THE EX-ASCARI, SCUDERIA FERRARI 1952 CARRERA PAN AMERICANA
FERRARI 340 MEXICO BERLINETTA
COACHWORK BY VIGNALE
Chassis No. 0226 AT
Rosso Corsa Carrera livery with tan cloth interior
Engine: V12, single overhead camshaft per bank, 4,101.66cc, 280bhp at 6,500rpm; Gearbox: five speed manual; Brakes: four wheel hydraulic drum; Suspension; front, independent with transverse leaf springs, rear semi-elliptic leaf springs. Right hand drive.
To this day, few vehicles entice more excitement and passion than Ferrari's mid-50's, big engined Sports Racers. Developed during a period of triumph and passion, they personify every aspect of Ferrari's road racing legend. While development of Columbo's original small block V12 continued in a variety of various displacements, significant horsepower gains stagnated in early 1952. In 1953, the adaptation of the all-new Lampredi 4.1 liter Grand Prix derived 'big block' engines took Ferrari in a completely new direction. As every American 'hot rodder' knows, "there is no substitute for cubic inches."
Not simply a further development of the early 166 and 250, the new 340 shared only its earlier sibling's namesake. The engine design itself had already proven successful in Grand Prix competition over the previous three years. At the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa in June 1950, a 3.3 liter Lampredi was fitted to an existing 125F1 chassis. Quick development and rapid success saw a bore and stroke increase, resulting in a total displacement of 4.1 liters. In 1952, the final year of the '1.5 liter supercharged 4.5 liter naturally aspirated' Grand Prix Formula, Ferrari monopostos dominated nearly every race entered. Although sufficiently developed and a proven winner, the 1953 season saw a completely new application of the Lampredi 'big blocks'. By combining the 4.1 (and the later 4.5 liter engines) to an all new 'Sports Racing' chassis, Ferrari moved in a completely new direction for the first time since the inception of his company just eight years earlier.
Ferrari built only thirty five 340's in various guises, each one differing in some way from the next, as was the fashion of the day with these expensive, hand-built machines.
The 340 America in GT guise provided several important race results for Ferrari, notable amongst them the victory by Luigi Villoresi in chassis 0082A in the 1951 Mille Miglia and the Coppa Inter Europa at Monza. Later on, in 1953, Mike Hawthorn won the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone and Villoresi, partnered by Cassani, won the Tour of Sicily, both in 340 MM's. Ascari and Farina took another 340 and won the Nrburgring 1000 kilometre race in the same year.
During 1951, the 340 America was developed as a racing sports car and with it, Ferrari beat the previously victorious Jaguar XK120's and Cadillac powered Allards which had been doing most of the winning in American Sports car events. In the hands of drivers such as Carroll Shelby, Bill Spear, John Fitch and Ernie McAfee, these Ferraris proved to have the torque necessary to beat the American engined Allards which had previously ruled the track. A very small run of Tipo 342 cars were built for the road and they featured stronger, four-speed gearboxes and re-enforced rear axles.
Using the 340 America as a base, Ferrari produced the 340 Mexico with which to compete in the 1952 'Carrera Pan Americana', a race held at the end of the season using the new road which linked the south of Mexico with America. This race was run over some five stages and covered over 2,000 miles, the distance of two Mille Miglias. In 1951, Ferrari 212 'Sedans' had won the first Carrera, placing first and second respectively, Taruffi/Chinetti, (0171 EL), and Ascari/Villoresi, (0161 EL). They had averaged over 88mph using their fifth gear 'overdrive' to motor away at 130 mph from the opposing American 'stock' sedans.
Taking the 340 America, Ferrari's engineers developed it further to produce a claimed 280bhp. A higher compression ratio of 8.5:1 and a different camshaft profile were the main modifications to effect this increase in power. This engine was then placed into the new chassis, called 'American Tubolare', hence the designation: 'AT'. This chassis was made up of smaller tubing than normal for lightness and a superstructure was built onto it which incorporated the windshield pillars and which, presumably, braced the whole structure.
Sadly, Ferrari rejected the possibility of using the current 'road' specification 342 four-speed gearbox and rear axle in favor of employing the lighter 212-type running gear. The capacity of this transmission to absorb the extra torque of the 4.1 liters was however marginal. Luigi Chinetti noted later that he was not able to use the power that the engine was capable of, as severe vibration in the race limited him to using only 5,600rpm.
To clothe this 340 Mexico, Ferrari turned to Carozzeria Vignale. Giovanni Michelotti, their chief designer, drew a most impressive shape which was, and still is, something that makes people look twice whenever and wherever the car is seen. Featuring an impossibly long tapering hood, equal in length to the cabin and trunk combined, this Berlinetta featured front fenders which reached forward, protruding into the airstream ahead of the ovoid radiator air intake. The headlights nestled in between these fenders and the intake. At the rear, the Berlinetta featured a sharply sloping 'fastback' design with small fins on top of the rear fenders. At the sides, the 340 Mexico had slots in front of the rear wheels to cool the rear drum brakes with a spoiler mounted on each door, presumably to help channel air into these cooling slots.
Three Berlinettas, 0222 AT, 0224 AT,and 0226 AT were entered in the Carrera Pan Americana, as was a single 340 AT Spyder 0028 AT, but this car did not start the race. The building of these cars, incidentally, was financed by Luigi Chinetti in New York as the wealthy Texan, Allen Guiberson, had promised to buy two of the cars from him.
Albert Ascari, the Grand Prix World Champion, and Giuseppi Scotuzzi, one of the Scuderia Ferrari's mechanics, shared 0226 AT in the Carrera Pan Americana of 1953. The cars were entered under the auspices of the Gustalla Racing Team from Milan, Ferrari's Rome dealership, but it is almost certain that this was a thinly-disguised Works factory team effort. 0224 AT was to be driven by Luigi Chinetti and Jean Lucas, 0222 AT was driven by Luigi Villoresi, (winner of the 1951 Mille Miglia in a 340 MM) and Franco Cornacchia who was an enthusiastic racer, having driven at the Le Mans 24-Hours plus numerous other international races.
For Ascari and Scotuzzi, the race was an anti-climax. They were out on the first stage after just 92 miles, Ascari rolling the big coupe. Luckily neither occupant was hurt. The best result of a 340 Mexico was that of Chinetti and Lucas who finished in third place behind the two victorious Mercedes 300 SL's, despite having averaged 128mph over the 231 mile final stage to Cuidad Juarez.
After the race, 0226 AT was returned to the factory where the crash damage was repaired. As previously mentioned, Allen Guiberson bought 0226 AT and, after using it for only a short time, he sold the car. Carroll Shelby and Ernie McAfee drove it to a second place at Offutt Air Force Base and the 340 then retired from an event in Sowega.
In the late 1950's, after passing through the hands of a succession of owners, 0226 AT was sold to Larry Nicklin, a General Motors stylist. Mr. Nicklin owned the car for some ten years before selling it to Bill Marriott. After a complete nut and bolt restoration, the Berlinetta was awarded the 'Best of Show' Trophy at the Ferrari Club of America's national meet at Elkhart Lake in 1988. In more recent times, the 340 Mexico has enjoyed a prominent place in an important European collection of sports and racing cars.
Ferrari 340 Mexicos are rare, just four having been made. 0226 AT is arguably the finest of the four with the distinction of having been raced by a World Champion. Emblematic of the 'Golden Era', this is one of the greatest big block Ferraris. This important Ferrari is eligible for all the significant historic and road race events.