Three seventy-five. In the world of Ferrari, this number often alludes to the twelve-cylinder engine used in some of the company’s most savage, brutally fast, all-out competition machinery built in the early to mid-1950s. There were topless spyders and a few berlinettas with bodies by Pininfarina, Vignale, and Scaglietti and of course, Grand Prix machines and even a few Indy cars. But not all 375 Ferraris were designed or destined for racing.
This reprint is based on a story written by Alan Boe that appeared in VeloceToday.com as well as Cavallino magazines.
Story and Photos by Alan Boe
In addition to at least one 375 engine adapted for marine use, Ferrari also used its big 4.5 liter engine to drive a limited series of luxuriously leathered-line high powered grand touring coupes and berlinettas, several of which were first trotted out for in an important European show before being sold off to a wealthy industrialist, entertainer, or titled personage. Only a handful of these road-going 375s were built, but in the mid-1950s, they represented the ultimate in exclusive, high speed European touring cars.
Ferrari historians may quibble the point because some earlier 4.1 liter 340 models were changed to 4.5 liter 375s, but the first pure 375 Ferrari sports car meant for racing was serial number 0358 AM, a Pinin Farina berlinetta completed in the latter half of 1953 and sold to Franco Cornacchia whose Scuderia Guastella operated out of Milan. He immediately resold the car and it popped up in Mexico in November of 1953 for the fourth Carrera Panamericana assigned to Umberto Maglioli and Pasquale Cassani.
New Ferraris and Paris in the Fall
The initial 375 built for road use was a rather prosaic, staid-looking blue-grey 2+2 coupe by Pinin Farina, chassis number 0293AL, and it was first seen at the October 1953 Paris Salon. The 1953 Paris show was noteworthy not only for the introduction of the 375 America, but also because the company displayed for the first time its 250 Europa model equipped with the Lampredi V12 scaled down to three liters. Both of these Ferraris used the 2,800-millimeter wheelbase tubular steel chassis, the longest yet made by Ferrari, and shared a four-speed gearbox, and except for the occasional Vignale bodied car, most received very similar Pinin Farina bodies.
Only 10 original 375 America Ferraris were completed between 1953 and 1955. Seven received Pinin Farina coupe bodies, the other three went to Vignale. While the first six Pinin Farina bodies were similar, the last example was a drastic departure. It was received at Pinin Farina on November 10, 1954 (job number 13442), was finished in the spring of 1955 and was assigned chassis number 0355 AL.
New Ferrari Amazes Crowd in Turin
The 37th Turin Auto show, held from April 20 to May 1, was used by both Ferrari and Pinin Farina to highlight their latest collaborations. Ferrari displayed a 375 MM Berlinetta by Pinin Farina (0490 AM), while the Pinin Farina stand had a spectacular one-off 375 America Coupe. Its steel body below the belt line was finished in a dark green with ruby red paint surrounding the windshield, windows, and most of the clear roof panel. A lipstick red leather two-seat interior completed the package.
This was 0355 AL, an innovation in several respects. Show-goers noticed its tall vertical grille with red slats, its wraparound windshield with forward leaning A-pillars, its unique tempered glass sunroof, and its vertical rear window which could be lowered several inches via a pair of electric motors concealed in each sail panel. But there was no trunk opening and the luggage space under the rear deck was compromised by the spare tire.
The car’s most distinctive feature was its flying buttresses trailing down the back deck from the rear window. This was only the second Ferrari to exhibit this racy feature, which was introduced on the 375 MM Pinin Farina berlinetta 0456 AM, purchased by Roberto Rossellini. The feature would be seen later on production Ferraris such as the 246 GT Dino. Other stylists must have made note of the car, as the vertical grille appeared on the Edsel a few years later, the wraparound windshield with the unique A pillar appeared on Detroit products in the mid to late 1950s.
The car was equipped with 16-inch Borranis, which allowed us of oversize competition style drum brakes. And instead of leaf springs, coils were used for the front suspension while a live rear axle was retained for the rear, with radius rods and semi-elliptic rear springs. The engine was a special variant of the 375, with a bore of 88 mm instead of 84, making a total displacement of 4.9 liters and had three 42 mm Weber DCZ3 carbs in place of the 40 DCFs normally used on the 375s.
Another touch used on 0355 AL was chrome plating on the front sway bar and links, and on the upper and lower external water pipes. In the interior, there were plenty more such touches unique to 0355 AL. The metal instrument panel was done in a stunning faux wood grained finish; the gearshift knob and window cranks were capped with matching wood pieces and the chrome door release handles were surrounded by wood bezels. An unusual seven-day Jaeger chronometric rally clock was located on the transmission tunnel.
Despite all these features, the car was not built for the show but was created especially for the late Gianni Agnelli. It was not Agnelli’s first Ferrari, but his first custom-bodied Ferrari. He previously owned a 166 MM Touring barchetta (0064 M) followed by a 212 Vignale coupe (0211 EL). With the spectacular green and red 375, Agnelli had the fasted and most unique Ferrari he had yet owned. Under the guidance of Pinin Farina chief stylist Franco Martinengo, with minimum direction from Agnelli, the team came up with the unique, special look that Agnelli sought.
The Ferrari Sales Price will Leave You Breathless
Agnelli kept his 375 until early 1959, when on April 2 it was shipped to Luigi Chinetti in New York, and almost immediately sold to George Shapiro of Waterbury CT. A year later it went to John Dietz, who kept the car for another year. The fourth owner was Arthur Kyle, Jr., of Syracuse NY, who in turn sold it back to Chinetti for a mere $3,500 in 1967. Ed Andrews picked it up from there.
By now a full-width front bumper had replaced the original two-piece design, the vertical grille opening had been shortened, and the vent windows removed. The Ferrari badge was relocated from the grille top to the bodywork above the grille.
In 1979 collector Wayne Golomb acquired the car before passing it to Charles Betz and Fred Peters in Orange, California. Today, S/N 0355 is owned by Jack E. Thomas of St. Louis.
Down through the decades the Agnelli Ferrari managed to maintain its originality, save for a blue respray. The thick repaint had begun to crack and flake off the car, while Thomas managed to deposit more of the blue chips along various Arizona and Colorado highways during the Copperstate 1000 and Colorado Grand in 2001. In fact, admirers were encouraged to snap off a piece or two. In this condition, the car received a special award at Amelia Island in 2002. But even though the car ran like a Swiss watch and pulled like a Clydesdale, cosmetically it was a mess. In 2003, Thomas made the tough decision to have it restored by Motion Products in Neenah, Wisconsin.
The Restored Ferrari with Looks to Die For
Trim and glass were removed; the blue repaint and primer were stripped off the body. Once in bare metal, no trace of rust was found and no body panels required replacement. All components including the electrical and wiring systems, gauges, switches, and all running gear were rebuilt in-house. A new interior, faithful to the original, was fabricated by John Kies, one of the founding members of Motion Products. One of the more challenging jobs involved recreating the faux wood grain finish on the instrument panel accomplished magnificently by Dennis Bickford of Vintage Wood Works.
Early in the car’s history, Pinin Farina made changes to the grille, front bumper, and windows while repairing minor accident damage around the left headlight. Since the goal of the restoration was to return the car to its Turin specification, these changes were corrected. Finally, a two-piece sliding shade, which had been added under the sunroof after the Turin show, was removed. The paint was digitally matched to the dark green and red colors from fragments of the original paint found on the car in several places.
The instrument panel is dominated by two big seemingly hand built jewel-like dials, a tach to the left and speedometer to the right. The tach houses the water temp and oil pressure gauges while the fuel gauge and clock are within the speedometer.
For its vintage, the car is amazingly well balanced. Total weight with a half tank of fuel is 2,998 lbs, length is almost exactly 15 feet, width is 64 inches and it is 52 inches tall. Dynoed at 5,750 rpm, the engine produced 306 hp and still climbing; at 6,500 rpm it would be expected to put out nearly 330 hp. The torque curve is very flat, with 291 lb-ft at 2400 rpm to 280 lb-ft at 5,750 rpm.
After an 18 month restoration, 0355 AL went to Pebble Beach and drove off with not only a first place ribbon but also a perfect 100 point score.
Driving the Powerful 375 Ferrari is Like Heaven on Earth
To really appreciate the Agnelli Ferrari, it has to be driven. As Jack Thomas describes it, “…the engine is powerful and absolutely loaded with torque. It pulls aggressively from any rpm. It won’t snap your head back, but it delivers power very smoothly and with great authority. It’s probably best on long straight or big sweepers, but it also does a fine job on mountain hairpins.” Adding to the driving pleasure is the relatively roomy and airy cockpit. Six-foot-four-inch Thomas reports the car has plenty of leg and headroom and never conveys a cramped feeling.
A nice touch is a sunroof which is wonderful for grand touring and gives the car a sense of openness. The easy-going, smooth revving V12 so perfect for such a motorcar, allows cruising speeds well in excess of triple digits. Accordingly, it is an excellent grand touring car, perfect for such events as the Colorado Grand, but now restored, right at home on the manicured lawn of Pebble Beach. The Agnelli 375 stands today as a great example of how well Ferrari built cars in 1955.
Ferrari 375 Americas
1. 0293 AL PF coupe 1953 Paris Show car
2. 0301 AL Vignale coupe 1953 Paris Show car
3. 0307 AL PF coupe sold new, October 14, 1953
4. 0317 AL PF coupe sold new April 24, 1954
5. 0319 AL PF coupe sold new April 7, 1954
6. 0327 AL Vignale coupe 1954 Geneva and New York Show car
7. 0329 AL PF coupe Sold new April 21, 1954
8. 0337 AL Vignale coupe 1954 Turin show car
9. 0339 AL PF coupe featured in Boy on a Dolphin
10. 0355 AL PF coupe 1955 Turin show car, built for Agnelli
Thank you to VeloceToday.com Editor Pete Vack and author Alan Boe for allowing us to reprint Ferrari 375 Pinin Farina, S/N 0355 AL.
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