It isn’t every day that a car catches the attention of the Department of Justice. But last week, U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. announced that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York filed a civil action seeking to determine the ownership of a 1996 Ferrari F50, a car valued at $1.9 million.
If there was a Ferrari worth going to court over, this is certainly it. Plus, how tough can it be to determine who owns a limited-edition nearly 30-year-old Ferrari? Well, that’s why it’s going to court.
Launched in 1995, the F50 mined Ferrari’s Formula One technology as a follow up to the F40, the final car developed under Enzo Ferrari before his death in 1988 that, in turn, descended from the 288 GTO. With such a distinguished bloodline, its performance pedigree is unquestionable. It represents the finest in Ferrari technology, which emanates from racing.
A rare breed indeed
Created to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, 349 F50s were built, and of those, a mere 55 were produced for the U.S. market.
Best described as a Formula One car with an extra seat, the F50 uses a carbon-fiber tub, a common occurrence on modern supercars, but far rarer nearly three decades ago. Pininfarina was tapped to supply the lightweight composite body, which featured a detachable hardtop.
Its 4.7-liter, naturally aspirated V-12 engine featured five valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts and was derived from the 3.5-liter V-12 Formula One engine Ferrari employed in the 1990 season in the Ferrari 641 F1. In this configuration, it develops 512 horsepower at 8,000 rpm through the 6-speed manual gearbox. Being true to its racecar routes, the F50 lacks power steering and anti-lock brakes.
The V-12 in the F50-12 bolts directly to the car’s carbon fiber tub by means of metal subframes. This reduces weight while adding rigidity, but also transmits a lot of vibration into the cabin.
When new, Ferrari would only lease the F50 for two years before Ferrari would sign the title over to customers in an effort to thwart speculators.
A troubled trip
The 1996 Ferrari F50 that was being transported across the border to Mohammed Alsaloussi of Miami, Florida, who paid $1.435 million for it. Registered to Ikonick Collection Ltd., in Edmonton, it has 10,708 miles on the clock, and wears Alberta, Canada license plates.
As it crossed from Canada into the United States on Dec. 14, 2019, it was examined by Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, who noticed that rivets on the VIN were covered in a black tar-like material, which clearly wasn’t factory standard. CBP placed a hold on the car, contacting Ferrari and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
It then came to light that the F50 had been stolen from a hotel parking garage in Iola, Italy in March 2003, a month after an Italian man, Paolo Provenzi, bought the car along with his father Remigio Provenzi, and his brother, Roberto Provenzi, according to information obtained from Ferrari.
Provenzi never recovered the car.
All parties involved now claim to own the car, but the CBP will not decide on the rightful owner.
“After an 18-year odyssey, which we know took it across continents and countries, we have decided that the time has come for a court of law to determine the rightful owner of the vehicle,” said U.S. Attorney Kennedy, in a statement.
Until a decision is handed down, the car remains in CBP custody. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul C. Parisi is handling the case.
Given its significance, it’s little wonder there’s one car is the at the center of an international car collector tug-of-war.
But questions still surround this car, ones that have yet to be answered, such as how the car found its way to Canada, or why two years ago, a Japanese man asked Porvenzi to drop the police report, according to The Buffalo New.
“When this is over, there’s going to be a movie made about this,” Provenzi’s attorney Alessandra Piras told the newspaper.