Articles

Michael Sheehan's Ferraris-online.com Article

1951 Ferrari 340 America Berlinetta

As appeared in:

Sports Car Market—December 2001 issue

Market Review & Buyer’s Guide

by Michael Sheehan

Chassis number: 0148A

Ferrari S/N 0148A is part of a very aristocratic lineage of Ferraris, as it is equipped with the famous Lampredi V12, which would go on to contribute to Ferrari’s first victories in F1 in its 375 F1 version. In the 340 version, the 4101-cc engine develops 260 hp at 6500 rpm. It was a legendary motor that was several steps above the standard 250 production unit and went on to spawn its elder siblings, the 375 MM and 410 Sport, of fearsome reputation for their power. This notoriety is reflected in both the type’s rarity and also the famous owners that were destined to enjoy the 340 America series.

This car, bodied by Ghia, was first built for Michel Paul Cavalier, president of a large French industrial concern. The distinguished Monsieur Cavalier became one of Ferrari’s first repeat customers—and thus a precious one—as well as a friend. While little is known about him, he became perhaps the only non-Italian member of the early Ferrari board, and it is believed that his industrial savvy was most useful as the factory’s growth mushroomed amidst the hectic demands of competition and Maranello’s engineering development.

Cavalier owned several very special Ferraris through the years, cars that were tailor-made for him, and it is a measure of his lore in Ferrari history that these cars are now to be found in several of the finest collections. S/N 0148A remained in France after Cavalier sold it to a watch merchant, who in turn passed it on to Michael Dovaz. The latter has a rather infamous private museum in Nemours, France, where it stayed for a number of years before passing on to a Parisian doctor and then a Dutchman.

The current owner bought this car and then subjected it to a frame-off restoration. This was undertaken in Italy by Zagato with the aid of Galbiati, who specializes in aluminum bodies—a definite plus since S/N 0148A is believed to be the only alloy-bodied car in this small series. The engine, which was already in running order, was rebuilt by Michel Magnin.

The 340 was painted in a dark blue, while the interior has fully redone leather seats in a lighter shade of blue with matching carpets. All chrome elements have been impeccably renewed. The car has since taken part in the 1999 Mille Miglia, where it was driven by French connoisseur Marc Souvrain for its current owner.

Historic Ferraris do not come with a much better pedigree than this, and S/N 0148A would make a great road/rally machine or a very prominent concours entry.

This car sold for $391,000, including buyer’s premium, at the Christie’s Pebble Beach sale, August 19, 2001.

This 340 has been on the market for some time. Last year, the Parisian owner had been asking for about $600k. On December 18, 2000, it was offered at the Poulain Le Fur auction in Paris, where it was supposedly bid to $445k without selling. Obviously, as time passed the owner faced reality and lowered his asking price until he reached an accurate market valuation.

Interestingly enough, the selling price at Christie’s was almost exactly mid-way between the $350k–$450k estimate. While very nicely restored, and looking very racy, $391k is all the money for a car that looks faster than it actually is. S/N 0148A is not a race car. It does have an even-numbered chassis, as do most of the early Ferrari race cars. But all Lampredi-engined V12s, as this one is, carry even chassis numbers, whether they were competition cars or boulevard cruisers. This is just another anomaly in the Ferrari chassis numbering sequence.

The Ghia body, regarded as visually-challenged by some, has been improved (or is that customized?) by having its heavy-looking bumpers removed, one-inch wider Borrani wheels fitted at the rear, a boy-racer quick-filler fuel cap added, lightweight competition seats installed and side and hood scoops added. Think 340 America modified to race in “The Fast and the Furious.”

The restoration of S/N 0148A was done to a visually stunning standard, although I could have done without the overly generous application of silver paint to its aluminum underhood mechanical components.

Thanks to its alloy body, even chassis number (even if not competition sourced) and its robust, torquey 340 engine, this car will provide its owner with more than adequate performance, decent comfort and entry into everything from the Mille Miglia to the Tour de France and Monterey Historics.

The previous owner paid about $400k for this car, unrestored. We can assume that the restoration cost another $200k, making the seller’s “investment” around $600k, coincidentally the same as the original asking price for the car. As the new owner paid just $400k but got a restored car instead of a project, this car should be considered well bought.

(Historic data and photo courtesy of auction company.)