- Single-ownership from new
- Purchased new by Eddie Smith Sr., of North Carolina
- Matching-numbers, fully restored example
- One of only 10 highly desirable N.A.R.T. Spiders ever built
- Proceeds to benefit charity
300 bhp 3,286 cc four overhead-camshaft V-12 engine, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel upper and lower wishbone independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and tubular steel frame. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.
It’s a Monday morning in March 1968 and Eddie Smith Sr., known to his family and friends affectionately as “George,” has arrived at work well before dawn. As he has for so many years, he and several volunteers are making the employees breakfast to start the work week with a smile: 150 biscuits, 17 dozen scrambled eggs, and all the sausages, gravy, grits, and fixings to feed a booming hosiery mail-order business in the small town of Lexington, North Carolina. Parked at his office, by the way, is a brand new Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider, one of only ten in the world, which he just acquired from his friend and fellow enthusiast, legendary Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti.
The story of chassis 10709, one of the most famous and desirable Ferraris in the world, is as much about the provenance of a sports car as it is the remarkable life story of the gentleman who cherished it from the day he took delivery and from whose beloved family it is now offered to the public. It represents not only the ownership of a sports car for all the right reasons, but also, on a much greater level, the shared multi-generational passion that 10709 has encouraged within the family, and the American Dream that it signifies.
From Hardscrabble to Hosiery
Eddie Smith was born in 1918, one of four siblings, into a poor but loving family. His parents died tragically within one year of each other, well before young Eddie had even turned 10 years old. Thankfully, the Junior Order, of which his father was a member, arranged to have the children sent to an orphanage together, which was, in fact, a blessing, as he later considered it one of the happiest times of his life. Rising every morning at 4:30 to milk cows and tend to the usual farm chores was hard work, but it was relatively short-lived, as his son, Eddie Jr., recently recalled.
“When you were 18, your birthday present was the door! They couldn’t afford to keep you, so my dad found his way to the nearest town of Lexington, and that’s where he built his life and started working.”
Eddie Sr. started first as an usher at the Carolina Theater in town, where he met his future wife, Sarah, before spending some time as a cab driver, which segued into a dispatcher position and finally the role of manager. Eddie, however, clearly had greater things in mind.
He worked his way up the street and found employment with a man who owned a small mail-order hosiery business. Eight years later, he found himself out of work due to the death of the owner and was about to make a career leap that changed everything.
In 1952, he and two other partners started their own mail-order hosiery business, which they named the National Wholesale Company.
Fast-forward eight years. Eddie’s business is thriving, he’s bought out his partners, and the company has expanded into lingerie and other apparel. He’s become a daring businessman that has tremendous foresight to seize on expansion opportunities when they present themselves, and time after time, his gambles pay off.
One day, in the spring of 1960, he was asked by his son, Eddie Jr., if he would be allowed to attend the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida with several friends. Eddie Sr. said yes, but he also decided to tag along, and the entire gang headed south in a 1960 Impala Tri-Power 348 with a four on the floor. Immediately enamored, Eddie Jr. later recalled, “He smelled that Castrol burning and it got in his blood!”
The father-son duo returned the following year, this time in a new Chevrolet Corvette, but as John Lamm wrote for Road & Track in 1998, “Senior’s tastes were changing. ‘I don’t know what it was, but you hear about the Ferrari mystique…at first we didn’t know much about sports cars, but we’d see Ferraris and they were winning. I’d hear about Jaguars and others, but I always wanted a Ferrari.’”
Eddie Sr. satisfied this craving by buying a stunning used 250 GT Short Wheelbase California Spider, which was facilitated by one of the many friends the Smiths were making in the pits and the party tents at the annual races in Sebring, none other than North American Ferrari importer and renowned racing driver Luigi Chinetti. As everyone who met him came to find out, “George” had an absolutely infectious personality; he had a fun-loving effusiveness, a gift for telling stories, and non-stop energy that made him the life of every party, even at those of his son and grandson’s fraternity at Chapel Hill!
The $7,000 California Spider was later sold to a fraternity brother of Eddie Jr.’s for $5,600. It was replaced by an equally worthy stable mate, the latest 12-cylindered supercar from Maranello, a 275 GTB/4 Berlinetta, for which delivery proved a much more exciting proposition. “George” was invited directly by Chinetti to join him on the first of several high-speed European tours, the likes of which petrol-heads and Ferraristi can only dream of. As illustrated by an extraordinary family photo album, the two of them, along with Don Weber of Texas, arrived in Paris, from where they drove a then-new front-wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronado nonstop and at breakneck speed toward Modena.
After several days of long lunches, dinners, and nights out with Ferrari executives at the Hotel Real Fini, the trio picked up three brand-new 275 GTB/4 Berlinettas, drove over the border into Switzerland, and enjoyed the twisty Alpine roads on their way to Geneva. After a quick stopover, it was back to Paris at high-revving speed, before Eddie’s stunning new car was loaded onto a ship on the coast, homeward bound.
In all, Eddie and Luigi romped around Europe in their prancing horses three times; the last time was in 1972, with the new 365 GTB/4 Daytona Coupe, co-driven this time by Eddie Jr. In an endless array of stories about Eddie Sr. that could fill countless volumes, Eddie Jr. recalled how, on two separate daytrips, the father-son team roared through a tunnel at breakneck speed on their way to Florence (unable to find the light switch!) and put the pedal to the metal, chasing a Dino, whose driver had made the mistake of passing the Smiths on the Autostrada, at 140+ mph, on their way to visit the Riva boat factory.
Amazingly, the most extraordinary car Eddie ever bought simply came into his possession as a matter of personal preference. He owned the four-cam berlinetta for only a very short period of time before Luigi Chinetti came calling once again, recalling Eddie’s love of convertibles. “I talked Enzo into building some spiders. Do you want one?” His protestations at having just bought the berlinetta were met with, “I’ll give you your money back!”
And so, Luigi and Eddie headed overseas once more to take delivery of chassis 10709, what would become one of the most famous Ferraris in the world. After the usual stopover in Paris, and a high-speed jaunt through the countryside to Northern Italy, what George found in Maranello was no ordinary cabriolet. This new model was unlike anything Ferrari had built before. Road & Track magazine called it “the most satisfying sports car in the world” and featured it on their cover. In fact, this was the first chassis that had been raced by Denise McCluggage and Pinkie Rollo very successfully at Sebring, and it was later featured in the Steve McQueen film The Thomas Crown Affair. In speaking with RM Auctions recently, Denise commented, “I love the look of the car, and it’s absolutely perfect for all the great driving events, from the Colorado Grand to the California Mille. Even with the top down, you can outrun the rain and stay perfectly dry.” Meanwhile, McQueen loved the car so much that he bought his own example, chassis 10453, not long thereafter.
Like so many great sports car importers, Luigi Chinetti recognized the viability of sporty open cars in the American market. The 250 GT SWB California Spider in particular proved itself a resounding success, and to this day, it is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful cars to ever come from Modena. But whereas the four-cam’s predecessor, the 275 GTB, offered a spider variant, the wind-in-your-hair alternative to the 275 GTB/4 was a 330 GTS.
As such, the N.A.R.T. Spider was born of a direct request from Luigi Chinetti to offer his buyers precisely what they wanted. Adding the recognizable North American Racing Team badge to the back of the car certainly helped its cache. N.A.R.T., after all, was one of endurance racing’s most successful teams, with a banner campaigned by the likes of the Rodriguez Brothers, Bob Grossman, Masten Gregory, Phil Hill, Jean Guichet, and many others.
In all, only 10 cars were built, making them incredibly rare. As Luigi Chinetti Jr. recently recounted, “As an open version of the 275 GTB, it’s a very romantic car. To this day, many people think it’s the prettiest car ever made, and certainly the romance with the little prancing horse in the center of the steering wheel is a very powerful thing. It signifies history and design.”
This particular “prancing horse” was originally finished in Azzurro Metallizzato (Metallic Blue), and when Eddie picked the car up, it was also fitted with a chromed front grille guard, which it wears to this day. Years later, as concours judges protested the fitment of this grille guard, Eddie, in his typical good-humored way, declared, “Well, if that’s not original, I’ll be as surprised as you are, because it was on there when I picked the car up myself in Modena!”
As Eddie headed north on the Autostrada toward the Swiss border, as per usual, he was most certainly delighting in the finest motor car he had ever driven. With over 300 horsepower, a four-cam, 3.2-liter V-12 fed by six Weber carburetors, a five-speed gearbox, and four-wheel independent suspension, this Ferrari was miles away from anything anyone in Lexington, North Carolina, could have ever dreamed of. The wail of the motor under full acceleration was surely something he delighted in immensely, as Eddie’s daughter, Lynda Swann, recalled. “One of the things he loved most about his Ferraris was the sound. You could hear the N.A.R.T. from several blocks away!”
Three Generations of Ferraristi
After 10709 was delivered to Luigi Chinetti Motors in New York, Eddie took delivery in March 1968 and headed down to the endurance races at Sebring not long thereafter. He would return two or three times, always with Eddie Jr., who said, “We must have broken the land speed record between Lexington and Sebring on more than one occasion.”
The Daytona would come and go, but the N.A.R.T. Spider remained in the family through to the present day. Eddie, in the meantime, had become an ardent supporter and beloved member of the Ferrari Club of America, attending many of its events, reunions, and track days. By the 1980s, he had refinished the car a darker red/maroon metallic color, and it was pictured as such at an FCA national meeting and reunion of N.A.R.T. road and racing cars at Lake Lanier Island in Georgia. Many events followed, including the 30th Annual FCA National Meet in Palm Beach Gardens in 1993, the third annual Cavallino Classic the following year, and the 31st FCA International Concours in Monterey, California. He returned to Cavallino many more times, including Road Atlanta in 1999, the 40th Annual FCA Concours at Sebring in 2003 (where he won the Luigi Chinetti Memorial Award), and Virginia International Raceway in 2004, where he won Best in Show. Many awards were won, parties were attended, and dances were enjoyed.
Meanwhile, Eddie Smith Jr. was forging his own path to success. Not long after the N.A.R.T. Spider arrived in North Carolina, the recent college graduate ventured out on his own and bought the struggling Grady-White boat company; it was a company that he not only turned around, but he also led the charge, as he has pioneered industry-leading advancements, manufacturing techniques and unparalleled customer service that have garnered the company J.D. Power & Associates awards every year they’ve been available. Through it all, 10709 remained part of the family, as Eddie tended to National Wholesale, which is now run by his daughter, Lynda.
Eddie Jr. employed the same values and hard work as his father to build Grady-White into what it is today, joining the National Marine Manufacturers Hall of Fame in the process and following in his father’s footsteps, who was inducted into the Direct Mail Hall of Fame. Eddie Jr.’s company employs hundreds of dedicated individuals, many of whom have remained with him for decades, including its current president, Kris Carroll. With an emphasis on safety and catering to the needs of the active sport fisherman, Grady-White is unique in that it also espouses its owners’ values of preserving the environment and fisheries for generations to come. In fact, it’s certainly no surprise that the same family that founded National Wholesale, and started every work week with a generous southern breakfast, also built Grady-White into what it is today, with a commitment to ensure every employee comes to work on Monday as happy as they were when they left on Friday.
Chris Smith has shared the same passion as his father and grandfather, not only for the N.A.R.T. Spider, but also to the University of North Carolina, the family business, and the values that have kept the family so close. He fondly recalls a high school date to the ice cream shop, where he was scolded by several old-timers, who said, “Do you know whose car that is? You’d better polish it before you return it!” The list of family anecdotes is heartwarming and exceptional to say the least, but it is suffice to say that “George’s” ownership of the N.A.R.T Spider came full circle on his 70th birthday, when Eddie Jr. surprised him with a brand new Ferrari Testarossa. Ten years later, on his 80th birthday, he surprised him once more with a Ferrari F355 F1 Spider.
An Infectious Personality
As noted Ferrari historian Marcel Massini recalled, “He was a very nice gentleman, a true Ferrari aficionado with a big heart. It was certainly very rare that a Ferrari owner belonged to the club for so long and was active for over 40 years.”
Indeed, Eddie Smith Sr. bought and owned this Ferrari for all the right reasons: he enjoyed the camaraderie of the club, but, most importantly, he derived pleasure from flying around the roads in Lexington, listening to the high-revving V-12 and enjoying the car’s stunning good looks. Most long-term FCA members will attest to the wonderful stories “George” told of Luigi Chinetti and his early Ferrari experiences, and their wives will happily recount what a tireless dancer he was. Just as he didn’t leave the dance floor until the party was over, his foot never came off the throttle until it was absolutely necessary! His need for speed was so great that instead of buckling up during takeoff in his private Sabreliner jet, he would stand up in the cockpit, between the two pilots, to experience the surge of acceleration as they were going down the runway.
As Luigi Chinetti Jr. recently said, “He was always happy and a true pleasure to be around. He wasn’t just an enthusiast about the cars themselves but the entire experience—the drives around Europe and the visits to the factory. He was a really nifty guy!”
A New Home
As the value of his N.A.R.T. Spider began to rise, he never once considered parting with it, even when notable celebrities made him offers that most owners wouldn’t refuse. After Steve McQueen was rear-ended at a stoplight in his own N.A.R.T. Spider, he called Eddie, whose car was currently being built. Eddie told him “Steve, I like you but I don’t love you. And you can’t have my car!”
Since “George’s” passing in 2007, the car has been stored and maintained in a separate, purpose-built garage within Grady-White’s airplane hangar, as a monument, of sorts, to his ownership of the car; it is complete with his racing suit and beloved worn deck shoes in which he wore when he so frequently drove around the track.
A recent inspection by both an RM specialist and a Ferrari expert confirmed the exceptional condition of the car and how well it has been preserved over the course of its life. The restoration was conducted to the highest standards, and enormous effort was used to ensure that even the smallest replaced part, right down to an old bearing, was retained. The body lines are excellent, and the car’s presentation is thoroughly correct. It runs and drives nicely, pulling through the gears with tremendous power and stopping without issue, and most importantly, the car has the distinction of having full matching numbers from front to back; the gearbox, body, and engine stampings all correspond with chassis 10709. For further details and a list of parts that accompany the car, please speak with an RM specialist.
In recent years, the car has been seen by the public only on limited occasions. Just last year, Eddie Jr. had the car brought to Savannah, Georgia, for an FCA meet, where he was joined by Chris, Lynda, and all of their children and grandchildren. The entire family and Ferrari community celebrated “George’s” life, but, as Eddie recalls, “Those people enjoyed the car so much that it almost brought them to tears. So we decided the car needs to be somewhere where it can be seen and appreciated.”
The experience in Savannah consequently compelled the family to part with the car, and in a final act of supreme generosity for which the Smith family is known, they will donate the proceeds to charity. “The hard part was deciding to let the car go after 45 years, but it’s been in prison in that hangar. ‘George’ always taught us to give back, and by giving all the money to several charities, we know that it would have brought a smile to his face.”
Eddie Smith Sr. certainly set an example for philanthropy in the family. Untold children found their way through college with his assistance, or they enjoyed the failing theater in Lexington, North Carolina, which he helped resurrect. As a result, that theater was subsequently named in his honor and turned into a first-class civic center. A new hospital was built with his assistance in Lexington, North Carolina, and the same was true of a new library. In fact, after discovering a battered woman by the side of the road in Lexington on his morning jog, he helped not only her, but countless others, when he kicked off a fundraiser that resulted in the building of a local shelter for women in similar situations.
An Unrepeatable Opportunity
Ferraris are bought and sold internationally at staggering rates, but their perpetual desirability is attested to by the fact that the vast majority of important examples are not only known and accounted for, but that they are also well documented by historians and enthusiasts. This is especially true of the 350 275 GTB/4s and, more specifically, the 10 additional N.A.R.T. Spiders, which irrefutably signify a holy grail for collectors of road going Ferraris.
Add to that 10709’s exceptional purity, matching numbers, and, most importantly, the fact that it has been owned, cherished, and enjoyed in the same good home from the day it was picked up at the factory by its first owner; this is an owner who, much like the buyer of an FXX or 599 GTO, was personally asked by Ferrari whether he would like to buy such a car.
For the true Ferrari enthusiast, 10709’s offering at auction is quite simply an unrepeatable and almost unbelievable opportunity.
For a complete list of spare parts, please speak with an RM representative.