Absolutely nothing comes close to Ferrari as far as brand equity is concerned. For many years, the iconic Italian manufacturer has topped the list of the world’s strongest luxury brands, and Ferrari takes this very seriously; so much so that Ferrari is known for going after its own customers with lawsuits for mistreating its cars. Celebrities like Deadmau5, Kim Kardashian, and Justin Bieber have faced the wrath of the mighty Italian brand. However, there once was a brave car collector who turned the tables by suing Ferrari for harming his reputation, and this article is about him and his bold move to take on one of the most powerful companies in the world. It’s none other than American entrepreneur and racing legend Preston Henn who filed a lawsuit against Ferrari in 2016 after being denied an allocation for a limited edition LaFerrari Aperta.
One of the most notable Ferrari collectors
Henn made a fortune as the owner of the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop in Florida – one of the biggest flea markets in the world. Located on Sunrise Boulevard between I-95 and the Florida Turnpike, it was the brainchild of Henn who opened the site as the Thunderbird Drive-in in 1963. In the beginning, it only had one screen that catered to passing motorists. After a 1966 trip to the American West Coast, Henn added a flea market to the drive-in theater and continued to add more attractions such as free concerts, circus performances, a mall with 2,000 vendors and a farmer’s market. The business was a huge success which not only helped him finance his car-racing dreams but also collect some of the rarest automobiles ever made.
One of his Ferrari’s may be worth $100 million
His extensive car collection included an ultra-rare Ferrari 275 GTB/C 6885 Speciale, which is speculated by many car experts to be the most valuable car in the world. Unveiled at the 1964 Paris Motor Show, the 275 GTB was designed as a road car with race-inspired engineering and components. The Speciale is a competition version of the 275 GTB that was introduced as the successor to the legendary Ferrari 250 GTO. It came with features such as an all-independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, a five speed, all-synchromesh transaxle and an optional alloy body. Only 4 examples of the racing version were built, making them one of the rarest Ferraris in existence. Henn’s yellow GTB/C Speciale chassis #6885 was competed at the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans. While Henn believed his Ferrari was worth $100 million, another example was sold in 2014 for $26.5 million.
Henn’s collection already included a LaFerrari
Prior to asking the Italian marque for an allocation of the the LaFerrari Aperta, Henn already had added the coupe variant of the flagship hypercar to his personal collection. With a standard LaFerrari coupe already in his possession, the eccentric businessman like many other prominent car collectors wanted the open-top version of the hybrid hypercar. It is mechanically identical to the LaFerrari coupe and is powered by the same 6.3-liter V12 engine which is supplemented by a single electric motor to produce a cumulative output of 950hp. The Aperta features a removable carbon-fiber hardtop and a removable canvas soft top. Only 200 examples of the Aperta were available for sale, making it rarer and more desirable than the coupe which was limited to 710 units. All of them were already pre-sold to customers via invitation, according to the Italian marque. Sadly, Henn was not one of them.
Even a check worth one million dollars didn’t help
The American millionaire even made some desperate attempts to get his hands on the convertible hypercar. Reportedly, he mailed a personal letter directly to Sergio Marchionne, Ferrari’s CEO back in those days, which included a $1 million check as a down payment. However, none of it worked in Henn’s favor and he was left without his desired LaFerrari Aperta.
Known for his mercurial behavior, the rejection was seen as a personal insult by the immensely wealthy entrepreneur who decided to get his lawyers involved and sue the Italian marque. Eventually, a defamation lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, which sought $75,000 in damages.
A lawsuit for damaged reputation
The cowboy-hat-wearing business mogul demanded a trial by jury. He sued Ferrari “for reputational injury and the mortification caused by declaring him to be not qualified to purchase a LaFerrari Aperta,” according to the complaint filed in court. “The publication of the statement that Preston Henn is not qualified to purchase a LaFerrari Aperta is an untrue statement which harms Henn’s reputation, and holds him up to ridicule, disrespect, and disrepute in his profession, trade, occupation, avocation, and among his friends and business and social associates.”
Ferrari lost a fan forever
However, a few months later, he decided to drop the lawsuit against Ferrari as the costs involved were too high. While speaking to RoadandTrack.com, Henn claimed that his lawyers told him that the odds of winning the lawsuit against Ferrari were practically zero. Thanks to his wounded ego, he even claimed that the modern Acura NSX worth $200,000 was better than an unspecified convertible Ferrari model which reportedly cost him $750,000. Henn even said that he was exploring other options to sue the Italian marque on a different thing. But the legendary car collector sadly passed away a few months later from natural causes at the age of 86, bringing an abrupt end to this story.
Preston Henn – an American hero
Born in 1931, Preston was an American entrepreneur who founded the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop in 1963. Known for his ability to spot business opportunities, he realized his drive-in theaters in Florida were sitting empty during the day. Taking inspiration from another theater in Compton, he used the drive-in theaters as a swap shop during the day on weekends, which ended up becoming one of the biggest flea markets in the world. Thanks to the fortune amassed from his businesses, the temperamental business mogul got himself into professional car racing, which was a great way to promote his business.
In 1983, Henn even clinched overall victory in the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona. Henn was also famous for his flamboyant lifestyle. He was not only a participant in the Ferrari FXX program but also was the first person to buy a Gulfstream G650 business jet. His personal car collection was estimated to be worth more than $100 million. On his 80th birthday, he managed to cross 180mph in one of his Ferraris, which perfectly illustrates his life’s motto of living life king-size.