Ferrari 340 America

ferrari 340 america by touring
The Ferrari 340 America by Touring was used on
both the street and the race track. See more Ferrari images.

The Ferrari 340 America came about in the early 1950s. Ferrari was battling Alfa Romeo for supremacy in grand prix racing. To tip the tide in his favor, Enzo turned to Aurelio Lampredi, a gifted engineer with a background in the aeronautic field. Lampredi responded by designing the “long-block” V-12, so called because the distance between adjacent cylinders was some 20mm greater than in the Colombo V-12. The long-block engine made its grand prix debut in 1950 as a 340-horsepower 4.5-liter aboard Ferrari’s 375 F1 single-seater.

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.”

ferrari 340 america by touring
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.

ferrari 340 america by pinin farina
The Ferrari 342 America by Pinin Farina emphasized a focus on luxury and style.

Learn about these other great Ferrari Road Cars:

166 MM
250 GT SWB
365 CaliforniaTestarossa
212 Inter
400 Superamerica
365 GT 2+2
F40
340 America
250 GTE
365 GTB/4 Daytona
348
375 America
250 GT/L Lusso
365 GTC/4
456 GT
375 MM
330 GT 2+2
512 BBi
F355
250 Europa GT
500 Superfast
400i
F50
250 GT Boano
275 GTB/4
308 GT4
550 and 575
410 Superamerica
275 GTS
308 and 328
360 and F430
250 GT Coupe
Dino 246 GT
Mondial
Enzo
250 GT Spyder California
330 GTC
288 GTO
612 Scaglietti

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