*Superb example of marque and model
*A race winner in its debut meeting, driven by Phil Hill
*Front cover car in 'Road & Track' July, 1955, issue
*Feature story Ferrari in 'Road & Track' July, 1965, issue
*Defining Pinin Farina body style launched the Ferrari 250GT line
*Powerful 3-litre three-carburettor V12 engine
THE FERRARI 250 MILLE MIGLIA BERLINETTA
The Ferrari 250 Mille Miglia was tailor-made to compete in frontline long-distance races, following upon the success of the pioneering 3-litre V12-engined 250S Coupe driven by Giovanni Bracco in the 1952 edition of the round-Italy thousand-mile road race. At the 1952 Paris Salon de l'Automobile exhibition, Ferrari showed a more conventional chassis for the new modello 250 3-litre V12-cylinder engine, for which the artistry of Carrozzeria Pinin Farina then created two-seat closed-cabin bodywork with aggressive 'potato-chipper' nose-grille treatment, a muscular, tucked-down tail and panoramic rear window – the defining Ferrari Berlinetta form. The new model was launched at the 1953 Geneva Salon as the Ferrari 250 MM (for Mille Miglia).
It was based upon a longer-wheelbase chassis than the 250 S at 2420 mm (95.3 in), with the Berlinetta version some 50 kg (110 lb) heavier than the sister 850 kg (1,874 lb) open-cockpit Barchetta which accompanied it. The V12 engine's dry sump was omitted for the production car, and four-speed transmission was adopted instead of five-speed. Power output increased to 237bhp (177 kW; 240 PS).
The 250 MMs made their race debut in the early-season 1953 Giro di Sicilia – round-the island – road race in Sicily, driven by wealthy young gentleman-driver Paolo Marzotto. The veteran Clemente Biondetti then drove a Morelli-bodied 250MM Barchetta home fourth in the 1954 Mille Miglia.
In May 1954, 'Road & Track' tested future World Champion Phil Hill's own sister Ferrari 250 MM and recorded 0-60 mph acceleration in just 5.1 seconds, 0-100mph in 13.7. "Never before have I accelerated so rapidly, traveled so fast, or decelerated so suddenly," wrote R&T's Technical Editor.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
Here Bonhams is delighted to offer this simply outstanding example of Ferrari's first 3-litre V12-engined Gran Turismo family – launching the line that extended over the following decade to give us the abiding 250 Tour de France, 250 GT Short-Wheelbase and 250 GTO models.
This magnificently-styled, Pinin Farina-bodied, two-seat Berlinetta was sold new to American enthusiast and racer Bill Devin of Fontana, California, in 1953. It was the 17th of 31 Ferrari 250 MMs to be built overall, and the 11th of the 250 MM Pinin Farina Berlinettas, being fitted with their body number '12230'.
Factory records tell us that mechanic Sghedoni completed the car's rear axle assembly on March 2, 1953, ready for fitting. Workshop foreman Amos Franchini signed-off the gearbox on March 13 and on April 14 the car's V12 engine was completed by mechanics Turchi and Zagni, under Franchini's watchful eye. The car's chosen steering box was date-stamped that same day, and on April 15 and 28 the engine was dyno-tested by Storchi and Agnani. On May 5 the chassis frame was readied by Cioni and Nicolini and two days later it was delivered to the Pinin Farina plant in Turin, to be bodied.
On July 1, 1953, '0312 MM' offered here was signed-off as complete, and it was sold through US agent Luigi Chinetti to his customer, Bill Devin. He made his public debut in this inspiringly aggressive-looking new Ferrari at the Sports Car Club of America San Francisco Region's 3rd Annual Members' Madera race meeting on September 20 that year. He promptly finished third in the novice event before handing over '0312 MM' offered here to fast-rising Santa Monica star driver Phil Hill who promptly won the main event there that day. The late, great, Phil Hill would of course go on to win the Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship title as a works Ferrari team member in 1961.
Bill Devin subsequently appeared with this Ferrari 250 MM – resplendent in the American white-and-blue racing livery it still retains today – at Stead Air Force Base in October, 1953, while his brother Gene Devin drove it at March AFB that November. In June 1954 the car was advertised for sale in the monthly journal 'Road & Track' and it was snapped-up by Ken Heavlin who ran a luxury car garage at Grosse Point, Michigan. He part-exchanged a Deutsch-Bonnet Panhard for the Ferrari, which he took to Wacky Arnolt's showroom in Chicago. We understand it was then consigned to Ypsilanti, Michigan, dealer Tom Payne who loaned it to the Henry Ford Museum for their annual 'Sports Car in Review' show.
Still wearing Bill Devin's original blue-striped, overall-white, US racing livery, the car was featured in a memorable front cover photograph on the July, 1955, edition of 'Road & Track'. Into 1955 it was again advertised, repainted by this time red with a white stripe. From him it passed subsequently – in 1959 – to Paul Lohmann (who rebuilt the engine) and then to Dr James W. Myers – both of Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was registered in Michigan as 'HS 3887'.
The "one-time racing Ferrari..." was advertised in the classified ad section of the February 1961 issue of 'Road & Track'..." and that ad brought into the story William A. Lester – a Convair propulsion engineer of San Diego, California. He owned a 1952 Ferrari Export Ghia Coupe and wanted a car with more competition performance. He responded to the magazine advert and bought '0312 MM' sight unseen. It was shipped by air to Burbank, and trucked from there to Mr Lester's home.
The July 1965 issue of 'Road & Track' carried a feature story on '0312 MM' quoting Mr Lester's recollection of the car's delivery: "I'll never forget its arrival in Burbank. I was on hand to watch them unload. There were signs on every window – 'Fragile, aluminum body, take special care'. A fork lift gently lowered the car from the plane. Slowly the lift inched the car toward the ground. An inch or two from the asphalt the pallet suddenly shifted. The car rolled off the pallet toward the nearest shipping crate. A sickening crash told me it had hit, nose first...".
Fortunately damage was superficial and was quickly made good. The 'R&T' story went on to describe how the car's very spartan interior featured bare aluminium seats and an uncarpeted alloy floor pan. A roll-over bar had been fitted which prevented use of the passenger seat, and which was quickly removed. The seats were then upholstered in black naugahyde, instrument panel re-finished with black crackle paint, the cabin carpeted and the whole car re-sprayed with GM Swift Red. The magazine story told how "Lester's objective has been to build a competition touring car with concours possibilities..." and how due to contemporarily heavy road traffic "The last time he took the car to his office he was in second gear all the way". Interestingly – remember this was in 1965 – the story mentions "It is interesting to note that, financially, the 12-year-old Ferrari is still a sound investment. Originally, the car sold for about $13,000. Comparable versions today are priced at $16,000. The current value of Lester's Coupe is somewhere around $45,000...". In some ways, times have not changed...
On May 30, 1967, Mr Lester eventually sold his much admired, enduringly classic, Ferrari 250 MM Berlinetta to Peter L. Tennant of Houston, Texas, who re-registered it locally as 'NPF 633'. Jack P. Reuter of St Louis, Missouri, became its next owner in April 1968 – new registration 'PG8 094'. He then sold it on after a year to John Carmack of Indianapolis from whose tenure it was sold by prominent enthusiast/dealer Kirk F. White of Philadelphia, PA, whose name would become familiar to racing fans the world over for his later sponsorship of Penske Racing's Ferrari 512M endurance racing Coupe and the team's assorted Indianapolis race cars.
On June 9, 1973, the car was finally re-sold by Mr Carmack through John Delamater to furniture dealer Norman Silver of High Point, North Carolina. He then passed it on in 1983 to the well-known racing team patron, oilman John W. Mecom Jr of Houston, Texas.
By 1986 this beautifully-proportioned, aggressive-looking Gran Turismo had been returned to its native land, joining the collection of that most respected of connoisseurial collectors, Count Vittorio Zanon di Valgiurata, resident in Turin. He co-drove the car in that year's Mille Miglia Storica event, using temporary registration plates numbered '38289 A6' and in 1987 it again attacked the daunting thousand-mile course from Brescia to Pescara, across to Rome, and then back to Brescia via Florence and Bologna.
Count Zanon sold it then to Rudi Pas/Classic Car Associates in Holland, who found a Japanese buyer in Mr Shimada. However, the car was quickly returned to Pas and it was in the winter of 1987-88 that this Ferrari – with its early-career Phil Hill Californian connection – was acquired by Fabrizio Violati of Rome, Italy, and had at last found a settled and truly caring enthusiast home.
Fabrizio Violati then entrusted this Ferrari Berlinetta to his daughter to drive in the 1989 edition of the historic Mille Miglia retro event. It then appeared repeatedly in the annual thousand-mile round-Italy run, while being maintained, preserved and displayed in-between-times within Signor Violati's superb Collezione Maranello Rosso. Luigi 'Coco' Chinetti drove the car in 1993 during Violati's 40th anniversary Ferrari 250 tour in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.
It has always been very highly regarded as a particularly fine example of its marque and model.
Since 2000, following the Maranello Rosso Collection's re-housing within fine new premises at Falciano, '0312 MM' has remained one of its most desirable, mouth-watering and evocative of Ferrari stars. It was painstakingly restored many years ago with its original-scheme Bill Devin 1953 exterior livery, and extensively quilt-padded interior trimming in dark blue.
We would leave the last words upon this highly desirable and intensely useable race/rally/touring Ferrari Berlinetta to the Collezione Maranello Rosso's own pamphlet description: "The most significant thing about this car...is that chassis no. 0312"- more correctly its 250 MM line – "...was the first time that car designer 'Battista 'Pinin' Farina worked with Enzo Ferrari, who at that time was best known for manufacturing powerful engines. Chassis no. 0312 was the curtain raiser on true Ferrari style, an innate elegance which was soon to become known around the globe". Indeed...