Model history: All of the earliest Ferraris, regardless of their application, were built around the same V12 engine. Originally penned by Gioacchino Colombo, the relatively small engine, in supercharged form, powered Ferrari's first Formula 1 car. Disappointed with the results, Enzo Ferrari asked Aurelio Lampredi to design a V12 engine that could be developed to much larger displacements. The ultimate target was 4.5 litre; the displacement limit set for Naturally Aspirated engine in F1. Both engines were used side by side for several years and to separate the two, the Colombo V12 was referred to as the 'short block' and Lampredi's as the 'long block' for obvious reasons.
Displacing around 3.3 litre, the first Lampredi V12 ran early in 1950. Continuing Ferrari's multi-purpose approach, the new '275' engine was not only fitted in a F1 car chassis; it also found its way into a sports racer. Only two of these 275 S racers were built before it was replaced by the slightly larger engined 340 America, built for the 1951 season. Quite a few of these pure racers were built, equipped with a wide variety of bodies. Shortly after Ferrari began the development of a road going version. With its large, high performance engine, the new '342 America' was aimed squarely at the very richest of clients.
While the 340 America racing car and 342 America road car featured many of the same ingredients, there were subtle differences. Both cars used a 4.1 litre version of Lampredi's 'long block' engine but at 200 bhp the road car was 20 bhp down on power. A bigger distinction was the use of a sturdier four-speed gearbox in the road car as opposed to the five-speed in the 340 America. The chassis design follow familiar Ferrari lines with a frame formed of two elliptical side-members, double wishbones with a transverse leaf spring at the front and a live axle at the back. The 342 America did feature a longer wheelbase version of the chassis.
Underlining its exclusivity, Ferrari built only six examples of the 342 America. All but one of these was fitted with coachwork by Pinin Farina. Shortly after Ferrari launched its replacement, dubbed the 375 America. This car was powered by an even larger version of Lampredi's V12 that was similar to the final Formula 1 version of the engine and displaced 4.5 litre. In this guise the 'long block' V12 had not only powered the F1 cars to victory but it was also found in a wide variety of sports racers. In street spec the engine was still good for a very impressive 300 bhp. That chassis was virtually identical to that of its predecessor's with the exception of an again longer wheelbase.
The 375 America was launched alongside the 250 Europa at the 1953 Paris Auto Salon. Both names are a clear indication of the intended markets and a closer look revealed that both cars were very similar. The only real difference was found under the hood where the Europe targeted featured a smaller 3-litre version of the Lampredi engine. The standard body for both cars was a Pinin Farina styled Coupe but not surprisingly quite a few of the 375 America customers opted for custom coachwork from Vignale. The twelfth and final example was even more special as it featured a completely unique Pinin Farina body built to the specific demands of Gianni Agnelli. In 1955 the 375 America was replaced by the even larger engined 410 SuperAmerica.
This is the fifth 375 America and the fourth of a total of eight examples with the 'standard' Pinin Farina Coupe body. Through Belgian importer Garage Francorchamps, it was sold to its first owner Alois de Mencik. He raced the car quite successfully in rallies and on track. The de Mencik family held onto the car for over 30 years. Since then it has been in the possession of the famous Ferrari collector Henri Chambon. It is seen here at the 2006 Retromobile where it was displayed on the stand of Swiss broker Lukas Huni.