Ferraris Invade Beverly Hills
Ferrari California T with wind-swept spatter paint greets spectators at the Santa Monica Boulevard end of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, where the marque’s 60th year in the U.S. was celebrated.
Ferrari 166 MM Number 0008, the car in which Luigi Chinetti won Le Mans in 1949, driving all but 20 minutes of the 24 hours himself.
You might expect that Liugi Chinetti’s performance in 166 MM 0008 at Le Mans in 1949 won him some gratitude from founder Enzo Ferrari. It did. Chinetti became exclusive Ferrari distributor for the U.S. It has been said that Ferrari only sold road cars so that he could go racing, and Chinetti had the business acumen, the foresight, and the connections to find people with the money to buy these exotic cars.
Ferrari began building road cars in 1947. The earliest were open two seaters called “barchettas” (bar-ket-ah – Italian for “little boat”). Carrozzeria Touring built this Superleggera (super light) Barchetta that was featured in the 1948 Turin Auto Show. It was sold to West Coast enthusiast Tommy Lee – the first Ferrari in America.
When mainstream American cars had only just begun to replace flatheads with pushrod overhead valves, relying on big displacement to summon enough horsepower to move their ponderous sheet metal, a tiny two-seat car with an improbably sophisticated overhead cam 122 cubic inch 9,000 rpm V12 with rows of carburetors must have been a hard sell here.
The last Barchetta had a larger “212” V12, indicating 212 cc times 12 cylinders, or a bit over 2.5 liters (155 cubic inches). The longer wheelbase gave it a sleeker look, and the chrome wire wheels and wide whitewall tires (a contribution of the Firestone family) gave it an American feel appropriate for a car for Henry Ford II. The car is now one of the Crown Jewels of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
North America briefly (1950-1954) had its own open road endurance race, the Carrera Panamericana. Ferraris won it in 1951, 1952 and 1954. This car, Vignale Spyder 340/375 0268 AM, won the 1000 Kms of Nürburgring. Later, with Phil Hill and Richie Ginther driving, it was narrowly beaten in the Carrera by the similar Ferrari 375 Plus of Umberto Maglioli.
The Mille Miglia, 1000 miles on narrow public roads in Italy, was a different sort of race than Le Mans, but for native Italian Ferrari, winning there was as big a deal. The last time the race was run, in 1957, Italian racing legend Piero Taruffi won it in his last drive as a racer, in this 3.8 liter 315 Sport, Chassis number 0684.
This Testa Rossa began life as a 4-cylinder 500TR (500 cc times 4 = 2 liters or 122 cubic inches) and was updated with the Columbo Tipo 125 V12, creating a lightweight 3-liter 250TR. Called by some the winningest Ferrari, it logged over 25 victories under racers like Richie Ginther and Ken Miles. It currently lives with the first production Cobra (among other gems) just a block west in Bruce Meyer’s collection on the second floor of an old commercial garage.
In 1959 this 250 Tour de France, 1321 GT, won the 1000 Kms of the Nürburgring, then went on to win the GT class at Le Mans, third overall behind the winning Aston Martin DBR-1 co-driven by Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori .
250 TR/60 0774 TR won its first race, the 1000 Kms of Buenos Aires, in 1960, then went on to win Le Mans outright that year, with endurance master Olivier Gendebien and Paul Frère, later Road & Track European correspondent, sharing driving duties.
Intended to compete in the GT class, the mid-engine 250 LM 5893 was denied GT homologation because fewer than 100 were built at the time. Still, competing against prototypes in 1966, it was the last Ferrari to win Le Mans outright before the Ford onslaught, with Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory driving for Luigi Chinetti’s N.A.R.T
There were only 10 Ferrari 275 GTS/4 N.A.R.T. Spyders built. One was driven by Faye Dunnaway’s character opposite Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair, and later by racer and hall of fame journalist Denise McCluggage to 2nd place in the 1968 12 hours of Sebring. In 2013 a one-family example sold for a then-record $25 million plus commission, a price no doubt inflated by the fact that all proceeds went to various charities. This is 9751, one of only two that were built with an alloy body
Being in Beverly Hills, the exhibits highlighted some Ferraris made famous by the entertainment industry. This 308 GTSi, 38527, from the Petersen Automotive Museum Collection, had to have its seat rails modified so that Actor Tom Selleck’s head didn’t hit the roof when playing P.I. Thomas Magnum in the eponymous TV series. Even so, they had to remove the Targa top whenever filming the car with Tom in it. Seeing the car in the Museum’s Vault he pronounced it the most uncomfortable car he ever sat in, possibly because they also removed most of the cushion’s stuffing.
The N.A.R.T. Spyder in The Thomas Crown Affair impressed Steve McQueen enough that he ordered one for himself. That car got rear-ended, and while it was being repaired, he bought a coupe version, mounting the Spyder’s Borrani wire wheels in place of the coupe’s Cromodoro alloys, and adding the custom side mirror. Last August, the restored car established the current “McQueen Bump” selling for $9.25 million plus commission at the RM Auction in Monterey, 2.7 times the sale price of a similar car at the same auction.
Since the last production-based car won Le Mans in 1979, Ferraris have competed in GT classes. This 430 GT was modified for racing for Houston-based Risi Competizione. It won the GT class in 2008. Behind it is a 458 Italia GT Daytona, the Ferrari that won multiple championships with various private racing teams. One of these won the 2014 24 Hours of Daytona
As stated in our coverage of the 2014 Concorso Italiano, since the beginning of the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship in 1950, Ferrari is the only team to have contested it every year, winning 16 times and holding the lap record on eleven of the 19 current F1 tracks. This is their latest F1 car, the F14T. Powered by a turbocharged 1.6 liter V6 with Energy Recovery System and making about 750 hp at 15,000 rpm, its highest placing in 2014 is 2nd with three races remaining.
The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash was run by Car and Driver honoring trans-continental record runs by Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, starting in 1915; and protesting speed limits that resulted in travel times longer than Baker posted in the ’20s. The race only required that participants log in at the starting point in NYC and at the finish in Redondo Beach, California. Despite snow in the Rockies, Car and Driver editor Brock Yates and Le Mans winner Dan Gurney won the 2nd race in under 36 hours, averaging 80 miles per hour. This is their Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, Chassis 14271. They were cited only once for speeding, Gurney stating that at no time did they exceed 175 mph.
No amount of clever prose can convey the impact of so many historic and sleek Italian machines on the observer. On top of that, being Ferraris, they cannot be properly experienced without hearing them. The Best of France and Italy Concours (In Woodley Park off the Burbank Boulevard exit from the I-405, south of the Van Nuys Airport) is on November 2 this year. Arrive early and listen to the cars as they arrive.
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