restorer, who discovered someone was selling various Chinetti documents on a number of Ferraris – and No. 14115 was one of them."

The price for the importer's document was $1,000. Ferrari, in Maranello, Italy, verified the paperwork.

"We were thrilled, as it validated this car really was a competition car from the factory and was intended to race, probably at Sebring in 1972," he says.

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Morreau and Titchner pause in their walk-around at an Allard K3, Titchner's latest acquisition. "You'll never regret buying this one, Larry, solid car," Morreau says.

In the leathers storage room, the shop foreman addresses another of Titchner's cars. "When your Aston Martin DB5's interior is completed, we'll have an extra hide wrapped up – so you'll have a perfect match should any repairs be needed in the future."

RM founder Rob Myers pauses to chat in the lunch room. Titchner provides him with a condensed version of his Competizione research. Rob will spread the word among prospective bidders, Morreau asserts later.

The glory cars at this year's auction are a Ferrari 250 SWB Berlinetta with an estimate of $9-million to $10-million and a Ferrari 166M Barchetta by Touring, $8-million to $10-million. But any auction firm's reputation depends on realizing its estimates, right down to the $15,000-$20,000 Nash Metropolitan that's in the first lot on March 10.

The bark of an engine that can only be a cold-started Ferrari V-12 stops them in their tracks. The Competizione is being driven at that moment into a transport trailer soon leaving for Florida. Morreau offers to have the car unloaded so Titchner can drive it around the parking lot. He declines.

"Let everyone on the team know that with this car, I don't want the old hand-on-the-shoulder treatment – you know, 'The bidding hasn't gone as high as we'd anticipated, but you really should consider accepting this price,'" Titchner says.

"Because nothing below the low estimate is acceptable."

Unsold, he could take it to the big Ferrari Club of America gathering at Daytona International Speedway in April. He says he does not enjoy taking his cars on track. A vintage racer would get the most out of its pedigree.

He holds an Ontario used-car sales license because he often sells classics. But he is not concerned if the Ferrari does not sell at this auction, believing it to be appraised properly in today's market. When the right buyer recognizes its worth, he says, that will free up the funds and space for something else, equally exciting – a car he'll most certainly drive.

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