20 August 2011
Lot 248

1953 Ferrari 375 America Coupe by Carrozzeria Vignale


$1,980,000 USD | Sold

United States | Monterey, California



Chassis No.
0327 AL
Engine No.
0327 AL
Body No.
Addendum: Please note this vehicle was built in 1953, but titled as a 1954.

300 bhp, 4,523 cc V-12 engine, triple Weber 40DCZ3 dual-choke carburetors, four-speed all-synchromesh manual gearbox, oval-section tubular steel ladder-type chassis, independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms and transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 110.2"

- One of 12 original 375 Americas and one of the two Vignale-bodied coupes

- The 1954 Geneva Salon show car

- Highly documented history; high-profile owners; featured in Ferrari by Vignale

- Matching-numbers engine; presented as it was at Geneva in 1954

In the early 1950s, Enzo Ferrari (almost reluctantly, some suspect) began to manufacture road-going Gran Turismo cars, often at the request of his wealthiest racing-car customers. Everything except the coachwork was built in-house, while such famed coachbuilders as Ghia, Touring, Vignale and Pinin Farina provided an array of hand-built bodywork.

Following the 340 and 342 America models of 1950 to 1953, the 375 America continued to cater to Ferrari’s elite road-car buyers who desired a large-displacement, high-horsepower road car with bespoke styling and a luxurious and quiet passenger cabin. The ladder-type, tubular steel 375 America frame, with its 110.2-inch wheelbase length, was virtually identical to that of the contemporary 250 Europa. Ferrari’s then-typical underpinnings included front and rear leaf-spring suspension, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes and Borrani wire-spoke wheels.

However, the big difference from the 250 Europa was under the hood, with the 375 America powered by an Aurelio Lampredi-designed 4,523 cc “long block” V-12, the largest engine offered by Ferrari at the time. Power output reached a heady 300 bhp at 6,500 rpm, courtesy of relatively high compression ratios ranging between 8.0:1 and 8.5:1, plus a trio of twin-choke Weber carburetors. A four-speed manual gearbox offered synchromesh on all forward gears, still more evidence of the 375 America’s drivability and refinement.

Capable of accelerating from rest to 60 mph in under seven seconds and a top speed approaching 160 mph, the 375 America provided near racecar performance while coddling its occupants in a rich, leather-trimmed interior environment for high-speed, high-style cross-country travel. Predictably, the 375 America was considered one of the world’s ultimate grand touring automobiles in period, and owners included such industrial entrepreneurs as Howard Keck and Giovanni Agnelli, as well as Franco Cornacchia, the Ferrari dealer, Scuderia Guastala principal and racing driver with 60 starts in the 1949-1956 period. While the 375 America was not originally intended for competition, one (0317 AL) finished second overall in the 1954 Geneva Rally with the Belgian driving team of its owner, Alois De Mencik Zebinsky and Jacques Swaters of Ecurie Francorchamps fame.

Today, the 375 America continues to intoxicate Ferrari enthusiasts and collectors as one of the storied marque’s first road-going models. Then, as now, exclusivity is assured with Ferrari experts placing total production at just 12 units. Completely hand-built, bespoke creations, no two 375 Americas are entirely alike, and their production was a lengthy process. Commensurate with their style, luxury and performance, pricing was stratospheric at approximately $10,000 when new. The majority of 375 Americas wore Pinin Farina bodies, with just two cloaked in distinctive and muscular coupe bodywork by Vignale, including the car offered here, 0327 AL, the first of the pair to be built.

Chassis 0327 AL

Originally finished in burgundy with a silver roof and tan upholstery, 0327 AL, the car offered here, is based upon the seventh of the 12 375 America chassis originally built by Ferrari. Interestingly, while it displays the same general body styling as chassis 0313 EU and 0337 AL, the head- and tail-lights of this particular car are different. Once completed, 0327 AL was fitted with temporary Bolognese license plates “BO 32117” and sent to Switzerland in preparation for its display from March 11-21, 1954 at the XXIV Annual Geneva Motor Show.

In mid-1954, 0327 AL was exported to the USA, where it was sold to its first owner, Robert C. Wilke, who owned the immensely successful Leader Card Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was also a long-running and highly successful Indianapolis 500 racing-team sponsor. By 1964, the car was known to have been refinished in metallic blue, with its original small taillights having been replaced by larger US-specification units. In 1974, the car was inherited by Robert Wilke’s son Ralph, who sold it that year to Dr. Robert E. Steiner, also a resident of Milwaukee and under whom it was Wisconsin-registered as “CG 4659.” As such, 0327 AL was later depicted on page 176 of the book Ferrari by Vignale, written by noted Ferrari historian Marcel Massini and published in 1993.

Subsequent ownership history continues on March 16, 1983 when a new Wisconsin title was issued for the car in the name of Rosalie Ann Steiner of Shorewood. On September 20, 1984, 0327 AL was sold to Ed Jurist's Vintage Car Store in Nyack, New York, through which it was again sold on November 23, 1984 to David L. Coffin, a resident of Sunapee, New Hampshire. During Mr. Coffin’s tenure, 0327 AL was featured in the February/March 1986 edition of Cavallino, and then in 1986, he sold 0327 AL to Thomas Barrett.

Next, 0327 AL was acquired by Fritz Kroymans, the official Ferrari importer for The Netherlands. Under his tenure, 0327 AL was described and pictured in the December 1993/January 1994 edition of Cavallino magazine, this time within a piece written by Marcel Massini on the Ferraris owned by 0327 AL’s first owner, Robert Wilke. Mr. Kroymans retained 0327 AL within his noted Ferrari collection until 2010, when the current owner acquired it.

In late January of this year, 0327 AL was displayed at the XX Cavallino Classic in Palm Beach, Florida, and most recently, the car was returned to its original Geneva show colors, with original paint samples of the burgundy for the body and the silver for the roof located on the car and used to correctly match the colors. In addition, the original small taillights, which were swapped for larger units under Robert Wilke’s ownership in period, were returned to the car. The dash of 0327 AL was also refinished in correctly matched burgundy paint, and the rest of the interior remains original. In addition, the undercarriage and engine bay are well detailed.

Cloaked in its handsomely hand-formed Vignale bodywork, presented exactly as it first appeared at Geneva in 1954 and retaining its original, matching-numbers V-12 engine, 0327 AL is powerful, luxurious and exceedingly rare as one of only 12 examples of the 375 America originally produced. Accordingly, it epitomizes the pioneering era of Ferrari road-car development, and it is certain to remain one of the most fascinating and highly coveted classic Ferraris ever created.

Please note, this car is titled as a 1954.