Ferrari 340 America Barchetta by Touring

Assembly of this 340 America Barchetta, chassis number 0116/A, began in January of 1951, with Walter Seghedoni assembling the transaxle, closely followed by assembly of the engine, which was completed in April. On 2 May, the engine’s testing was finished on the dyno, producing 317.76 brake horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 426.6 N.m at 4,000 rpm. The engine was then fitted to the completed chassis, noted on its build sheet as having a reinforced front leaf spring, and it left the factory on 7 May to be fitted with its elegant Barchetta coachwork by Carrozzeria Touring. On 14 June, the car, having returned to Ferrari, was test-driven by Mr D’Angelo.

Two days later, chassis number 0116/A was sold to its first owner, Pierre Louis-Dreyfus. A hero of World War II who had flown 81 bombing missions, he would later take over the multi-million-dollar business known today as the Louis-Dreyfus Group. In his spare time, he was an enthusiastic racing driver and sportsman, often racing under the alias of “Helde”. Mr Louis-Dreyfus was a regular entrant in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, first in 1931 in a Bugatti Type 43, with his highlight being 2nd overall in 1935 at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300.

The 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans was held on the 23rd and 24th of June, just a week after Mr Louis-Dreyfus took delivery of his 340 America. Nine Ferraris were entered that year, among them four of the latest 340 America, which was a pre-race favourite thanks to rumours that the car was capable of over 150 mph (then an astounding speed) along the Mulsanne Straight. Louis-Dreyfus was among the entrants, #16, and employed none other than Luigi Chinetti to run the car, with friend and Formula One ace Louis Chiron sharing driving duties. Chiron, of course, was a legend of his own, especially in Bugatti circles, having enjoyed victories at many of Europe’s most prestigious events, including the Monaco, Belgian, Italian, Spanish, and German Grand Prix, as well as the 24 Hours of Spa in 1933.

Le Mans 1951 began at 4:00 pm with 60 starters under blue skies but with the threat of rain. Chiron quickly became entangled in an intense battle with the sister 340 America of Eddie Hall, a battle so engrossing that he missed the pit-signal to refuel and ran dry on the circuit. A mechanic quickly drove out with a can of fuel and topped up the car, allowing Chiron to return to the pits as if nothing had happened. Louis-Dreyfus took over driving duties and continued, but it was not long before race director Charles Faroux appeared. Chiron admitted that he had refuelled illegally outside of the pit lane, and the car was duly black-flagged after only 29 laps. Despite the early retirement, the car showed great pace; even at the end of the 24 hours, they still held the 11th fastest lap time!

A year passed, and once more Dreyfus entered chassis number 0116/A at Le Mans. The car was again maintained by Chinetti, but now René Dreyfus (no relation to the owner) shared driving duties. Dreyfus was a well-known competitor, whose career highlights included victories at the 1930 Monaco Grand Prix and 1934 Belgian Grand Prix, as well as a 2nd overall finish at the 1935 Italian Grand Prix while co-driving with Tazio Nuvolari for the Scuderia Ferrari! The 340 America again donned #16 but this year gained some unique air scoops behind the doors, helping to ventilate the rear drum brakes.

The car qualified 15th and during the opening laps improved to 14th by the third hour. Unfortunately, the clutch began to slip, and the car fell down the order, finally retiring after five hours. A picture of the car survives, showing it in the paddock alongside Ferrari 225 S, chassis number 0152 EL, on Sunday morning after both had retired; neither shows signs of damage.

Chassis number 0116/A next appeared at the Coupes du Salon in October 1952, entered by René Marchand. It was later registered on French license plate 921 CA 40 and, in 1955, was sold to Jacques Lenglet, a resident of Romainville who traded in his previous daily driver, a Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante. During Mr Lenglet’s tenure, he re-registered the car as 9360 KM 75, a number it retained until its acquisition by a Mr Bonjean in November of 1960.

Four years later, the 340 America was acquired by the renowned Ferrari collector Pierre Bardinon for his impeccable Collection Mas du Clos. It was subsequently restored in Modena. In the early 1970s, it was sold to an Italian politician, Giuseppe Medici of Reggio Emilia, next passing to a prominent Italian collector based in Belgium, Ennio Gianaroli. Mr Gianaroli entered the car in the Mille Miglia in 1990 (#324) and 1998 (#297), as well as in such events as the FF40 meeting in 1992 and the Ferrari 50th Anniversary meets in Rome and Modena in 1997.

In the care of its most recent Italian owner, the car was entered in the Mille Miglia a further five times, as well as in the Gran Premio Nuvolari and the Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti. It was also presented at the Carrozzeria Touring display at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy in 2008.

Most recently, chassis number 0116/A has been fully restored to its 1951 Le Mans configuration and will certainly continue to be welcomed at the most important historic events worldwide, including the Mille Miglia, Tour Auto, Monaco Historic Grand Prix, and, of course, the Le Mans Classic.

Photo Credit: Tim Scott
Source: RM Sotheby's press

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