Sandra Ilene West, (nee Hara), attended school in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. Her father, Ezra and mother, Susan, owned and operated a children's wear store on Beverly Drive. The name of the shop was, "Buttons and Bows". Sandra lived with her parents in a house located behind the Beverly Hills Hotel, on Carolyn Way in Beverly Hills. Sandra was a precocious child and maintained her quick mind and wit into her adulthood and unto her death. She did NOT have children. Sandra was strikingly beautiful and attracted men as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Nicky Hilton. Sandra met and dated Sol West BEFORE she met his brother, Ike, (whom she later married.) Rumor had it that Ike was sent to Mexico with a bodyguard where he could harmlessly enjoy his pastimes of drinking and partaking of substances that were verboten in the States and be far from the family fortune. Sol treated Sandra offhandedly and she related an experience of going to Sol's house, being told by the butler that he was not home, but catching a glimpse of a blonde wrapped in a towel, flitting past the front door. That was enough for Sandy. She was a girl who ALWAYS got what she wanted, she said. Evidently, this was true because she found out about Ike and his whereabouts and discovered that he was the older brother to Sol and used to take away Sol's toys when they were growing up. She went to Mexico, located Ike and with loving patience "cleaned him up". She encouraged Ike to take over the reins of the family millions, which he did. She then MARRIED Ike and was in the catbird seat once again.
Ike West Jr. was, the scion of one of the first families of Texas. The West’s came by their fortune in the “traditional” Texas manner. The Brothers West (George, Ike Sr. and Sol) were Cattlemen and carved out their fortunes in the great cattle drives of the 19th century and enhanced their wealth by investing in oil in the 1920s and 1930s.
Like many Texas millionaires, Ike and Sandra followed the “family business” and dabbled in oil but eager for a change they moved to Southern California in 1963. Ike began a securities trading syndicate and Sandra (by this time a mother of two) entered the Beverly Hills social scene. With the new life came the trappings of 1960s excess, a Beverly Hills Mansion, flashy clothes and fast cars. Shortly after her arrival, Sandra came to own the car that would make her famous, a 1964 Ferrari 330 America s/n 5055. Her blue America was imported by Chinetti Motors and appears to have been with the West’s throughout their stay in California.
The West’s lived the 60s fast life but it didn’t last for Ike Jr. He had a history of drug use and health problems caused by rapid weight fluctuation. He died under mysterious circumstances at the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel in 1968. With his demise, his widow now became known to the press as “Sandra West, Beverly Hills Socialite and Heiress”.
Today that description prompts images of Paris Hilton and Sandra began to exhibit the bizarre behavior that we now expect from her modern day equivalent. She dated a slew of entertainers (including singer Engelbert Humperdinck) and generally lived the high life. During the 1960s she was known as fun loving with a fondness for attention grabbing behavior. Never one for subtlety, she was seen about town dressed in large amounts of jewelry and a mink coat or in a “Texas Rodeo Queen” ensemble complete with rhinestones and a stylish hat. She motored to society events and dinners in one of a fleet of cars that included a Stutz Blackhawk and at least three Ferraris, the 330 America, a 1969 365GT 2+2 and a 1973 Dino. On one occasion she drove in all her finery to Chasen’s, the landmark Beverly Hills eatery frequented by Johnny Carson and the Reagan’s, where she made a grand entrance, and then ordered a hamburger to go and sped away.
Though Ms. West’s behavior would seem to be that of an extrovert, her associates (sadly, mostly doctors, nurses and lawyers) described her as lonely person with few true friends. She was known to give extravagant gifts to those who provided some small service to her. Shortly before her death she presented a $250,000 platinum and diamond cross to a part time nurse. Most gifts were unconditional, but she saved her most sizable gift, a gift worth millions, for one who would render a service to her and her favorite Ferrari.
Perhaps it was the early demise of her husband or her fondness for the study of Egyptology that influenced her decision in 1972 to create a rather unique will. In a handwritten document she wrote that her desire was to be buried “in Texas, where the money came from”. That in itself was not unique, but what followed was. She listed Sol West III (her brother in-law) as her sole heir but only if he successfully completed her final request. That request was that she “be buried next to my husband in a lace nightgown seated in my Ferrari with the seat comfortably slanted”.
It was a request worthy of the Egyptian Pharaohs she so enjoyed studying. King Tutankhamen was buried 3300 years earlier with the best conveyance of his age, two golden chariots. Ms. West intended to journey to the hereafter in equally supreme style.
Unfortunately that journey was not too far in her future. Her loneliness deepened and her desire to be seen diminished. Far from being the socialite about town, she retreated to her home. She devoted much of her time to the continuing study of Ancient Egypt and to her extensive stamp collection. Her physician stated later that he believed that the change in Ms. West’s behavior was a result of psychosis and drug abuse.
Far from being of “sound mind and body” Ms. West drafted a second will in 1976. Interestingly, the will named the West’s family attorney Fred Semaan as the primary heir and made no mention of the Ferraris. Soon after that will was completed in November 1976, Ms. West suffered serious injuries in a traffic accident while driving the America. Such was the fear that she would abuse medication that even the most basic drugs were required to be administered by a nurse.
Ms. West seemed to be recovering, but on March 10, 1977 she complained to her nurse of stomach pain. She retired to bed and died during the night. It was originally believed that she had died from complications of the traffic accident, but the coroner’s report indicated that she had overdosed on a combination of barbiturates and codeine, though how she obtained these drugs in light of her doctor’s instructions and in the presence of a nurse was never determined.
The two wills were subsequently found amongst her papers. The 1976 will was drawn through in red lines and void was written across each page. With millions at stake, a legal battle between Sol West and Fred Semaan predictably ensued. Until a California probate court ruled, Ms West’s body was returned to San Antonio and her Ferraris secured to await her final disposition.
The decision was delivered in a Los Angeles court on April 11, 1977 that the wishes of Ms. West’s 1972 will were to be followed to the letter. The court instructed that the damaged America not be repaired prior to the funeral and that it be placed inside a large wooden box to “preserve Ms. West’s dignity”. A detailed budget for the elaborate funeral was included in the court order with an estimated cost of $15,000.
On May 19, 1977 Sandra Ilene West finally received the funeral she desired in the glare of television lights and in front of over 150 spectators. The box containing Ms. West (dressed per her instructions and seat adjusted accordingly) and her beloved Ferrari 330 America was lowered into the 20 foot long grave and then covered with cement. The funeral director indicated that the cement was added as the cemetery was in a high crime area and he feared the car would be back on the street in a day!
Sandra West’s estate consisting of over $3 million in cash, the Beverly Hills estate, mineral rights, stamp collection and jewelry were passed to her brother in-law Sol West III as stipulated in her 1972 will. The two other Ferraris were sold at public auction in Los Angeles. The blue Ferrari, the 1964 330 America s/n 5055 and its owner rest together under a simple stone at the San Antonio Masonic Cemetery, likely the most bizarre if not the most famous Ferrari owner/car combination of all.