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GOODING & COMPANY’S Amelia Island Auction, March 8, 2013, has cars ranging from a 1954 Fiat 500C Belvedere (a mini station wagon con brio, $25,000-$35,000) to several cars beyond a $2 million estimate. None holds my fancy as much as a 1969 Ferrari 365 GTC, largely because of its provenance.
This was the last of 168 GTCs and belonged to heiress and socialite Barbara Hutton, a woman whose links with automobiles were rich indeed. Among her seven husbands were a famous actor (whose film career included a hair-raising ride along Monaco’s Grande Corniche), a winner of the Targa Florio road race, and a race-car-driving playboy (who added a second B-25 to his fleet when they split up). Another husband fathered Barbara’s only child who grew up to build and race a famous American sports car, then sell his shop to someone who built an even more famous one.
Barbara’s father was Franklyn Laws Hutton, co-founder of E.F. Hutton & Company. Her maternal grandfather was Frank W. Woolworth, founder of Woolworth’s five-and-dime stores. In 1933, when Barbara turned 21, she came into $42 million (think $744 million in today’s dollars).
Alas, her life was filled with tragedy, to the point that a biography and later TV mini-series were titled Poor Little Rich Girl. Her mother committed suicide when Barbara was five. Barbara’s seven marriages ended in divorce. When she passed away in 1979, at age 66, she was all but bankrupt, her checking account having dwindled to $3500.
Barbara’s first husband, Alexis Mdivani, was one of five Georgian “princes” who collectively became known as the “Marrying Mdivanis.” He had divorced an Astor to marry Barbara in 1933. Shortly after his and Barbara’s divorce in 1935, Mdivani died in a car crash.
Her second husband, Count Kurt von Haugwitz-Hardenbery-Reventlow, was abusive of her and their son. Barbara’s only child was born in 1936, midway through this three-year marriage. His name was Lance Reventlow, now renowned for the highly successful Scarab sports-racing cars.
When Lance tired of racing, he sold his Venice, California, digs to Carroll Shelby, who produced the Cobra there. Lance died in a 1972 air crash, which sent his mother into despair until the end of her life.
Barbara’s husband no. 3 was Cary Grant in 1942. Even after their 1945 divorce, his support and counsel were important to Barbara and her son. Grant’s car link?
It was Grant who got a scary ride with Grace Kelly driving a Sunbeam Alpine Mk.1 in the 1955 flick, “To Catch a Thief.”
Husband no. 4 was Prince (a real one) Igor Troubetzkoy, married 1947, divorced 1951. Troubetzkoy co-drove an Allemano-bodied Ferrari 166C to victory in the 1948 Targa Florio road race in Sicily.
Troubetzkoy’s entry in the 1948 Monaco Grand Prix was Ferrari’s first appearance at that circuit. Troubetzkoy outlived the rest in this tale; he died in 2008 at the age of 96.
Playboy Porfirio Rubirosa Ariza of the Dominican Republic (during the bad old Rafael Trujillo days) was husband no. 5. He holds the record for the shortest marriage, 53 days in late 1953/early 1954.
A world-class polo player and so-so sports-car racing driver, Rubirosa made out fine on the divorce: His settlement included $2.5 million and a (second!) converted B-25 aircraft. Indeed, his previous marriage to tobacco/energy heiress Doris Duke earned him his first B-25. Rubirosa died in 1965 when he crashed his Ferrari 250 GT after an all-night party in Paris.
Husband no. 6, German tennis champion Gottfried von Cramm, also perished in a car crash in 1976, years after his four-year marriage to Barbara ended in the late 1950s. His notoriety was not car-related; rather, in the 1930s, Von Cramm resisted the Nazis using him as a symbol of Aryan racial supremacy.
Husband no. 7 was Raymond Doan, an adopted member of the former royal family of the Kingdom of Champasak (now part of Laos). To the best of my research, he had nothing significant to do with automobiles.
If we seek a moral in Barbara Hutton’s life, it borders on the trite: Money can’t buy happiness.
However, if you happen to have $750,000-$950,000, by Gooding & Company’s estimate, it could buy you the ex-Hutton 1969 Ferrari 365 GTC. To learn more about its auction on Friday, March 8, 2013, check out www.goodingco.com. And, if you do buy it, please take me for a ride—a gentle one. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013