1954 Ferrari 375MM Pinin Farina Spyder
Chassis Number : 0412 AM Horsepower : 340 Displacement : 12-cylinder, 4.49 L Wheelbase : 110.2"
Many historians subdivide the racing Ferraris by the design engineers. This is probably because the respect earned by Vittorio Jano, artist of the great pre-war supercharged Alfa Romeos. After the war, however, Ferrari hired Giachino Colombo, who was responsible for the great V12 engines which launched Ferrari’s racing career and led to the dominance already noticeable by the time the 375MM was conceived. However it was Aurellio Lampredi who was to ideate a completely new V12 in a 4.5-liter light alloy block. Most of the cars had the tipo 108 engine, as indicated on our build sheet, which featured double-overhead cams with a compression ratio of 9:1 and a fearsome 340 brake horsepower.
Twenty-six cars were made of which 19 had bodies by Pinin Farina, 12 of which were in Spyder form. Their race history was exciting. They were successfully campaigned by private owners in the United States. Of course the greatest victory was the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans in which a 375 Plus (with a 4.9 liter engine) version won easily. The Lampredi engine, however, was relatively short-lived, and when Ferrari went perforce to the three-liter form, the Colombo version which powered the 250 Testa Rossa, the 250GTO and the rear-engine cars became the motor of choice.
This car is one of the classic Pininfarina spyders, differing from the others in that it has a fixed headrest like the four plus models built by the same carrozzeria. It was sold to the Roman dilettante Pietro Palmieri who had a class win in the September 26th Giornato dei Primati race at Castelfusano driven by Franco Meloni. By 1955 the car was in Los Angeles, owned by the racing stable of John Edgar, but it was sold, a year later, to actor William Holden. There are several pictures of Holden with the car including one in the famous1974 Ferrari Red Book, which was published long after Holden’s ownership. Ultimately Horace Jeffrey obtained the car in 1960, and he was subsequently the long-term owner of this vehicle which he cherished and cared for during the latter years of his life. He did take it to Bonneville where he is pictured in the 1960 soft back, Best Hotrods by Griffith Borgeson who reviews the Bonneville National Roundup with pictures of Jeffrey in this car proudly achieving 165 miles per hour.
Subsequently Jeffrey meticulously restored the car, paying great attention to every detail of Ferrari of originality. She was always in excellent condition having been in only one race, and retaining all of its parts including the rare belly pan. There was not much for Jeffrey to improve on the car, mechanically and cosmetically, and after he was fully satisfied, he enjoyed the 1988 and 1990 Mile Miglia Other than careful attention, its play time was spent mainly at Ferrari National Concours such as were held in Washington DC, Grand Rapids Michigan, and Palm Beach Florida where he usually had a podium finish.
I always admired the car because of its originality and although it did not have a significant race history, there were very few of the 12 Spyders made which had not suffered the ravages of time and racing. Perhaps only a third have their all-original components. Its graceful lines belie its hectoring shark-like frontage which snarls “Get out of my way”.
I knew of this great car but had no way to access the elusive Mr. Jeffrey. However, local world’s Ferrari expert, Bob Dusek, informed me of the car. His great respect in the Ferrari world transmitted credibility to the owner, and, with Bob as the internuncio, a deal was crafted. Bob Dusek was one of the very first individuals to carefully document Ferrari racecars, to determine their originality, location, and particularly to make sense out of the serial numbering system in order to verify authenticity.
During his decades of collecting, he was able to acquire the most provenancially pristine racers, being specifically cognizant of original bodies, serial numbers, engines, and all the important details which go to make a historically correct car. His criteria of authenticity have always driven and verified our own. I’m proud to say that Bob is one of the initial four members of the Board of our Foundation, where he has served very actively in so many different ways.
After Jeffrey sold the car it has had careful use. Its power, excellent braking, and superb handling, considering the fact that its 4.5 liters generate 340 horsepower in a car weighing less than 2,000 pounds, all still suggest a potential handful. Yet after brief familiarization, the power is easily managed, and safe cornering is possible with care.