Ferrari 342 America Coupe Speciale
This fast and elegant Ferrari 342 America Coupe Speciale, one of just six 342 Americas built, was the 1953 Geneva Motor Show Car, and it foreshadowed exclusive, custom-built Ferraris to follow. It’s raison d’etre was classic. Enzo Ferrari understood that a big, powerful engine was essential for a winning competition car. Despite the versatility of the Colombo-developed V-12, as soon as Grand Prix regulations allowed naturally-aspirated 4.5-liter engines to compete with supercharged 1.5-liter power plants, Ferrari began the development of a larger-displacement version, engineered by Aurelio Lampredi. Immediate success in Ferrari’s 375 Grand Prix car, with what became known as the ‘longblock’ V-12, soon followed and Ferrari GP racers defeated Alfa Romeo’s vaunted 158 Alfettas.
To amortize development costs, the Lampredi V-12 became a natural choice for Ferrari’s versatile 340 Series. Racing variants included the 340 Mille Miglia and the 340 Mexico while road-going 340 Americas served Ferrari’s intent to provide a luxurious Grand Tourer for clientele who could afford the very best. Some 23 340 Americas were sold, ranging from racy berlinettas and spyders to luxurious cabriolets and coupes. They were constructed by several noted coachbuilders.
Slated to be even more exclusive than the 340, the 342 America would be produced with only six examples: a cabriolet by Vignale and two more cabriolets plus three coupes by Pinin Farina. Longtime Ferrari client King Leopold of Belgium and Enzo Ferrari himself ordered the first two cars. To facilitate the longer Lampredi engine, the 342 America had an extended, 2,650-mm wheelbase. The extra length better accommodated four passengers and their luggage, as befitting a proper grand touring car.
Although the 342’s purpose was not racing, Ferrari acknowledged the engine’s competition heritage by bestowing even chassis numbers on the small series, a practice hitherto reserved for racing cars. All six 342s were built with left-hand drive. The model designation carried the suffix “AL” for “America Lungo,” signifying the extended wheelbase chassis. In keeping with Ferrari practice, ‘342’ signified the individual cylinder capacity of its 200-bhp, 4.1-liter Lampredi V-12.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
4,101 cc SOHC V-12, three Weber 40 DCF dual-choke carburetors, four-speed manual all-synchromesh gearbox, independent front suspension with transverse leaf spring and hydraulic lever shock absorbers, live rear axle with semi-elliptic rear springs and hydraulic-lever shock absorbers, four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 104.3".
Source: RM Auctions