20 Priceless Ferraris That Were Abandoned And Left To Rot After A 2004 Hurricane, Will Be Auctioned This Weekend

On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley touched down on the coast of Florida. Over the next several days, the fourth-strongest hurricane in Florida history caused $17 billion worth of damage as it marched up the state. When Charley reached the Central-Florida town of Kissimmee, the 106 MPH winds traveled straight across Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida’s seventh-largest lake. The homes along the shores of “Lake Toho” were battered and beaten by apocalyptic forces. These weren’t fancy homes. Even today, if you scan Zillow, a really, really nice lakefront home can be bought for a little less than $700,000.

Back in 2004, one Lake Toho’s lakefront residents was a man named Walter Medlin.

Walter Medlin was a bit of an eccentric and mysterious character. Over the previous decades, Walter’s neighbors had surely read newspaper stories about his IRS battles. They called him the “Howard Hughes of Osceola County” (a reference to the highly reclusive billionaire portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2004 film “The Aviator”).

Walter lived in a 2,600 square foot house along the shore of Lake Toho. His house was small and modest in comparison to neighboring properties. However, unlike neighboring properties that maybe spanned a half acre, Walter’s property was 24 flat grassy acres. The property featured a runway for his small prop plane, and, crucially to this story, a large dilapidated barn made of corrugated metal and a self-poured simple concrete floor.

According to legend, Walter’s barn contained a few classic valuable cars. Cars the IRS was dying to seize. Most assumed the barn contained a lawn/farm equipment, his plane, maybe a boat.

When Hurricane Charley finally settled and neighbors emerged from their shelters, the mystery of what that barn actually contained was finally revealed.

Walter’s nondescript barn actually contained…

$100 million worth of ultra-rare Ferraris:

Photo by Ed Sackett/Orlando Sentinel

Who Is Walter Medlin?

Walter Medlin was born in July 1943. According to a 2014 Orlando Sentinel article, after Walter graduated from high school in the early 1960s he took a job as an X-ray technician. In April 1970, when he would have been around 27, Walter was arrested for the first time. He was convicted on three counts of possession of amphetamines and barbiturates and sentenced to two years in prison.

Two weeks after his drug conviction, Walter was indicted on a new charge: Performing an abortion – an illegal procedure in Florida at the time (and maybe now?). The indictment was built on evidence seized during his drug raid. He was convicted and faced several additional years, but a few days before he was scheduled to be sentenced Florida’s State Supreme Court struck down the abortion law that was used to convict him, rendering the case moot.

These two early legal run-ins were a preview of what would become a lengthy newspaper record of Walter’s follies. In the ensuing decades, roughly 80 articles about Walter would be published by the Orlando Sentinel alone.

After being released from prison, Walter opened up a museum in Kissimmee in which he housed a life-sized model of the Concorde airplane. In January 1979, the museum was sold in a foreclosure auction after Walter failed to make payments on his $430,000 mortgage. Today it’s a church.

Around this time, Walter began engaging in a multi-decade cat-and-mouse battle with the IRS.

Walter’s business ventures began to improve. According to the Orlando Sentinel in 2014, Walter made a fortune through a series of vague “land and business deals.”

With his fortune, Walter bought Ferraris. He also bought an acting orangutan that appeared in several movies and even on a 1998 episode of “Baywatch” titled “Friends Forever,” the plot of which is described on IMDB as:

Mitch takes in an orangutan, named Morton, that escapes from its abusive dwarf owner which complicates Mitch’s and Alex’s plans for Baywatch’s annual Special Olympics program, while Cody and Jessie deal with Morton’s owner, Herbert Green. One of the Special Olympics participators, a hearing-impaired girl named Kara, takes a liking to Morton and when she tries to hide Morton from Herbert, they end up trapped in a cave with a rising tide that threatens to drown her and the orangutan.

Here’s the opening sequence of the episode:

Back to Walter and his Ferraris.

In 1990 Federal agents seized two Ferraris from Walter in effort to recoup $540,000 in back taxes and penalties. The two Ferraris were worth an estimated $20 million. That’s the same as around $46 million in today’s dollars. A few hours before the cars were scheduled to hit the auction block Walter showed to the IRS’ field office in Orlando with a cashier’s check for $540,000.

In 1997 Walter was sentenced to five months in Federal prison after being convicted of hiding his Ferrari collection during his IRS dispute years earlier.

As it turned out, by the late 1990s Walter owned 20 Ferraris. It was believed to be the third-largest private collection of Ferraris in the world. Incredibly, his collection consisted almost entirely of now-priceless Ferraris from the 1960s and 1970s. The newest model was a 1991 Testarossa.

As you now know, the full extent of Walter’s collection was painfully revealed thanks to Hurricane Charley’s 100 MPH winds in 2004. When Hurricane Charley made landfall, Walter owed $3 million to the IRS.

A few months after Hurricane Charley, the IRS seized a 1967 Ferrari 330 P4 that was estimated to fetch $10 million at auction. Once again, just before the auction started, Walter showed up to the Orlando IRS office with a $3 million check.

In 2014, Walter was in hot water again. This time the 71-year-old faced allegations of withholding $1.1 million in taxes owed after he sold a landfill for $7.5 million in 2003. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

After the hurricane Walter moved his Ferraris to a warehouse in Indianapolis. Between that move and the present, the collection has sat untouched. Many of them are still badly damaged. They have broken windows, rust, bent roofs and haven’t been driven in years. Walter’s collection will be auctioned off in its entirety this weekend in Monterey by RM Sotheby’s. The lot is expected to fetch at least $20 million. Some highlights include:

  • A badly damaged 1956 250 GT Coupe Speciale which was sold new to the King of Morocco. This car is expected to fetch $2+ million.
  • A barely damaged 1965 275 GTB that is expected to fetch $2.5 million+.
  • A completely destroyed 1954 500 Mondial Spider Series 1. This car was actually destroyed in a crash in the 1960s. It’s so rare and desirable that even the hunk of motor-less metal is expected to fetch $1.5 million.

Here is a video tour of the full collection, from RM Sotheby’s:

And here’s a full list of the cars in the collection:

  • 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider Series I by Pinin Farina
  • 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe Speciale by Pinin Farina
  • 1956 Ferrari 410 Superamerica Coupe Series I by Pinin Farina
  • 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Coupe Series II by Pinin Farina
  • 1964 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso by Scaglietti
  • 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C Alloy by Scaglietti
  • 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS by Pininfarina
  • 1965 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Series I ‘Interim’ by Pininfarina
  • 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Series II by Pininfarina
  • 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS by Pininfarina
  • 1968 Ferrari Dino 206 GT by Scaglietti
  • 1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 by Pininfarina
  • 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta by Scaglietti
  • 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta by Scaglietti
  • 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC/4 by Pininfarina
  • 1976 Ferrari 308 GTB ‘Vetroresina’ by Scaglietti
  • 1977 Ferrari 400 Automatic
  • 1978 Ferrari 512 BB Competizione
  • 1980 Ferrari 512 BB
  • 1991 Ferrari Testarossa

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