|Vehicle:||1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta Competizione|
|Original List Price:||N/A|
|Tune Up Cost:||$3,000|
|Club Info:||Ferrari Owners Club, Ferrari Club of America|
This car, Lot 130, sold for $12,812,800, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Villa Erba sale in Cernobbio, Italy, on May 25, 2013.
The first thing you need to know about 0320AM is that it is a man’s car. More precisely, it’s for a young man in good health and strong physical condition. The 375 MM had primitive suspension, with a transverse front spring and a live rear axle. The transmission was pseudo-synchronized, and the drum brakes were barely adequate for their duty. However, it is the engine that really made it a beast.
The 375 MM was designed and built for racing. The engine is a complex, 4.5-liter, 340-hp Lampredi-designed V12 that was specifically tuned for competition use. This engine was more powerful than most other competition powerplants of the era — and it was probably more powerful than the 375 chassis should handle.
For the very best drivers of the day
The 375 MMs are driver’s cars. In the hands of the best pilots they worked magic. In the hands of a weekend warrior the car was wasted. Ferrari must have felt the same way, as they enlisted three world champions, Ascari, Farina and Hawthorn, to drive 0320AM.
I’ve never had an opportunity to drive a 375 MM, so I tracked down someone who has. Ferrari collector and dealer Tom Shaughnessy probably has more miles in a 375 MM than anyone else on earth. Shaughnessy figures he’s logged over 12,000 miles in his 375 MM Spider running in five Colorado Grands and miscellaneous other trips.
Shaughnessy describes the 375 MM as the most powerful car of the time. They were the 427 Cobras of their era. He calls the driving characteristics “nasty.” The huge power and the buckboard ride make it challenging to keep the car pointed in the right direction.
Shaughnessy compares the 375 MM to the Ferrari P cars of the 1960s as cars that look like they can be driven to work — but are really serious competition workhorses. He adds that a smooth clutch and super low-end torque makes it possible to drive the car in local traffic — but only if you want to be beat silly.
For Shaughnessy, it’s on the hard legs of the Colorado Grand where things get hairy — and that’s where the fun is. The transmission takes a bit to learn, and only with practice and concentration is it mastered. The power makes the uphill pulls thrilling, but when pointed downhill, a different definition of thrilling applies. The brakes are just marginal, so caution must replace bravado.
Now for the very rich owners
If driving the car is an over-the-top experience, maintaining the car is equally challenging. There are virtually no spares available, so if anything breaks, you call a fabricator rather than a parts house. Tom’s gearbox wore out, and the repair required new gears. Tom’s shop was up to the job, but even at wholesale, the bill was $40,000. So goes the old saying — how fast you go is directly proportional to how much you spend.
On auction day, the room was filled with the Villa d’Este Concours crowd. The concours is the weekend following the Mille Miglia. While this is not the largest automotive gathering, it may be the most prestigious. The Mille is probably the toughest ticket in vintage motorsport. Money alone can’t get you an entry — only the right car. The entry list reads like the Who’s Who of the sports car collector community. The entrants and the spectators come in from all over the world. They stay over for the concours, with the auction filling a day between.
The pre-sale speculation put the reserve on 0320AM at around $7m. That was a lot more than the price guides pegged as the top value, but in this hot market, $7m was not out of line. The bidding blew past $7m in a whoosh and just kept going. When the music stopped, the bid was over $11,600,000 — which totaled $12,812,800 after commission.
There’s no way to make sense of the price. This was two very rich people raising a poker pot until one of them blinked. The sale transcended what the car was worth to what the money was worth.
Apparently, in one person’s world, paying $5,000,000 above “conventional wisdom” didn’t mean much. There’s no way you can call the car well bought — but history will say it was. The reality of the sale is this is that the new market value for a 375 MM. The next person to offer one for sale will price it a bit more and someone else will pay the price. It’s just another day in the Ferrari world. ?
(Introductory description courtesy of RM.)