The Ferrari SF90 Stradale Is A 1000PS Hybrid...
- May 30, 2019
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What do you say about a rossa red Prancing Horse snorting and wheezing as it drives up in front of a pride of millionaires, sorry make that billionaires, all eager to try and acquire a most exclusive and not to say eclectic piece of motor racing history.
The scene was the starry RM Auctions do just after dinner on Saturday, May 25, at the picturesque Villa Erba. The swish set, the serious as well as the gawking kind (and I certainly was in this latter category) had assembled to take in a veritable horde of automotive delights drawn from Edwardian brass era cars to some of the latest technological marvels with massive shots of sporting, historical and technologically significant machines over the last one hundred years.
I had never been to an automobile auction, not of this high stakes type or even a lowly wager before, never ever and in fact once, at Goodwood if my memory serves me right, I stumbled into an auction before I rescued myself and walked away! This time though it was different because some of my colleagues from the Indian media were very eager to see how much money a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL gullwing would draw or how deep a dent would a pristine well cared for Ferrari F40 make in someone’s wallet?
Seeing the exquisite line of Bugattis, Alfa Romeos, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis which RM Auctions the premier auction house from the US had lined up on the occasion of this year’s edition of the Concorsa d'Eleganza Villa d’Este, I was literally in automotive heaven.
Thankfully having none of the money that would have even let me buy a grille on one of the cars there, I was privileged to be able to see and check most of the goodies on show and while there was quite a lot on the menu, I knew it the minute I set my eyes on it some four hours before the auction that the 1953 340/375MM Ferrari was going to humble everyone on the grounds.
And for sure it had the firepower provenance going for it. This was just one of three works Ferraris (carrying chassis no. 0320AM) prepared for the 1953 sports car season where the pride of place went towards the Manufacturer’s crown. Powered by a 340bhp version of the Aurelio Lampredi-designed 4.5-litre V12 engine (the same version that powered the firm’s F1 Grand Prix cars in 1951), this car breathed via triple Weber 40 IF/4C carburetors and the drive to the rear wheels was transmitted via a 4-speed gearbox. Disc brakes were yet two years away and the car made do with large drum brakes. The 375MM featured an independent front suspension using transverse leaf springs no less but at the rear the live axle was held and located by parallel trailing arms and semi-elliptic leaf springs.
Based on the 250MM, Ferrari however knew that he had to have something special to take on rivals from Jaguar, Maserati, Lancia and such so he got Pinin Farina to clothe the 340/375MM trio with this fiercely beautiful coupe coachwork. The first outing for the works team in 1953 was the Le Mans 24 Hours and here 0320AM, with a 4.1-litre V12 engine was piloted by Mike Hawthorn and Nino Farina where it was lying in second place by lap 12 before it was disqualified for a brake fluid top-up! Yes the Frenchies have had queer regs that have more often than not been innovatively interpreted and enforced!
A month on from Le Mans and the car got its full-blown 4,494cc overhead cam V12 motor plus also more streamlined coachwork that it carries to this day.
Next outing was the Spa 24 Hours in July and here again 0320AM went out with rear axle failure but a month later it stormed to take the overall win at the 12 Hours of Pescara driven by Mike Hawthorn and Umberto Maglioli.
This was 0320AM’s finest hour and in time honoured Maranello tradition, at the end of the year it was refurbished and sold off to a privateer.
In November 1953, 032AM was part of a 5-strong Ferrari squad which attempted the Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico. Driving duties were assigned to Mario Ricci but when Umberto Maglioli’s works car lost a wheel he took over 0320AM from Ricci and set out after the leaders, climbing from 8th to 6th at the finish. However what stood out and yet stands is Maglioli averaging a staggering 138mph / 221km/h over a 223 mile / 357km long stage, a public road stage record unbroken to this day! It was therefore fitting that in December 1953, it should again be Maglioli who won with 0320AM at the Circuit of Guadeloupe.
From there on the car went through a myriad of owners (which also included Sir Anthony Bamford, boss of JCB) who lavished it with care yet never lost an opportunity to let the V12 wail on the racetracks. That this car had been driven at one or the other time in its life by no less than three F1 World Champions – Alberto Ascari, Mike Hawthorn and Giuseppe Farina was another major point in its favour when it came up for bidding. Also one had to keep in mind that it won loads of prizes at concours events at Pebble Beach, Monterey, Louis Vuitton Concours, etc.
Just before the Ferrari came up on the block, the rare aluminium alloy-bodied 300 SL gullwing had just managed to get close to the one million euro mark while the F40 had just nudged close to the half million Euro barrier. When the 340/375MM drove up it was evident to those who knew that this was special.
Bidding began at three million Euros and it was terrific to witness the sheer force and the passion, not to mention the balancing of the bank accounts of the well heeled collectors who tried to land this highly coveted automotive artifact for themselves.
When the gavel finally fell, it was for a whopping 8.8 million Euros with the auction house’s commission being extra. And of course, the new patron had to cart if off the premises himself once he had handed the cheque over! As for me, immediately after the Ferrari was sold I hobbled over to the small Brumm model car shop, doing brisk business selling 1:43 scale Ferrari racers made just down the road in Cernobbio itself. I thought I got a bargain when I landed a rare 1960 250TR for a shade under 90 Euros - great for the wallet, even better for the nerves!
While certainly not the most expensive Ferrari ever sold at an auction but definitely the best of its type and for sure among the top five most expensive Prancing Horses of all time, I could only marvel at how the likes of Ascari, Hawthorn, Farina, Maglioli et al would have looked while powering out of the Esses at Le Mans or storming through Eau Rouge at Spa in this monstrous V12 work of art.
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