The Ferrari 340 America by Touring was used on
both the street and the race track. See more Ferrari images.
To civilize it for use in Ferrari’s road cars, the 375’s V-12’s bore and stroke was decreased to produce a displacement of 4.1 liters, and its compression ratio was lowered. The result was installed in the Ferrari 340 America, for which Touring, Ghia, and Vignale produced an array of open and closed body styles. These cars were used on both street and track, depending upon the commissioning client’s order.
The “America” moniker belied Ferrari’s keen commercial instincts and the growing importance of the U.S. market. America was a land of affluence, where everything was bigger, including the size of the client and his appetite for luxury. Thus, in 1952, the Ferrari 342 America was born.
Compared to the Ferrari 340 America, the 342 boasted a longer wheelbase, wider track, a more tractable engine, and an easier-to-use gearbox with four speeds instead of five. It was also much more luxurious, as evidenced by its greater weight.
The Ferrari 342 America marked the emergence of Pinin Farina as the preeminent coachbuilder on Ferrari chassis. This Turin-based carrozzeria was founded by Battista “Pinin” Farina. Pinin started in the industry when he was barely a teenager at his brother’s carrozzeria, Stablimenti Farina. He rose through the ranks and was soon working closely with many of Stablimenti Farina’s most important clients. He also traveled to America and had an audience with Henry Ford, who offered him a job.
But Pinin wanted his own firm, and in May 1930, he started S.A. Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. His first commission came from auto manufacturer Vincenzo Lancia, a friend and a confidant who had encouraged him to go independent. “You are an artist,” Lancia told him, “(and) I represent the long arm of engineering.”
The Ferrari 340 America by Touring showed off both open and closed body styles.
Pinin Farina’s reputation grew, and after the war, he was but a “signature car” away from recognized greatness. That car was 1947’s Cisitalia 202, which basically invented the postwar berlinetta, or fastback, look. Subsequent berlinettas from Farina, Ghia, and Vignale on Ferrari and other chassis clearly derived from Pinin’s seminal shape.
Enzo Ferrari watched Pinin’s ascent with admiration. “I … had dealings with some of the greatest names in the business … all of them eager to build bodies for our cars,” Ferrari noted in his memoirs. “What I wanted for my cars was character and I found it with the help of Giovanni Battista Pininfarina.”
Pinin was just as enamored with Ferrari. “It was his character which interested me,” he wrote in his autobiography Born with the Automobile, “as tightly closed as a walnut, disdaining the bonds the world proffered … (I)t was obvious that for some time he was looking for his ‘own’ coachbuilder with whom he could establish a new kind of harmony.”
The two men had been acquaintances for the better part of 30 years but, thanks to strong egos, each rebuffed overtures to visit the other’s factory. The dance continued for several months until they decided to meet halfway, in the town of Tortona.
Pinin assigned the Ferrari account to his son Sergio, then just in his 20s, and the first Pinin Farina body appeared in June 1952 on a handsome Ferrari 212 Inter cabriolet. This was followed by a coupe that used very similar design language, and Pinin Farina went on to make a brief series of 212s, each minutely different.
Pinin’s Ferrari 342 Americas continued these design themes, but the 342s had a regal air with a body that appeared slightly lower and elongated than the 212s’. The first was a cabriolet ordered by King Leopold of Belgium. A second cabriolet went to Luigi Chinetti in America. Pinin then made three Ferrari 342 America coupes. The last of the six 342s made was a cabriolet by Vignale.
That Pinin Farina was responsible for the majority of Ferrari’s most prestigious models in 1952 was a taste of what the future held in store.
The Ferrari 342 America by Pinin Farina emphasized a focus on luxury and style.
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