MECUM’S car auction at Kissimmee this year has attracted 3500 entries, among them a blue Ferrari with a history so bizarre it could qualify as the ultimate barn find.

The 1952 Ferrari 340 America is expected to fetch a few million dollars, but it was bought in 2006 for a mere $35,000 Australian – but in 1990 it had changed hands for a paltry $260.

The story of this particular 340 America— chassis No. 0202A—is long, winding and incredible. 

Mecum says it was originally designed by the Giovanni Michelotti, who was the lead designer for Alfredo Vignale, of Torino, and was powered by a 4.1litre V-12 engine mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. 

It was designed for sports car racing and drivers André Simon and Lucien Vincent drove it in the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing fifth.

Vincent also used it at Montlhéry in France that same year.

After its European run of racing, the 340 America was exported to the US via Luigi Chinetti, who sold the car to defence attorney Bill Galvin. 

Then, towards the end of the 1950s, one Paul Owens of Texas bought it – and installed a Chevrolet V-8 engine. 

Sacrilege now, but at the time the 340 America was a race car that, like all other race cars, was considered disposable. 

Next, the original Vignale coachwork was damaged in an accident and the Ferrari was fitted with some custom open coachwork, which was also damaged in an accident, after which a Devin Spider fiberglass body was fitted. 

Such indignities were not uncommon at the time, but they seem shocking through the lens of history. The Ferrari’s original engine was then sold by a chap in Chicago. 

In 1963, Chassis No. 0202A was registered in Salt Lake City and thereafter it disappeared from the radar screen for decades.

Next time it came up was in 1990 when a drag racer called Mike Sanfilippo bought it for $260.

 After originally planning to cut up the chassis to turn it into a Hot Wheels-type dragster, Sanfilippo thought better, and the car sat mostly undisturbed for several years. 

He had no idea that beneath the Devin bodywork lay the bones of a precious Ferrari.

In 2006, automotive restoration expert Tom Shaughnessy of San Clemente, California, bought what was listed as a vintage Devin sports car on eBay for $35,000. 

He had planned to restore the Devin to its former glory, but he was in for a big surprise. 

After taking a closer look at the car, Shaughnessy and Ferrari expert Hilary Rabb  found out that underneath the fiberglass Devin bodywork lay a genuine competition Ferrari— one of just 475 produced from 1948 to 1974, nearly all of which are known to the Ferrari world.

From there, the discoveries only got better. 

Thanks to Ferrari expert Marcel Massini, chassis No. 0202A was verified to be one of only 24 examples of the 340 America built. 

It also has the provenance of racing in Europe, including the world’s most famous sports car race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

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After this regal history was revealed, it became clear to Shaughnessy that he would need to spend a hell of a lot of dollars to restore the car to its former glory, and the renowned restoration experts at Ferrari Classiche undertook the task of meticulously returning 0202A to its proper form.

The proof of Chassis No. 0202A’s provenance is robust. 

A book has been created for the car with detailed period photographs, news clippings and race results showing the car at the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans and racing that same year at Montlhéry in France. 

Extensive race results from the US during the 1950s are also included, as well as a video of 0202A racing at the Iowa City sports car races in 1955 and extensive pre-restoration photos.

Today, the restored 340 America looks magnificent in its French Racing Blue No. 14 racing livery and new Vignale coachwork. 

Chassis No. 0202A has a correct 4.1litre V-12 that simply sings, while shifts are accomplished through a 4-speed manual gearbox. 

The whole package is so graceful that anyone standing near it knows they are in the presence of something special. 

This exceptional car—which comes with a Classiche Red Book with White Stripe, denoting a significant racing Ferrari—has a history like few other cars ever to grace the earth, and about now in Kissimmee, Mecum will present the exceedingly rare opportunity to see and bid on it.

But be aware, it’s going to take most of your lotto winnings – assuming you won one of the recent mega jackpots.

 

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Born again Ferrari with a tale to tell

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.
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Peter Evans
Peter Evans
8 months ago

Great story Bill.