Among the many beautiful and wildly valuable vintage Ferraris that will be up for auction next month on the Monterey Peninsula is Mecum Auctions’ terrific headliner, a rare 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Spider with an evocative racing history and back story.
Built for the rigors of endurance racing, the V12-powered Ferrari 375 MM is also remarkably handsome with coachwork by Pinin Farina, which demonstrated the Italian design company’s mastery and cemented its long-term relationship with Ferrari.
Chassis Number 0362AM has a racing pedigree of dominance in major sports car events under the ownership of Southern California construction magnate Anthony Parravano. The car’s complete history of competition and ownership is well-documented.
According to Mecum, which holds its “Daytime Auction” August 14-16 in Monterey, the Ferrari is being offered for the first time in 46 years from private ownership in the collection of two retired California college professors, Charles Betz and Fred Peters. The owners are responsible for the car’s “spectacular restoration” that brought it back from its scattered remains.
This 375 MM – one of 16 built with the Pinin Farina spider body – is revered as the most successful car “in Scuderia Parravano’s brief but dramatic reign over West Coast sports car racing in the 1950s,” Mecum says in its catalog description.
Ferrari designed the 375 MM around existing components, using a 340 MM chassis with the 4.5-liter, 340-horsepower V12 engine that had been developed for a stillborn Indianapolis 500 project. Weighing just 2,000 pounds, a 375 MM Berlinetta set a lap record in 1953 at the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans before retiring. Later that year, another 375 MM took fourth place in Mexico’s Carrera Panamericana, sealing the first of Ferrari’s many Manufacturers World Championships.
Number 0362AM was damaged by fire during the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1955, repaired and put back on the track just two weeks later to win the road race in Palm Springs. The car was wrecked a short time later in a rollover crash at Bakersfield, after which Parravano opted to modify the car and shorten its wheelbase to compete in the 1956 Carrera Panamericana. The plan was scrapped after the Mexico race was among those canceled in the wake of the massive disaster in 1955 during the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Anthony Parravano ran afoul of the IRS and in 1957 with his business troubles mounting, he sent a number of his other cars to Mexico to prevent them from being seized. The cars were put in storage and later sold by the family. Mysteriously, Anthony Parravano vanished days before a 1960 court date, never to resurface again.
The modified chassis of the 375 MM Spyder, which was in the process of being rebuilt by Scuderia Parravano, was resold several times and raced continuously in various forms in major races and SCCA events, piloted by such renowned drivers as Dan Gurney, Bob Bondurant, Skip Hudson, Don Hulette and Otto Becker.
In 1968, Betz and Peters purchased the rolling chassis and spare wheels, and then set out to locate the original missing components. Many of the parts were found among the vast inventory of Bob Sorrell, whose father had purchased them from the Parravanos, including the ID plate, a cutoff frame section, firewall, passenger seat, hood, door, metal tonneau, radiator, dashboard, windshield frame, driveshaft and gearshift knob. The body parts were readily identifiable by the unique maroon paint applied by Parravano technicians, while other clues determined the authenticity of the rest.
The reconstruction and restoration were undertaken by Steve Beckman of Beckman’s Metalworks in Costa Mesa, California, with the help of 1954 and 1955 photos of the original car provided by the Parravano family. The car has been returned to its original configuration and Rosso Corsa paint scheme as produced by Pinin Farina, and powered by an identical V12 engine from another 375 MM Spider, number 0376.
After completion, 0362AM was presented at the Ferrari Club of America meet in Indian Wells, California, in November 2012. In August 2013, the Ferrari was entered in the Carmel Concours on the Avenue, where it won best of show honors.
Mecum will auction the 375 MM on August 16, the final day of its sale at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort and Spa, the company said.
While Mecum has not provided a pre-auction estimate, a similar 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spyder with unique pontoon front fenders was sold by RM Auctions at its 2013 Monterey auction for $9 million.