The Ferrari 340 Mexico was the quintessential summary of Ferrari in the early 1950s: purpose-built for racing, very fast, with exotic styling that, in theory, would not look out of place on the street.
The Ferrari 340 Mexico was built to compete in the Carrera Panamericana.
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It rumbled out of the workshop in 1952, its name signifying the target venue, Mexico’s grueling Carrera Panamericana race, which Ferrari won in 1951. The 2,000-mile competition was staged over five days and eight different legs. The results were well-publicized in America, an increasingly important market for Ferrari.
The Ferrari 340 Mexico’s coachwork was some of the most extravagant designed by Giovanni Michelotti and constructed by Alfredo Vignale. It was yet another in their run of unique, often startling designs. How did they do it?
“The perfect analogy is they were like two people playing double’s tennis,” explained Franco Gavina, a friend to both men. “It was two people working together as a team, where they almost instinctively knew what the other was thinking and what they would do.”
Just four Ferrari 340 Mexicos were produced: three coupes and one spyder. The engine was a revised version of the roadgoing 340 America’s 4.1-liter V-12. A modified camshaft, different carburetors, and other changes added some 60 horsepower, for a total of 280. The transmission, a 4-speed in the Ferrari 340 America, was a 5-speed here to handle the high speeds found in sections of the Carrera Panamericana.
The Ferrari 340 Mexico featured the most extravagant coachwork to date for Ferrari.
The spyder was not entered in the race, leaving the three coupes to carry Ferrari’s banner. One crashed on the first leg. A second lost its transmission during day three. The last, driven by Jean Lucas and three-time Le Mans winner Luigi Chinetti, soon to become Ferrari’s U.S. importer, came in third overall, behind two Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs. Finishing fourth was a modified Ferrari 340 America with Ghia coachwork.
Interestingly, it was the spyder that went on to have the longest competition career. Research by Ferrari historian Marcel Massini showed the car being raced in America into 1955. It frequently finished in the top five.
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