Eric Clapton's Vintage Ferrari May Set a Record

Neil Lupin/Redferns via Getty Images
Eric Clapton performs at Royal Albert Hall on May 14, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.

Eric Clapton has had a long and continuing love affair with Ferraris, having owned at least a dozen exclusive cars from the Italian brand over the past forty years, including stellar seven-figure examples like a 1964 250 Lusso, a 2002 Enzo, and a customized 2012 458 rebodied to pay homage to the Ferrari 512BB of the ’80s. But one of the first Ferraris he purchased, early on in his affection for the brand, was this 1968 Dino 206 GT, which is being auctioned in early March. 

George Harrison, who, according to Clapton’s 2007 autobiography, “arrived at my house in a dark blue Ferrari 365 GTC,” indoctrinated him into the charms of Ferraris. “I’d never seen one in the flesh before, and my heart melted,” he recalled. Clapton didn’t have a license at the time and couldn’t drive a manual transmission, but he vowed to learn—on Harrison’s car—with the eventual goal of acquiring a Ferrari.

The Dino was something of an anomaly for the marque, having been introduced in 1968 as an entry-level vehicle to increase volume and compete with emergent mass-market high-end sports cars like the Porsche 911. But it was a stunning and voluptuous design, and sophisticated as well: the first Ferrari with a space-saving and balanced mid-engine design where the motor is right behind the driver. And Clapton’s first production year Dino, which he bought second-hand in 1970 and sold after a minor crash that same year, is perhaps the most desirable of the model’s six-year run.

“Time is a great measure of design, and the Dino is just one of those cars that looks better and better with the passage of time, especially the early cars,” says David Gooding, founder and president of Gooding & Company, the auction house that will be selling the car in early March. “The 206s, I think, are the prettiest. They have a more elegant, shorter wheelbase. They have lightweight aluminum bodywork, as opposed to the later steel cars. The steering wheels are different, the interiors are different. It’s just a pure, unfettered design.”

Celebrity provenance can bring added value to a car, but it must be the right celebrity and the right car. This particular car and this particular star tick all the right boxes, which is part of why Gooding has estimated that this sale will exceed the highest price paid for a Dino, last summer’s $770,000 auction. The estimate on Clapton’s Dino is $750,000 - $900,000, and if bidding gets fierce and competitive, it could be the first Dino to crest the $1,000,000 mark.

“It’s already a great Dino,” Gooding says. “And Clapton is a known car enthusiast. This was a car that he really enjoyed—not for long, but for a short period. That sets it apart.”