In the 1950s, car racing was nowhere near what it has become today. The majority of the cars on road circuits were more about how good the driver was and how well the car was tuned. This meant that the majority of the cars were lightweight and only had between 200 and 250 horsepower. Having said that, there always has to be some sort of exception and the exception here is the 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spider and RM Auctions has one set to go to auction on May 12th, 2012.
The Ferrari 375 MM Spider managed to completely dominate the World Sports Car Championship between 1954 and 1957, winning a total of 11 races and having seven more podium appearances (top 3 or 4 places). It also won two national championships in Argentina in 1954 and 1955.
In 1957, the car was retired following a crash. Post-retirement someone managed to get a hold of this storied racer, pulled out the Italian V-12 and dropped in a U.S.-built V-8 engine, which really seems pointless to us. After the V-8 muscle went into it, this once famed roadster just disappeared from automotive history.
In 1983, this American-powered Ferrari resurfaced and made its way back to home. In Italy, Count Zanon di Valsiurata repaired the image of this car by reinstalling its Italian power plant and restoring it to an acceptable condition.
How does this one-time powerhouse of the WSC and 1 of 15 Pininfarina examples ever built stand up to 2012 standards?
Click past the jump to find out.
Enzo Ferrari knew he had something special as the 375 MM Spider was becoming a reality, but lacked just one thing. This one thing was a body to match up with its impressive mechanical capabilities. Knowing that he needed a knockout, Mr. Ferrari sublet the designing phase to famed car designer and builder Carrozzeria Pininfarina, more appropriately his company, Pininfarina.
Pininfarina did not disappoint, as if that was a surprise. The famed designer and builder turned out a car for the ages, featuring sexy, yet functional, curves all over the place.
Starting up front, you have the obligatory 1950s Ferrari rounded headlights with clear covers to help increase it aerodynamics. The grille is a standard, yet rather large, rectangle to allow loads of airflow into the engine compartment. The nose features a sleek downward slope to help nudge the airflow up and over the rest of the car.
The front fenders are a thing of beauty. Not only do they seem to go on forever, but they also feature a sleek rounded top that allows air to just slip right over them. Add in the fact that they almost contrast the hood with their shape and you have one of the prettiest faces, short of Danica, to ever grace the world of racing.
On its derrière, it features equally stunning fenders, just slightly shorter and more pronounced than the front. In the center of what would be the trunk lid on most cars is an oddly placed bump and on the rearmost part of this bump is the metal fuel door. We don’t know exactly what this bump is for, but we can assume it is either there to make additional room for the fuel cell or simply there to make the backend look good.
The taillights are simple rounded assemblies, as to not interfere with the overall sleekness of the car. Under the rear of this beautiful Ferrari is a set of dual exhaust pipes that are simple and not overly designed, just the way we like it.
The entire body of this 375 MM Spider has been painted three times, per documentation. The first was the initial color, which we are uncertain of. The second painting was following a crash in 1954. At this time, it was repainted in a red basecoat with a black hood and a white nose. The final paint job occurred when the vehicle was rediscovered and restored by Count Vittorio Zanon di Valgiurata between 1984 and 1986. This color scheme features a red basecoat with the entire center of the car – hood and trunk areas – being black.
On each corner of this aging legend, you get a 16 inch x 5-1/2 inch wire wheel with two-ear center spinners.
The condition of the car is pretty good, overall. There are several flaws that we picked out. The biggest and most difficult flaw to fix are the worn out Ferrari emblems. These are tough to come by and often times require a premium to purchase. If you can find a reputable trim guy, he might be able to restore them. The second flaw is that either the paint has cracked or the patchwork is cracking just above the left taillight. A third flaw is that there is some paint chipping on the front end. A fourth flaw is that the rims are starting to flake, so they will need to be recoated. The final flaw is that some of the chrome is oxidized.
Overall, for a car running around with a 26-year-old restoration job, it doesn’t look bad. None of the flaws are major nor would they require a ton of money to repair.
The inside is what you would expect of a racecar. You get two seats, donning tan leather, a wood and chrome steering wheel, a very basic gear shifter, and five gauges. These gauges include: speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure, water temperature, and fuel. In the center of the dashboard, you get a rearview mirror, which is something of a luxury for a `50s racer.
A cool feature is that it appears that there is a removable, body-colored cover for the passenger’s side seat. This is to help reduce aerodynamic drag when there is no co-driver, of course.
Engine and Drivetrain
The engine is what really made the Ferrari 375 MM Spider by Pininfarina a feared competitor in the WSC. This roadster features a 4,522 cc (4.5-liter) V-12 engine that pumps out a massive 340 horsepower, which is a good 100 horsepower more than your average WSC racer in the `50s. This engine achieved this feat with three Weber 40 mm 1F/4C carburetors feeding it fuel. Though we don’t know exactly what type of exhaust system this car features, we can say that it sounds awesome. You can see for yourself in the above video.
All that we know about the transmission is that it is a four-speed, which is a little depressing, but pretty much standard across the board in the 1950s.
All of this adds up to an impressive o to 100 mph time of just 11.5 seconds. What’s more impressive is the fact that even with just four speeds, this Ferrari can hit a top speed of 180 mph. We are willing to bet that was pretty unbearable, given the fact that the V-12 engine would be screaming and you’d have a face full of 180 mph winds, thanks to its puny windscreen.
Suspension and Braking
There is very little to offer up about the suspension system on this Ferrari. What we do know is that the front end features a rather modern double wishbone design independent suspension with coil springs. The rear end has the traditional live axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs and trailing arms.
Wrapped around the flaking wire wheels are a set of 6.50/16 Englebert Competition P tires by Michelin and 6.00/16 of the same tires on the front. If you are seriously considering buying this car, we suggest picking up some new rubber, like now. These front and rear tires have the date code 2500 and 0200, respectively. To the untrained eye this means nothing, but to a tire expert this means these tires were built in the year 2000. Yeah, 12-year-old tires, regardless of how they appear, are never safe to drive on.
The brakes are pretty basic in today’s automotive world, but were top of the line in the 1950s. This Ferrari features four-wheel drum brakes that are hydraulic powered. There is no mention of them being power-assisted brakes, but that’s pretty doubtful.
Well, we were all giddy up until this point. The estimated €3,300,000 ($4,277,128) to €4,100,000 ($5,314,007) absolutely killed this one for us. Really, $5 million for a car that needs a second restoration job to put it back into top condition. Phew, that’s a buzz killer right there.
The only competition that comes to our mind when thinking about it is the 1957 Ferrari 625 TRC Spider.
The 625 TRC is relatively close to the 375 MM Spider by Pininfarina in power output, as its 2,953 cc V-12 puts down 320 ponies. The overall appearance of the 625 blows away the 375, not in beauty, but in condition. The 375 MM will require several thousands of dollars in restoration, whereas the 625 TRC is a turnkey deal.
To boot, the 625 TRC is rarer than the 375 MM, as there were only two examples ever built, but the 625 does not have a famed car builder, like Carrozzeria Pinin Farina behind it. Lastly, according to estimates, the 625 TRC will come in about $400,000 cheaper than the 375 MM. The kicker here is that these cars are both going up for auction on May 12th in Monaco!
Don’t get us wrong here, we love this 375 MM, but we honestly think that for our money the 625 TRC is the best bet, especially since they are getting sold at the same exact auction. Neither car will likely fetch what the estimates say, but they will be close.
However, if you really have to have this 375 MM, we cannot fault you, as it is an awesome car. Just be prepared to throw down some extra cash to restore it.
- 1953 car with 340 horsepower
- Awesomely sexy body
- A legend in the WSC
- $5 million, really?
- Needs restored
- 12-year-old tires leave us wondering what other maintenance was ignored
0362 AM / 0374 AM
To be auctioned on
Saturday, May 12, 2012
340 hp, 4,522 cc SOHC V-12 engine, three Weber 40 mm 1F/4C 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: 2,640 mm (104")
• The second of only 15 Ferrari 375 MM spiders bodied by Pinin Farina
• Winner of two national championships in Argentina in 1954-55
• 18 podium finishes, including 11 wins, between 1954-57
• Discovered in Uruguay in 1983; restored in Italy 1984-86
• Two Mille Miglia Storicas and four Monterey Historics, four Colorado Grands
• Ex-Count Vittorio Zanon, Yoshiho Matsuda, John McCaw
The World Sports Car Championship was in its infancy in 1954, yet the characters, races and cars involved have become the stuff of automotive legend and racing fantasy. The world’s most famous drivers were bravely risking life and limb and travelling round the world to secure victory at the great racetracks and road courses, from Sebring and Le Mans to the Mille Miglia in Northern Italy and the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. It was in these early, formative years that the great European sports car manufacturers competed head to head, not only with professional works drivers (many with Formula 1 experience) but also with countless privateers and self-financed gentlemen drivers who were pitted against the factory entries on the starting grids, and held their own.
The ‘54 season comprised six endurance races, contested by the likes of Jaguar’s C- and D-Types, Maserati’s A6GCS, Porsche’s 550 Spyder, Cunningham’s C-4R and Aston Martin’s DB3S. The Scuderia Ferrari won three of the six races that season, beginning with the 1000 Km of Buenos Aires on 24 January. The starting grid of this race read like a who’s-who of sports car racing: “Fon” de Portago in a Ferrari 250 MM, Maurice Trintignant, Louis Rosier, Roy Salvadori and the Americans Masten Gregory, Phil Hill and Carroll Shelby in an Allard, each of whom were early in their careers and had yet to make a start in Formula 1. Joining those sports car heavyweights were about 15 local Argentinean privateers, including the polo player Carlos Menditeguy and, in the case of the Ferrari offered here, José Maria Ibáñez, a 33-year-old with experience in racing Ferraris who enjoyed considerable success in 1953 with a Ferrari 225S Vignale Spyder as well as an Allard in a Buenos Aires event, setting fastest lap. Ibáñez started the year first in a Ferrari single-seater at Rio de Janeiro before he returned to Buenos Aires for the first race of the World Sports Car Championship, which took place at the two-year-old Autódromo 17 de Octubre in conjunction with a stretch of nearby highway.
The car he entered was a brand-new Ferrari 375 MM powered by Aurelio Lampredi’s Formula race-proven and very powerful 4.5-litre V-12 engine, which had been purchased new by Enrique Diaz Saenz Valiente, a fellow racing driver and competitive Argentinean sport shooter who won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 1948. With top speed approaching a blinding 180 miles per hour, 0-100 mph in 11.5 seconds and a shiver-inducing exhaust note, this car demanded the highest driving skills. This 375 MM had been completed in December the previous year after Pinin Farina built the svelte sports racing body. Finished in the Argentinean colours of pale blue with a yellow stripe, the car was shipped to South America with 10 other Ferraris and 10 Maseratis with the identity of chassis number 0374 AM—a switch made by the factory from its originally designated 0362 AM to satisfy a client willing to pay for the car immediately. Such identity changes were not uncommon by the Ferrari factory for a variety of reasons, including tax savings. In fact, of the fifteen 375 MMs built, a remarkable four cars received different chassis numbers.
By the time the raced started, Ibáñez diced successfully with Nino Farina and Umberto Maglioli, in the winning factory 375 MM, and held his own against the Porsches, Maseratis and other Ferraris in the race. Unfortunately, on lap 11 of the race, his co-driver Ignacio Janices flipped 0374 AM at speed at the Avenida de la Paz roundabout, escaping injury. Despite this unsuccessful outing, it should be noted that Ibáñez returned to the same venue the following year, winning the race outright in a Ferrari 375 Plus.
Following the damage to 0374 AM, the Ferrari was repaired and repainted red with a black hood and white nose. Ibáñez entered two more races before Diaz Saenz Valiente got behind the wheel and, in testament to his tremendous skill, won seven races in the rest of 1954 and the Argentine Sports Car Championship. Diaz Saenz Valiente won the Argentine 500 Miles at Rafaela on 23 May, the Buenos Aires Autodrome Handicap on 27 June, the Gran Premio Inverno on 4 July, the 1st Gran Premio Independencia on 11 July and the 4th Gran Premio Bodas de Plate on 5 September—an extraordinary achievement for a Ferrari chassis that was less than one year old!
Diaz Saenz Valiente’s greatest victory, however, was in the Turismo Carretera road race, organised by the Tres Arroyos Club on 11 September. It was a rigorous 368-kilometre loop of paved and dirt roads, six hours south of Buenos Aires, that had to be covered twice. Juan Manuel Fangio excelled at this kind of stock car racing, and the club decided to admit a sports car class.
Diaz Saenz Valiente drove his race car the 1,168-kilometre round trip to the 736-kilometre race and won at an average speed of over 210 km/h. His time of three hours, 28 minutes and 24 seconds was 25 minutes ahead of the closest Turismo Carretera entry and his speed on the straights exceeded 275 km/h—this, in a sports racing car with a low-cut windscreen, minimal driver protection and a rip-snorting V-12 under the hood.
In an interview in El Grafico, he described how he had persuaded a friend to fly his plane in front of the Ferrari to frighten away birds, but the idea hadn’t worked, because his car was faster.
“During the first lap, I was passing the first control point at 245 km/h, and I found it difficult to see the instruments, because the car vibrated—and because I had my head in the wind. The birds proved quite a problem because at the high speed I was driving, I did not give them time to fly away, and I crashed into them. There were feathers all over, and the Ferrari finished the race with its bodywork full of dents”.
Saenz Valiente would drive s/n 0374 AM once more at the Buenos Aires Spring Races, which he won, then ordered a 375 Plus and sold s/n 0374 AM to Castro Cranwell. Cranwell resold the car to Cesar Rivero and Raul Najurieta, who would do most of the driving. Najurieta’s first race was against none other than Diaz Saenz Valiente in Buenos Aires and he finished second.
Najurieta and Rivero teamed up at the Buenos Aires 1000 Km on 23 January 1955 and finished second to Diaz Saenz Valiente again. Najurieta hit his stride, trading first and second places with Diaz Saenz Valiente through the rest of the season, finally winning the Argentinean championship, the second straight championship for s/n 0374 AM.
Najurieta could not repeat his success in 1956 and 1957, with one exception. He won the 500 Miles of Argentina at Rafaela in June 1956, with a plaster cast on his broken right leg. The car’s race history ended with a 1957 crash, and it was modified with an American V-8 for street use.
Discovered in Montevideo in 1983, s/n 0374 AM was shipped to Italy and bought by Count Vittorio Zanon di Valgiurata, then-president of the Italian A.S.I, who commissioned its restoration between 1984 and 1986. Zanon purchased a correct 375 MM engine, number 0376, from noted Ferrari historian Richard Merritt in Bethesda, Maryland and entered the car in the 1987 Mille Miglia Storica. He then sold the car to Giorgio Perfetti of Switzerland, who entered the 1988 Mille Miglia.
In August 1989, 0374 AM came to the U.S. before being acquired by noted collector Yoshiyuki Hayashi in Tokyo, and then Yoshiho Matsuda. Subsequent owner and Ferrari collector Chris Cox raced and showed the car between 1998 and 1999 at such venues as the Monterey Historic Races and the famed Cavallino Classic in Florida before its acquisition by yet another well-respected Ferrari collector, John McCaw. McCaw enjoyed the car on multiple driving events, having it overhauled and maintained mechanically by Ferrari specialists DK Engineering and John Pearson. Having since been refinished in red and black, the car was finally acquired by its present owner in 2006, a recognised Ferrari authority and enthusiast. Since that time, the car has proven to be an extraordinary event car, participating and successfully completing four Colorado Grand events. RM specialists can confirm the extraordinary performance and pavement-pounding acceleration of this race-bred 375 MM, as it wound its way through the sinuous Rockies. Its exhaust note is simply intoxicating, and the power from its 340-horsepower big block, triple four-barrel carburetted and magnetoed, racing Lampredi 12-cylinder engine is nothing short of spine-snapping.
For the dedicated vintage racer and rally event participant, the offering of 0374 AM is an opportunity not to be missed. It has been featured in numerous publications, from Classic & Sports Car to Cavallino, and is well documented with period images and an extensive history file. It is, of course, at its core a stunning example of Ferrari’s most potent model in 1953: an all-conquering sports racing car piloted in period by Argentina’s most successful gentlemen drivers with back-to-back Argentinean championships. The new owner now has the privilege of writing the next chapter of its glorious history, from the corkscrew at Laguna Seca to the starting grid in Brescia.
Please note that this vehicle is eligible for import into the UK at a reduced rate of 5% VAT.