A one-off coupé based on the Ferrari 375 MM race car

The 1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale is a one-off version of the iconic 375 MM bodied by Italian coach builder Ghia. The Ferrari 375 MM was built from 1953 until 1955. It was developed as a race car, but some were converted to road use. One of only nine road-going coupés built on the 375 MM chassis, the Coupé Speciale is also the only 375 design by Ghia and the last Ferrari built by the company. The car was showcased at the 1955 Torino Motor Show and was then shipped to Robert Wilke, owner of the Leader Card Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A racing fan, Wilke, who sponsored an IndyCar team from the 1930s until his death in 1970, was also a personal friend of Enzo Ferrari. The 375 MM Coupé Speciale was one of seven unique vehicles that Ferrari built for the businessman, but it’s the most historically significant vehicle owned by him. Also one of the most documented Ferraris in existence, the Coupé Speciale changed hands several times since the 1970s. Come 2019 and it’s going under the hammer to find a new owner at RM Sotheby’s car sale in Monterey on August 15-17.

  • 1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia
  • Year:
    1955
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V12
  • Transmission:
    four-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    340
  • Displacement:
    4.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    170 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

Exterior

  • Unique design
  • Grand tourer look
  • Long nose
  • Two-tone paint
  • Lots of chrome in the front
  • Triangular taillights
  • No quarter windows
  • Sleek profile
1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia
- image 854028
The Coupé Speciale's design was inspired by concept cars that Ghia built in the 1950s

The Coupe Speciale had little in common with the 375 MM it was based on. In fact, many of the 26 cars were different from the original design. Modifications were made either by Ferrari for racing purposes or by coachbuilders in order to meet customer requests. Most were built by Pininfarina, but some were design by Scaglietti or, in this case, Ghia. The Coupé Speciale’s design was inspired by concept cars that Ghia built in the 1950s, like the Supersonic or the DeSoto Adventurer II. However, the one-off remains familiar as a Ferrari.

Like all Ferraris from the era, the Coupé Speciale features a pair of round headlamps in the front. They are mounted at the upper corners of the fascia, flanking an almost rectangular grille with vertical and horizontal slats. Arguably the most interesting feature here is the thick chrome trim that surrounds the upper section of the grille. Unlike most 375 MM models, it also features a full chrome bumper at the bottom of the fascia. The bumper sits higher at the corners and moves lower in the center, where it passes below the grille. The extra chrome in the bumper and above the grille is a clear sign that this car was originally developed for an American customer.

left right
The Coupé Speciale's profile looks a lot like the Ghia Supersonic's

Ghia’s design for the 375 MM was similar to their Supersonic coupés and DeSoto Adventurer II show car, with an extremely long hood and front fenders flanking a wide egg-crate grille and emphasizing the power to be found lurking beneath. The body extends back to a curved glass windshield and a semi-fastback roofline with ventilated sail panels, a predictor of the future 250 GT “Tour de France.” At the rear of the car the body extended outward to form subtle tail fins, complete with an integrated chrome bumper “notched” to accommodate the taillights—a feature that echoes American design of the era. So, too, did the two-tone color scheme of Salmon and Anthracite Grey, set off by subtle chrome molding. The hues were an unlikely combination, but on the Ghia Ferrari, it worked—such a bold, flamboyant design was deserving of colors of equal impact.

left right

The Coupé Speciale’s profile looks a lot like the Ghia Supersonic’s. On the other hand, it was quite a popular design in the 1950s, when most high-performance vehicles had long hoods, bubbly tops, and short deck lids. But the Coupé Speciale also had a few unique features. The first thing that catches the eye is the hockey stick shaped character line that starts from the front wheel arch and moves to the rear of the door before it moves up to the bottom of the B-pillar through a 90-degree kink. This chrome elements also defines the two-tone paint job. Everything above the tine is red, while the areas below, as well as the rear fenders, are dark gray. The red paint is actually a salmon-like color. It has a pinkish hue that makes the car stand out, especially when combined with dark gray.

left right
The rear end is somewhat strange for a Ferrari

The front fenders feature more chrome towards the bottom, where Ghia added new cooling vents with chrome trim shaped like the letter F. Another defining feature is the absence of rear quarter windows. Although Ghia’s designs usually include quarter windows, the Italians opted for closed-off panels for this car. The panel incorporate vents shaped like triangles. The Coupe Speciale rides on Borrani wire wheels, which were very popular at the time.

The rear end is somewhat strange for a Ferrari. While the rounded off trunk lid looks familiar and was used by Maranello throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the rear fenders and taillights were redesigned into unique shapes. The round taillights seen on most Ferraris were replaced by triangular lights that are slightly angled toward the front. The bottom of the fenders feature chrome inserts that look similar to the lights, while a horizontal chrome bar runs between them, acting as a bumper. The bubbly rear window and the quad exhaust layout with two pipes on each side round off the coupe’s intriguing design.

Interior

  • Fancier than the 375 MM
  • Clean dashboard design
  • Two-tone leather
  • Door panel pockets
  • Sporty seats
  • Classic steering wheel
1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia
- image 854024
Ghia's Coupe Speciale is a fancier proposition to the usual 375 MM design

The interior of the Coupé Speciale was entirely different than that of the regular 375 MM. This isn’t surprising, as the 375 MM is a full-fledged race that features a small instrument cluster and a basic center stack with limited controls. The coupé’s built for road use, usually with a "Berlinetta" badge, have a friendlier interior. They retain the cluttered instrument cluster, but some of the controls were moved on the thin dashboard. They also feature simple door panels, a center console that’s not necessarily stylish, and primitive bucket seats that are somewhat supportive but not very comfortable.

Ghia’s Coupé Speciale is a fancier proposition to the usual 375 MM design. The instrument cluster is no longer cluttered, as Ghia opted for a wider console on which all gauges are placed in a horizontal line. Buttons that you’d otherwise find on the center stack were mounted below these gauges. The center stack remained clean as well, featuring mostly A/C controls and vents. On the passenger side, a glove compartment lid was neatly integrated into the design.

1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia
- image 854031
The seats have a two-tone finish that blends brown and black

The door panels are also a big departure from the 375’s spartan look. They feature a combination of black and brown leather, stylish chrome trim, and leather pockets at the bottom. The seats have a nicer design as well. They’re not as supportive as the ones in the Berlinetta, but they seem more comfortable. The seats also have a two-tone finish that blends brown and black. Ghia redesigned the center console with a better fit and finish. The steering wheel is pretty standard for 1950s Ferraris: a wooden rim with visible rivets and three simple spokes in polished metal.

The car’s first owner added seat belts from an International Harvester model and, impressively enough, they’re still in the car more than 60 years later.

Drivetrain

  • 4.5-liter V-12
  • 340 horsepower
  • Four-speed manual gearbox
  • Rear differential
  • 0 to 60 mph in five seconds
  • Top speed at 170 mph
1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia
- image 854038
The 4.5-liter mill in the Coupe Speciale generates 340 horsepower

Just like the regular 375 MM, the Coupé Speciale featured the iconic 4.5-liter V-12 Lampredi engine under the hood. Based on an architecture that Aurelio Lampredi designed in 1950, this V-12 engine was shared with the 375 F1, a single-seater that Ferrari raced in Formula One. The same unit was also fitted in the 375 America and later made it in the larger, Le Mans-spec 375 Plus.

Equipped with Magneti Marelli ignition and three Weber carburetors, the 4.5-liter mill in the Coupé Speciale generates 340 horsepower. That’s slightly less powerful than the F1 engine, rated at up to 375 horses, but mighty impressive for a road car made in the mid-1950s.

1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia
- image 854039
The 4.5-liter V-12 engine mates to a four-speed manual gearbox and both are still original

Thanks to its low curb weight of around 2,200 pounds, the Coupé Speciale needs only five seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start. Its top speed is rated at more than 170 mph.

The 4.5-liter V-12 engine mates to a four-speed manual gearbox and both are still original. The same applies for the rear differential. Because of this, the car boasts the Ferrari Classiche certification with the accompanying Red Book that confirms the original internals.

More than that, the Coupe Specialé is a low-mileage car with only 13,367 miles on the odometer. Around 12,000 miles were put in by its original owner, so this car was driven for less than 1,500 miles since 1970.

1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia specifications
Engine 4.5-liter V-12 Lampredi engine
Horsepower 340 HP
0 to 60 mph 5 seconds
Top Speed 170 mph
Transmission four-speed manual

Prices

1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia
- image 854022

As a unique vehicle, the 375 MM Coupé Speciale is obviously of the multi-million variety. There’s not much information about how much its current owner paid, but the two-tone coupé is estimated to fetch between $5 and $7 million at Monterey. It’s not as much as the race-spec 375 MM, which are known to change hands for $7 to $9 million, mostly due to their racing heritage, but it’s among the most valuable Ferraris you can buy.

Competition

Jaguar XKSS

Jaguar To Restart Production Of Classic XKSS High Resolution Exterior
- image 670512

The XKSS might not be a coupé, but it’s very similar to the 375 MM Coupé Speciale in every other way. It’s a road-going version of a race-only D-Type, it’s light, powerful, and rare. Okay, it’s not as rare as the Coupé Speciale with 16 units built, but it’s hard to find and expensive. The XKSS was launched in 1957, when Jaguar decided to take a break from racing. Using the spare chassis that remained from the D-Type program, Jaguar design a slightly shorter and more comfortable roadster for road use. The XKSS is powered by a 3.4-liter inline-six engine connected to a four-speed gearbox. The mill is rated at 250 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque significantly less powerful than the Ferrari. However, because it tips the scales at a little over 2,000 pounds, the XKSS is almost as quicker, needing 5.2 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start. Its top speed is lower though at around 150 mph. The XKSS is usually more expensive than the 375 MM, fetching in excess of $10 million at public auctions.

Read our full story on the Jaguar XKSS

Conclusion

1955 Ferrari 375 MM Coupé Speciale by Ghia
- image 854048

The 375 MM itself is a very important part of Ferrari’s history. As a unique vehicle, the Coupé Speciale is notably more important. It shows that Ferrari built custom vehicles for wealthy and loyal customers since the early days and it shows that the company was so big in the 1950s that all important coach builders were knocking at Maranello’s door for a piece of the action. As the last Ferrari designed by Ghia, the Coupé Speciale stands as an important symbol of cooperation between the two Italian companies.

  • Leave it
    • Really expensive
    • Just one made

Source: RM Sotheby’s

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