Saturday, May 21, 2011
|1955 Ferrari 375 MM Berlinetta by Pinin Farina|
340 hp, 4,522 cc SOHC V-12 engine, three Weber 42 mm DCZ/3 carburettors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension by double wishbone and coil springs, rear live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and trailing arms, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,600 mm (102.4")
- The last 375 MM built: one-off Pinin Farina Berlinetta foreshadows the TdF
- One of only ten 375 MM Berlinettas built
- Restored by Wayne Obry, after 30 years continuous ownership
- Shown new at Turin Motor Show (1955)
- Shown at the most exclusive events: Pebble Beach, The Quail, Cavallino Classic, Villa d’Este
- Class winner at Pebble Beach in 2004, Cavallino Classic in 2005
- Documented by Ferrari historian Marcel Massini
For about a year in 1954-55, the Ferrari 375 MM was the .44 Magnum of sports-car racing. It was deafeningly loud and had a kick like a mule. Its Formula 1 V-12 engine could blow through the opposition, driven by the likes of Jack McAfee, Jim Kimberley, Ken Miles, Masten Gregory and Carroll Shelby. Conservatively estimated at 340 horsepower and with a 180 mph top speed, a 375 demanded the highest level of driving skill – especially coming out of the corners. It remains an unforgettable experience for drivers and spectators alike.
Meanwhile, away from all the engine noise, tyre smoke and adrenaline-fuelled excitement, cooler heads in Italian design studios were defining the aggressive essence of Ferrari style – the family look that would mark the GT Berlinettas and Spyders of the future. Most of these elements appeared in the 340 and 375 Barchettas and Berlinettas, and this car, 0490 AM, is significant in that it is the very last 375 MM to be built by Pinin Farina in 1955. From here on, there would be 250 GT Ellenas and Tour de Frances, 410 Superamericas, 250 Testa Rossas and California Spyders.
In all, there were only ten 375 MM Berlinetta coupés built and 14 Barchetta spyders. They’re all slightly different (0366 AM was re-bodied by Scaglietti after an accident), but 0490 AM is the end of the line. It’s also the last even-numbered car built by Pinin Farina.
Future Ferrari styling cues that bowed on 0490 AM include front fender vents (which would be widely copied) and a lower grille with a flatter top, which projected in the style of the upcoming 1958 250 Testa Rossa and evolved into the 1965 275 GTB. 0490 AM also features rear window louvers, which would appear in the 250 GT TdF model, and headlights without bezels, which were continued on other models. One feature 0490 AM does not share with its siblings is the exaggerated rear-fender treatment.
The history of 0490 AM is recorded in detail by Ferrari expert Marcel Massini. It is notable in that while the car was never raced, it was fortunately spared the extensive rebuilds that so often accompany an exciting past in motorsport.
Mechanical work on 0490 AM continued at the Ferrari factory throughout December 1954 until the 22nd, when the chassis was completed following completion of the engine, gearbox and rear axle. On 10 March, the chassis arrived at Pinin Farina to be bodied by the expert coachbuilder. The completed car was displayed on the Ferrari stand at the 27th Turin Motor Show from 21 April to 1 May, 1955, next to a grey 250 Europa GT coupé, 0379 GT.
The car was returned to Pinin Farina after the show for a significant number of detail modifications, as documented by Mr. Massini:
• Small separate radiator access door with a lock was built into the hood in front of the air intake.
• Chromed strip added on top of the hood scoop.
• Oval rear mirror was removed from the dashboard and a rectangular mirror attached to the roof instead.
• Side windows were replaced by sliding windows.
• Bakelite shift knob was replaced by a metal one.
• Outside fuel filler cap was fitted with a lock.
• Spears on side vents removed.
• Glove box added.
• Ashtray added.
• A medal of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers, added to the transmission tunnel.
• Leather straps on bonnet replaced.
• Chrome strip on side window modified.
• Possible repaint from ivory to silver gray metallic.
On 3 November, the date was engraved on the car’s Sekurit windshield, and before the end of the year it was in the hands of its first owner, Ferrari dealer and race driver Inico Bernabei, in Rome. He resold it, apparently quite soon after and most probably to Count Antonio Naselli of Trevinano di Acquapendente in Tuscany, about 80 miles north of Rome.
Naselli didn’t keep it long; 0490 AM was exported to the U.S. in 1960 and sold to Luigi Chinetti Motors in New York City. Chinetti repainted the Berlinetta in Rossa Corsa and sold it to Ed Weschler of Natosha, Wisconsin through Augie Pabst in Milwaukee. Weschler paid $8,000, an undoubted bargain.
Weschler registered 0490 AM as Q32 502 in Wisconsin in 1961 and kept it until the late 1960s, attending a Ferrari meeting at Road America at Elkhart Lake in that time. He sold it to Carl De Bickero, of Palos Heights, Illinois, who repainted 0490 AM red with a black roof and registered it on 1970 Illinois plates 715 166. On 23-25 April, 1970, De Bickero showed 0490 AM at the 9th Annual Ferrari Club of America Annual Meeting in Chicago and won the trophy for the shortest distance driven – certainly a tongue-in-cheek award.
De Bickero showed the car again at the regional Ferrari Club of America meet at Lawrence Knaack’s home in Long Grove, Illinois on 22 August, 1971, but in 1972 De Bickero sold 0490 AM to Lawrence Slattery of Chicago, who already owned a 330 GT 2+2.
Slattery certainly loved 0490 AM, because he kept it for 30 years, though there’s little evidence of him showing the car, except for on 26-28 August, 1977, when he turned up at the Ferrari Club of America Central States Region Concours and Track Event at Blackhawk Farm Race Track in Rockford, Illinois. Slattery advertised 0490 AM in October 2002, showing just 20,990 kilometres.
Restoration and Awards
In November 2002, noted collector Manuel Del Arroz of Diablo, California bought 0490 AM before it was featured in the Japanese magazine Scuderia (#43) and then shipped to Wayne Obry’s Motion Products Inc. in Neenah, Wisconsin.
0490 AM was featured before restoration in the April-May 2003 Cavallino (#134). In the course of the following year it was completely restored, and in 2004 the car was registered on California black plates as 168 RZH.
It was immediately entered in the 54th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, California on 15 August in Class M-2 Ferrari Speciale, which it won, scoring 100 points. Two days later it was shown at nearby Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, at the 40th Annual Ferrari Club of America National Meeting. It received a Platinum Award and also the Luigi Chinetti award for the most outstanding Ferrari road car.
On 22 January, 2005, 0490 AM was shown at the Cavallino Classic at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida and won the Grand Turismo Cup and Best of Show GT Ferrari.
Up to this point, the string of awards was simply stunning – the very best and most desirable honours a Ferrari or any other collector car could hope to secure. Nevertheless, looking further afield, del Arroz shipped the car to Zurich, Switzerland on 1 April, 2005, where it was examined by FIVA steward Dominik Fischlin on 9 April and awarded its papers.
Manuel del Arroz next took 0490 AM to the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este, at Lake Como, Italy on 22-24 April, 2005. The car placed 2nd in Class for Closed Cars 1940-59, directly behind another Obry restoration, the 250 GT Europa 0403, with coachwork similar to that of the ex-Roberto Rossellini 375 MM.
The car then returned to Chicago and was featured as the cover car in the U.S. Cavallino magazine (#148), the August/September issue. Little was heard of 0490 AM for several years until it was sold to UK exotics dealer Martin Chisholm in January 2010. Chisholm subsequently lent 0490 AM to preeminent European magazines Classic & Sports Car in July and Classic Driver in December 2010, and both of them wrote about it enthusiastically.
Best of the Best
As a one-off body and the last of a significant model line, 0490 AM occupies an unassailable position in the Ferrari lexicon. Its list of desirable features is virtually endless – not only did its trendsetting design foreshadow future Ferrari models, but it was the last 375 MM built. A matching-numbers car with its original motor and “no-stories” provenance, it was restored by a marque expert and documented by noted historian Marcel Massini.
It is always going to draw a crowd at any concours, and if the new owner ever feels the urge to take to the track, he will be a welcome sight and sound. All he has to worry about is braking from about 180 mph!
Please note that Ferrari Classiche has confirmed this car can be certified. However, there was not enough time to complete the certification process prior to the sale. Please speak to an RM specialist for further details.