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1957 Ferrari 410 Superamerica coupe Selling price: $1,815,000 (U.S.)

Darin Schnabel ©2011 Courtesy o/Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions

Greg Garrison was a behind-the-TV-cameras legend who got his start directing comic Milton Berle's early 1950s show, The Buick Circus Hour.

He obviously took to heart one of the star's quips – "poverty isn't a disgrace but it is terribly inconvenient" – soon becoming successful enough to put together a dazzling collection of Ferraris, one of which headlined the season-opening big-buck collector auction in Phoenix.

At the event, staged by Canada's RM Auctions at the classy Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, a buyer apparently didn't find it "inconvenient" to write a cheque for $1.8-million to pay for an ex-Garrison 1957 410 Superamerica, one of the more fabulous coachbuilt Ferrari road cars of the era.

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The model was made even more appealing by boasting unique Scaglietti bodywork and being originally ordered by one of the great Ferrari aficionados of the time: Dottore Enrico Wax, who made his money importing Johnny Walker scotch and Connolly leather into Italy.

In fact, a number of buyers didn't balk at handing over money in near-enough million-dollar bundles to acquire Ferraris and boost the sale's tally to more than $25-million after some 140 "blue-chip motor-cars" went under the gavel.

The Superamerica was joined on the top-money-podium by a $997,000 1963 Ferrari 250GT Lusso Berlinetta, a $990,000 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spyder and a 1991 F40 Berlinetta (with just 300 miles on its odometer and ordered by auto exec Lee Iacocca) that sold for $781,000.

Also requiring buyers to have put some serious distance between themselves and the poverty line was a very pretty 1959 BMW 507 Roadster that went for $990,000 and a classic 1930 Duesenberg Model J Le Baron Dual Cowl Phaeton that sold for $880,000 – worth it for the name alone. It cost another buyer $880,000 to acquire a 1966 427 Shelby Cobra.

But there were some "bargains" for the more impecunious collector, with a tiny 1963 Goggomobile TS400 Coupe going for $27,000 and a prosaic 1952 Studebaker half-ton pickup selling at just $24,750.

The star of the show was undoubtedly the Ferrari 410 Superamerica, however, one of only 34 built and the only one with a coupe body by Sergio Scaglietti. This metal-bashing genius operated his "carrozzeria" or body-building shop across the road from the Ferrari factory in Maranello and created many of its racers, including the 1958 250 Testa Rossa. He was honoured by Ferrari's recent 612 Scaglietti and died last fall at the age of 91.

Initially, Ferrari founder Enzo built road cars only to help support his racing efforts, among them the 340 America, which actually started out as a racing model in 1950, and was followed by a couple of dozen 342 America road-usable versions over the next couple of years, powered by a detuned version of the Aurelio Lampredi-designed V-12 long-block Grand Prix engine. These were the predecessors of the "big Ferrari" touring cars that would follow as the marque got more serious about producing powerful and luxurious models aimed at satisfying the well-moneyed set's sporting and look-at-what-I'm-driving aspirations.

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The 342 led to the 375 America with 4.5-litre, 300-hp engine and in 1955 the 410 Superamerica introduced at the Paris auto show in rolling chassis form; the Lampredi single-overhead-cam V-12 was punched out to 5.0 litres and rated at 340 hp.

The 34 Superamericas were built in three series, with all but four bodied by Pininfarina's establishment. One had its sheet metal formed by Carrozzeria Ghia, two by the Mario Boano's coach-building concern and one by Scaglietti.

Chassis number 0671 was delivered to Ferrari fan and Johnny Walker scotch purveyor Dottore Wax in 1957, who kept it for only a year. By 1961, it had found its way from Switzerland to Texas and then California where it was stolen and stripped of its unique body after the thieves realized it would be un-saleable (the body was dumped). Some time later, its rolling chassis was sold to a farmer in Oregon, after which it became one of those Ferrari-in-the-barn rural legends.

In the mid-1980s, Garrison, who'd had a very successful career highlighted by producing (and owning part of) The Dean Martin Show from 1966-74 at NBC, enters the story. He and Martin had sold part of the rights to the show in 1980 netting a reputed $20-million, so Garrison wasn't short of funds to indulge his interest in highly collectable Ferraris. He tracked the Superamerica down and bought what was left in 1986, shipping it to Italy for restoration.

Garrison recalled that a little later, during a chat with "il commendatore" himself in Maranello, he showed him a photo of the remains and after Enzo took off his dark glasses – almost permanent fixtures – to focus better, he identified it as the car built for Wax.

Garrison says he then went across the road for lunch, which was interrupted by a succession of Ferrari factory types, lead by none other than Scaglietti himself (his firm was now owned by Ferrari). Each said they'd all be just delighted to pitch in and help bring the car back to life. Scaglietti dug out original drawings and photos and found four retired employees who'd worked on the car to assist in recreating its one-off bodywork, which included a brushed stainless steel roof and fins.

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The car was completed by 1990 in time to take Best in Class honours at that year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and remained part of Garrison's collection until his death in 2005.

Back in 1957

Elvis Presley makes his third and final appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, shot only from the waist up so his pelvic gyrations won’t cause palpitations among viewers. Ed tells the audience he thinks Elvis is “a real decent, fine boy” and “thoroughly all right.”

In Canada, John Diefenbaker becomes the 13th prime minister while Lester B. Pearson, who will become the 14th, receives the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing an end to the Suez Crisis.

Canadians get their first look at the controversial Avro Arrow fighter.

The “Toddler’s Truce” – a bizarre one-hour halt in television programming between the end of kiddie programming at 6 p.m. and the start of the evening schedule at 7 p.m. (so the little ones could be fed and put to bed) – is viewed as BBC paternalism and ended.

Argentine racer Juan Manuel Fangio wins the German Grand Prix in his Maserati and clinches his fourth consecutive and fifth world championship, a record that will remain unbroken until topped by Michael Schumacher 46 years later.

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