1952 Ferrari 342 America
Hamann Classic Cars has an interesting and very rare classic Ferrari for sale. Let’s take a look at the history of the 342 America. In the years after the Second World War Interest in Ferraris was growing, but some potential clients were concerned about the competition performance levels achieved by engines which reached the market with very little in the way of detuning. To address the concerns of this type of Client, the Ferrari 342 America was introduced. The Ferrari 342 is a more accommodating four-seater featuring a flexible engine, a new synchronized 4-speed gearbox and increased user-friendly handling.
The first version by Ghia was received without much enthusiasm, but subsequent interpretations by Vignale and Pininfarina paved the way for the model’s success. It would be improper to talk of the 342 America without reference to the 340 America model that went into production in 1951, although it had a relatively small production run of just over twenty cars.
However, they were fitted with a surprising array of different coachwork, ranging from a development of the classic barchetta body design by Carrozzeria Touring, to quite staid three-box 2+2 coupés from the house of Ghia, with a selection of Vignale interpretations thrown in along the way.
A Vignale-bodied 340 America berlinetta driven by Villores/Cassani won the 1950 Mille Miglia Vignale also produced a unique 340 America cabriolet that unfortunately no longer exists in its original form, as its body was cut up and disposed of as part of an attempted insurance fraud a few years ago, which led to the remains of the car being fitted with a body in the style of a Vignale spider.
All models in the 340 and 342 America series, whether destined for competition or road use, carried chassis numbers in the even competition car sequence, even though the latter models were all clearly road cars. Production of the 340 series continued into 1952, when the 342 America model was phased in. Although the change in model reference number (which referred to the swept volume of a single cylinder) would appear to indicate an increase in engine capacity, but actually it did not.. The engine was essentially the same 4.1 liter unit as fitted to the 340 model, although they could be visually identified by a different carburetor air filter arrangement.
The Ferrari 340 as well as the Ferrari 342 America were the first Ferrari road cars to be fitted with an Aurelio Lampredi-designed engine, although there had been a 275 S sports racing model in 1950, and numerous single-seater engines designed by him, which had proved very successful. Notably, there was the 4.5 liter V12 375 unit in 1951, which took Froilan Gonzalez to Ferrari’s first Grand Prix victory at Silverstone. Of particular note was the 2-litre, four-cylinder 500 unit with which Alberto Ascari won the World Drivers’ Championship in 1952 and 1953.
The Lampredi-designed V12 engines are normally referred to as ‘long’ block, to differentiate them from the original Colombo design. The reason for this appellation (epithet or name differently) was the spacing of the cylinder bore centers on each bank of the engine, which on the Colombo engine was 90 mm, and on the Lampredi engine 108 mm, thus increasing the overall length of the block. The wider spacing was needed to provide the facility for a larger bore diameter, and to incorporate a Lampredi design feature of having the wet cylinder liners screwed into the head. As with the Colombo-designed engine, the Lampredi unit featured a single overhead camshaft to each bank of cylinders.
The 340 America models destined for competition use were fitted with dry sump lubrication versions of the 4.1 liter V12 engine, with a bore and stroke of 80 mm x 68 mm, whereas those intended for road use had normal wet sump lubrication, coupled to a 5-speed gearbox driving through a rigid rear axle. The Ferrari 342 America model featured the same bore and stroke with a wet sump, but was mated to a new 4-speed, all synchromesh gearbox. The very last example of the series was actually fitted with a 4.5 liter engine, but still retained its 342 model reference.
The 342 America was produced, albeit for a relatively short period, in late 1952, with only six examples made, one with a Vignale cabriolet body, and the remainder with a fairly homogeneous Pininfarina body in either coupé or cabriolet form. They were built on a 2650 mm wheelbase, tubular steel chassis, as opposed to the 2420 mm wheelbase of the 340 America, and also featured slightly wider front and rear track.
The September 1952 issue of the American magazine ‘Road & Track’ road-tested a Ferrari 340 America Vignale-bodied competition berlinetta, and recorded a 0-60 mph time of 6.1 seconds, a 0-100 mph time of 15.5 seconds, and a standing start quarter mile time of 15.45 seconds, noting a factory claimed top speed of 151 mph – A very impressive performance for a car of this class over 60 years ago!
This very Ferrari 342 America Pininfarina was designated as a “Speciale” version by the Ferrari factory as the first owner planned to participate in rallies. It therefore was fitted with the competition specification engine of the 340 America producing 40 horsepower more. A 92 liter fuel tank was installed as well as a rally timer. The owner competed indeed in two rallies in Italy. Another special feature this car has are two small fold down seats in the rear cabin as the owner’s wife had two small Maltese dogs which were riding in style when taken along.
This 342 America was restored to the highest Concours level by the top restoration shops in the United States and has been invited and shown at such prestigious Concours events as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace in the UK.
The car has been featured in an article in the English classic car magazine Octane. It is presently part of an outstanding collection located in the United Kingdom.
Hamann Classic Cars is proud to have this very special one-off Ferrari 342 America available for sale.