Rare automobiles are sought after by various collectors from all over the world and often draw prices exceeding millions of dollars and new Ferrari models have yearlong waiting lists with special approval processes through the factory for anyone to even buy one. The combination of a prestigious moniker and a rare model on the auction block has all the making of a bidding war between these exclusive collectors.
The Ferrari 340 Mexico Coupe is one of three coupe models and the one Barchetta to be produced. They were built exclusively for the 1952 Carrera Panamericana race in Mexico – which was one of the most deadly races in the world. The word rare can be used in some fashion for nearly every Ferrari ever made because the entire company is built around creating unique performance oriented sports cars. Initially, Ferrari only sold road-going cars to pay for the company’s racing exploits and the founder despised having to do so.
Not only is this 340 Mexico Coupe one of three in the world and never produced as a road-going version, it is also the most winning chassis of the three. Complete with original engine and complete history, RM Auctions expects this car to fetch between $2,750,000 and $3,500,000 which leaves most of your ordinary auction-goers out of the picture.
UPDATE 03/15/2011: The 340 Mexico was a HUGE success at the RM Auctions event, pulling in a whopping $4.3 million. The entire event was an even bigger success with a remarkable $24.3 million in total sales and making it the biggest event in it’s 13 year history.
Hit the jump for more details on the 1952 Ferrari 340 Mexico Coupe.
Enzo Ferrari began with the dream of making the fastest and best race cars the world had ever seen. Successfully recruiting talent from Alfa Romeo in Gioachino Colombo, work began on creating the first Ferrari V12. Colombo had begun design on the project, but eventually left Ferrari and was replaced by Aurelio Lampredi previously of Fiat. After increasing Colombo’s design in size, it was still not as powerful as other companies’ engines. By increasing performance in other aspects of the car, the engine was still to be used in 1950’s models in a 3.3-liter spec.
After Ferrari had successfully completed its first engine competitors to the legendary 158 Alfetta racer, they began production of the 342 America. The car debuted at the 1950 Paris Auto Show as a Barchetta model. Before being introduced as a road car, the 342 had been a successful racer in its own right winning the famed Mille Miglia in 1951 with Luigi Villoresi behind the wheel. Furthering the evolution of the long wheel base, front engine Ferrari race car – the 340 Mexico was next in line. The cars were designed for one purpose, which was to complete and win the grueling Carrera Panamerica race in Mexico.
The race, now known as one of the most dangerous races in history, took place during the 1950-1955 race seasons. It was important and attended by major manufacturers because it counted towards the World Sportscar Championships. In 1952, Ferrari knew that Mercedes was sending a trio of 300-SL Gullwing racers in order to sweep the race. Enzo knew that they needed to compete with a new model and thus the 340 was born. The chassis that is for sale was leased to Santiago Ontanon of Mexico City in order for it to be driven in the race. The other three models, including the Barchetta, were also dispatched to Mexico, but the convertible did not race.
Luigi Chinetti was the man Ferrari chose to drive chassis number 0224 AT for the race. Early into the race one of the 340 Mexico Coupes crashed in a section of loose gravel and during day three, the second Ferrari fell victim to mechanical difficulty. 0224 AT was the only one left, but it was not looking as though they would place until a strange turn of events led to history. Mercedes was in the lead when a bird smashed through the windshield of Karl Kling’s 300-SL temporarily knocking the co-pilot unconscious. Another driver, Herman Lang, was in second and during a lapse in judgment allowed a mechanic to touch his car. This led to his subsequent disqualification and allowed the Ferrari 340 to finish in 3rd place.
This race and its dangerous history can be summed up by an amateur driver who competed in the 1951 race. He told his fortune by saying, “I will win or die trying.” During the first day the inexperienced driver drove into a 600-foot ravine eventually leading to his and his co-pilot’s death later in the hospital.
The rare 340 Mexico had a 60-degree 4-liter V12 under its extended hood. Using 3 Weber 40 DCF/3 carburetors and natural aspiration, it produced 280hp at 6,600 rpm. Though it would not reach its top speed of 174mph during its legendary race, the car was also nimble at lower speeds and on various road-types. A double-wishbone suspension in the front and live-axle rear end provided good control for the era. The car was built as a bare-bones racer with a body-on-steel tubular frame and therefore only weighed 1,984lbs. The one being auctioned off still has its original engine and has undergone an extensive restoration process in order to bring it back to factory specs.
Purebred Race History
Rare as it gets
Fear of taking it out of the garage.