Shadlun's shop was a perverted museum of the most beautiful automobiles, all of them crippled by wreckage, fire or simple neglect
In the early 1950s Enzo Ferrari began to manufacture road-going Grand Tourismo cars. The 250 Europa and 375 America series are generally considered to be Ferrari's first production models, although only 18 of the former and twelve of the latter were built. In period, the Europa and America were considered to be the world's ultimate GTs, and were ordered by such luminaries as Roberto Rossellini, Tony Parravano, Ingrid Bergman, and the former King of Belgium, Count Somsky.
The 250 Europa, with its 3-liter V12, was designed for travel on continental roads, while the 375 America's 300-hp, 4.5-liter, Lampredi V12 was ideal for rapid transport on America's new interstates. The two models differed only in their engine size, with chassis, gearbox, suspension and bodies essentially identical.
The 1955 America Berlinetta Modificato on offer here was purchased by Dr. Guida Balestra on Nov. 13, 1954. S/N 0315AL was delivered in 3-liter form; however, Dr. Balestra decided he would rather have a 4.5-liter model, so contacted the factory to perform a swap, which was completed in 1955 according to Ferrari factory correspondence.
The current owner of 0315AL commissioned a second engine swap prior to the 1995 California Mille. As he also owned a 375 MM Spyder with an incorrect 330 engine, he noted that a 375 engine would enhance the value of his Spyder more than it would hurt the provenance of this 375 America coupe. Therefore, 0315AL received the 330 engine and an overdrive gearbox, a swap that made good sense, as the owner intended to make 0315AL an event car. The 330 engine makes the same 300 hp as the 375, but is lighter and much less expensive to service.
After the swap, the car was stripped to bare metal, fitted with a Rossellini 375 MM-inspired hood scoop, a recessed external gasoline filler, and painted in traditional Rosso Corsa. Competition seats and a bolt-in roll bar completed its conversion to a club racer.
Since that time, the Ferrari has clocked approximately 5,000 miles in rallies, club track days and touring, including the 1996 Copperstate 1000 Rally and the 1997 Colorado Grand. Considering its practicality, condition, and state of preparation, this gorgeous and fast Ferrari GT stands as a desirable event car for club and rally venues.
|Vehicle:||1955 Ferrari 375 America Modificato|
|Tune Up Cost:||$2,000-$3,000|
|Distributor Caps:||$450 (two required)|
|Engine Number Location:||right side near starter motor, back of block|
|Club Info:||Ferrari Club of America, P.O. Box 720597, Atlanta, GA 30358|
|Alternatives:||1953-54 Ferrari 250 Europa, 1953-63 AC Ace with 289 Ford|
This 1955 375 America Berlinetta Modificato sold for $198,000 at RM’s Phoenix auction, held January 28, 2005.
Lampredi 375-series Ferraris are about as exotic as you can get. The cars are both lusted after for their performance and feared for their maintenance costs. Only a small number of 375s were built, with the rarest and most desirable now selling in the multi-million-dollar range. For the 375 America. the current SCM Price Guide lists values between $350,000 and $750,000.
So when S/N 0315AL sold for a paltry $198,000, we knew there had to be a story.
If you read Road & Track in the ’60s and ’70s you likely remember the ad: “Antique, Exotic Cars, any condition-rundown, wrecked, etc. Ferrari, Maserati, old race cars, etc. (201) 938-xxxx. Basil Shadlun, Howell, NJ.”
Each month for years the ad appeared in the “wanted” section of the classifieds. The ads fed Shadlun with a continuous supply of exotics to sell, refurbish, or strip for parts.
The lesser cars, the Jaguars and a Delahaye, dotted his property, but the good cars were cloistered away in the fabled chicken coops. The scene was surreal: majestic Ferraris, Maseratis and Mercedes were scattered among tools, machinery and junk, a perverted museum of the most beautiful automobiles, obscenely displayed on dirt floors, all of them crippled by wreckage, fire or simple neglect.
A burnt hulk of a Daytona Spyder sat near a Dino crushed to the windshield. A once-proud Lusso, its cylinder head lying next to it, flanked a tatty California Spyder. A pair of 250 Europas resided here, as did a pair of 375 Americas, one of them our 0315AL.
The route from Maranello to New Jersey was a long one, but perhaps it’s fitting that 0315AL passed through Shadlun’s shop. The car had already been extensively modified since beginning life as a 250 Europa. First it was returned to the factory to be fitted with a 4.5-liter motor and rechristened a 375 America Berlinetta. Somewhat later, as the story goes, its first owner tired of the coachwork. In 1958 he sent 0315AL to Pinin Farina for an updated nose-one that turned out to be a poor complement to the Berlinetta’s rear end.
Curiously, a recent inspection of 0315AL revealed the serial-numbered frame tube has been replaced with a non-numbered tube, an indication that a wreck was more probable than its owner just wanting an updated front end.
Before 0315AL landed on Shadlun’s farm in 1975, the somewhat awkward car spent time in Colorado and California. It’s said the car was driven cross-country and arrived in much better condition than most of those that took up residence in the coops.
Maybe a decade later, the car was freed from the farm. A handful of new owners passed her around, making further dubious modifications, like adding a Ford rear end. The last owner snatched her engine, replacing it with a pedestrian 330 unit. Then she was stripped of her interior and fitted with racing buckets and a roll bar.
As distasteful as these final modifications may be to the purist, ironically, they may have made the car more desirable. Its market value was decreased, but its event value was enhanced.
For serious competition in vintage events, the proper car is essential. Not only does it take the right car to qualify, but if you plan to have an enjoyable time the car needs to be comfortable, dependable, and powerful. With the reservation that some major events may frown on its incorrect engine, this 375 America Berlinetta Modificato approaches being a perfect event car. It certainly has an exotic appearance, having a simple-to-maintain and reliable drivetrain, at least by Ferrari standards. Should the car sustain any damage due to over-enthusiastic piloting, it’s not as if this is sheetmetal that has never known a dent-puller or been slathered with Bondo in its past. In short, at an affordable price, the new owner has a car that can be driven hard, without regret.
(Descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)