The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canadian entrepreneur pays US$27.5 million for rare Ferrari at auction

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - A rare 1967 Ferrari owned by an orphan-turned-millionaire was sold at a weekend auction for US$27.5 million and various reports say the buyer is Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.

The fashion entrepreneur, who helped develop the Tommy Hilfiger clothing brand in the 1990s, already owns more than 20 other Ferraris, as well as a race track near Mont Tremblant, Quebec, to drive them on.

The $27.5 million is a record for a car sold at auction in the United States and second in the world to the $29.7 million paid for a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 raced by Juan Manuel Fangio.

The red Ferrari 275 GTB/4(asterisk)S N.A.R.T. Spider was one of only 10 ever built, and its single-family ownership increased interest in the sale, the Los Angeles Times reported.

N.A.R.T. stands for North American Racing Team, a Ferrari-backed venture created in the late 1950s to promote the brand in the U.S.

The sale was handled by RM Auctions in Monterey.

The owner, the late Eddie Smith, was a former mayor of Lexington, N. C. He died in 2007 at age 88. Since then, the car has been stored in a specially built garage.

"This is a bittersweet moment for us," Eddie Smith Jr. told a packed crowd before bidding began Saturday. "Ferraris came and went, but this one never went, thank God. We enjoyed it as a family for 45 years."

Smith Jr. advised the new owner to "drive it, love it, enjoy it, and more importantly share it with others so they can see it."

In keeping with his father's philanthropy, the family was giving all proceeds to various charities, Smith Jr. said.

Smith Sr., who became wealthy from a mail-order company he started, was a beloved figure in Lexington. Mayor from 1970 to 1975, he also led hospital, college and chamber of commerce boards.

The avid car enthusiast owned several Ferraris, but the 275 N.A.R.T. Spider was his favourite because he loved the look, sound and feel of it, Smith Jr. told the Dispatch of Lexington.

"Dad wouldn't want the car to be shut away, he would want it to be enjoyed," he said. "Even when the value reached went over a million dollars, he would still drive it."

The 275 N.A.R.T. Spider was featured in the 1968 film "The Thomas Crown Affair" starring Steve McQueen.

The actor, and sometimes racecar driver, had owned one of the rare Ferraris himself, but wrecked it in a crash.

_ With files from The Canadian Press.

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