Incredible Back-Story! 1952 Ferrari 340 America

The Russian mystic Rasputin met a grisly end in 1916 after being poisoned, shot, beaten, and thrown into an icy river by those who though he exerted undue influence on Russia’s royal family. If he survived, as some believe, his story would be almost as unlikely as that of this Ferrari. The 1952 Ferrari 340 America placed fifth in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, came to America, had its V12 replaced with a Chevy V8, its gorgeous body replaced with fiberglass, and suffered who knows what other indignities. At one point the downtrodden LeMans racer sold for $200, and brought less than $27,000 as recently as 2006. Now it comes to auction here at Mecum with its original engine and restoration by none other than Ferrari Classiche.

Reuniting a car with its long-lost original engine adds untold value, and calls for a Columbo-like sleuth. The 4.1 L (250 cid) V12 ended up in Chicago before finding its way back into the compact nose of the French Racing Blue 340. I’ve heard of deals that included letters of reference to get someone’s daughter into the right college to get the disparate parts of a classic car back to their rightful place. The seller may not know the whole story of their precious parts, but they know what’s worth more than a rusty Nova fender.

It’s unlikely this racing Ferrari looked so tidy for more than a few days after leaving Maranello, if ever. Immediately pressed into competition, the angry blue coupe saw LeMans and Montlhéry in 1952, and continued racing in America, lapping courses like the Iowa City sports car races of the mid-1950s. The 340 America, one of 24 built, deserves a premium spot in the new owner’s collection. It might be someone’s “must have” dream car, and it certainly deserves that sort of “sell everything” devotion.

All new hand-built coachwork from a garage owned by Ferrari will definitely put a dent in your 401k. Unlike most of our feature cars, if you’re seeing it here first, you’re probably not a potential buyer. That said, we’d love to hear from the buyer of this precious classic for a follow-up.

A face like this will get you VIP parking at nearly any venue, and this car’s provenance tracks with linearity from birth to present day. While the value of some cars wanes after the bulk of buyers who wanted one in their youth pass on to the great road race in the sky, others carry a singular legacy forward that transcends generations, and this little 340 America may ascend to that lofty status. Do you know a car that enjoyed a second life after surviving its own Trials of Rasputin?

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Comments

  1. JACKinNWPA JACKinNWPA Member

    Columbo like sleuth, to find the V12. I see what you did there!

    Like 10
  2. J_Paul Member

    What a great story and gorgeous car. Plus, it hits all the correct BARN FIND buttons!

    – Neglected for years by a variety of past owners
    – Has the numbers-matching engine
    – Someone bought it “back in the day” for only $200

    So what if it costs more than any of our hopes and dreams? It’s still awesome.

    I’m not sure which Mecum auction this will be sold at, but if it’s at Monterey this year, I’ll try to take a few photos.

    Like 11
  3. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Wow – can’t say much more than that.

    Like 6
  4. DualJetfire

    Alas, in the 1952 Lemans race, Mercedes came in 1st and 2d, with the NASH HEALEY coming in 3Rd. This means that this car was beaten by the engineering and power of the magnificent Nash Dual Jetfire powerplant. With 24 built, most of which survive, the stately 1954 Nash Ambasssador Custom Country Club Lemans is actually not just a bit rarer, but a LOT rarer.

    Like 8
    • Martin Horrocks

      That Le Mans Nash-Healey racer was in private hands in Spain until recently. Great effort. But I’d take the Ferrari….

      Like 4
    • James HGF

      The 1952 Le Mans race was a dramatic contest because of record speeds and Mercedes at Le Mans for the first year since 1930. Find a contemporary race report if you can. Pierre Levegh had a lock on 1st place (4 laps in front of the Lang/Riess 300SL) with an hour and a quarter to go. But he had decided to drive the full 24 hrs and in sleep deprived haze missed a shift.

      When the the flag dropped Moss got away first, but it was Fitch (Cunningham), Moss (Jaguar), André Simon (Ferrari 340 coupe), followed by Ascari (Ferrari 250 S coupe) all at over 100 mph for the standing start lap.

      One has to finish to win and the Heavily modified Healey Silverstone with Healey breathed on Nash engine and full length fender body work to smooth the air flow managed a solid 24 hour race.

      This 340 Ferrari (#14) leading for the 1st couple of hours was badly crunched at some time necessitating a long stop to cut away the outer right front fender relocate the headlamp onto the fender lining and more. As Todd Fench states the 340 looks much better now than at Le Mans in ‘52.

      Columbo sleuthing is a nice turn of phrase for a Lampredi 4.1 liter car too. Mecum suggests that Tom Shaughnessy was surprised to find the Ferrari chassis clothed with a Devin body. Shaughnessy, a Ferrari expert knew what he was bidding on at the time from what little of the frame was visible in the eBay ad.

      There is no loss of value due to new body and other bits. It’s hardly the first Ferrari to have a worn out or discarded gown replaced or the original engine (and other major parts) located to make a resuscitated original (See the Moss 250GT SWB #7 coupe). Current Cavalino magazine market guide is 6.1 – 7.6 million dollars for 340 Americas. And it will sell for…more, less…anyones guess.

      Like 5
  5. Rex Kahrs Member

    Poisoned, shot, beaten, and thrown into an icy river. My word, those Russians certainly are thorough!

    Like 8
    • Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

      And he was still alive when they threw him in – the Mad Monk was a tough dude

      Like 8
  6. Donald Huff

    The write up doesn’t sound like it is going through a Mecum auction. At the end of the Mecum write up it says “Arrangements to purchase this vehicle can be made by contacting Dana Mecum directly or through Mecum representative Rob Williams by phone or text at (262) 236-7705 or by email at rwilliams@mecum.com.” That sounds like either Dana Mecum owns it or they are representing the seller.

    Like 7
  7. CCFisher

    Forever to be marked with an asterisk because it’s been re-bodied, which is unfortunate because it’s spectacular!

    Like 6
    • JagManBill

      at least it was rebodied by the Factory. To that end, how many of the $30,000,000 250 GTO’s are wearing original bodywork. If the factory did it, it counts as “original”

      Like 5
      • James HGF

        Article from Ferraris Online explains what is and what isn’t done, the costs etc. They have a couple of carrozzeria that repair or build a new body to original specs along with engine specialists and others for restoration processes not done in house:

        https://ferraris-online.com/ferrari-classiche-revisited/

        Like 3
      • Steveo

        ‘Factory’ in name – pretty sure no one who had anything to do with it originally is gone.

  8. Steve R

    I think this car was featured in one of Tom Cotter’s first two Barn Find books. If not this, it was another Ferrari chassis that followed a similar path.

    No matter how intriguing the story, this just doesn’t look right in blue.

    Steve R

    Like 3
  9. Ralph

    Got to say this is a beautiful car, regardless of the color, or new body.
    Very thankful there are folks with enough money to care for and restore or rebuild these pieces of history. The new body does not detract from this example in any way, except for argument. Ferrari (and many other low production makes) have been famous for decades for the custom order or “one off” bodied examples of both race cars and production models. If you have the time and money they will build it for you, within reason.
    Wish I had more time and money…

    Like 4
  10. chrlsful

    is there anything better than mid ’50s – late 60s Italian dreams like these. An almost female form, lill jewels to me.
    That country saw the same thing the Brit bikes saw, the Japanese 30 yrs later w/bikes as well, more bikes – Harley/Indian ’20s – 50s. This is the (was it ’80s?) idea of the incubator – build business/commerce thru close proximity, competition, financial infusion and innovative personnel. It must B placed ina special surrounding ecology.
    I’d like to see us/US do this w/the EV as the ‘ecology’ is beginning to ripen (economy coming back from covid). Industry is letting it ‘get away’, a lill gov coordination (public/private coordination like the space race we ‘won’) could help this country ‘rule the world’ on production’n sales~

  11. David Peterson

    Wouldn’t a Cunningham be a better driver? Ferrari became a legend in his own mind first – then marketed the concept to the rest of the world. Much like Porsche. I’ve been down both roads in the 70’s and found the XKE superior to both 911 and 328. To me, they are more concerned with brand cachet than selling cars. I guess it’s my poor genetics. Or the drugs…..

  12. Araknid78

    What a magnificent car and a fascinating story

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