This Ferrari Never Finished Le Mans, But You Could Change That
Photography Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Le Mans: just hearing the name sends a montage of iconic cars racing through my head. From Bugatti to Porsche and nearly everything in between, the daring exhibition of speed and nerve has been raced for nearly a century, since the first in 1923.
These machines are all special, they’re all relatively fast, and in their respective eras they were (often) the peaks of automotive ingenuity. Regardless of where they placed on result spreadsheets, Le Mans competition cars should be commemorated for just having been entered into the event—this 1951 Ferrari 340 America Barchetta makes a good point of that.
In the earliest days of 1951, chassis 0116/A began construction. By May 2, the triple Weber 40 DCF breathing 4,100 cc 60-degree twelve-cylinder and five-speed manual transmission were fitted to the naked rolling chassis. At 6,500 rpm, the Tipo 340 heart pumped out more than 317 Italian ponies—no laughing figure in 1951 and still quite a lot today.
After buttoning-up the mechanicals, Ferrari forwarded the engine-equipped chassis to the metal-magicians at coach firm Carrozzeria Touring. Touring crafted the all-aluminum lightweight no-frills open-top bodywork in typical Barchetta style. We like Barchettas for their typical partially framed windscreen, large bass-mouth-like front intake and lack of bumpers—many, like this 340, are completely topless…adding-lightness is the goal here.
Suited-up in a well-tailored superleggera suit, this slippery Touring-bodied 340 found its way back at Ferrari HQ for final testing before being handed over to its first owner, Pierre Louis-Dreyfus. Mr. Dreyfus was a World War II veteran with 81 bombing missions under his wing. After the war, he took over an extremely lucrative business that fueled his inner petrolisti. Having raced in a number of Le Mans events, Louis-Dreyfus was well-known among event regulars—his first race was behind the wheel of a Bugatti Type 43 in 1931 and he most notably finished in second in an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 in 1935.
What’s an experienced racer to do with a recently acquired, bespoke Ferrari 340? Enter it in Le Mans after just one week of ownership! Dreyfus’ Ferrari was just one of nine entered in the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans and one of four 340 Americas. Dreyfus hired motorsport legend Luigi Chinetti and Bugatti wheelman Louis Chiron—yes, that Chiron.
With a powerful stallion and experienced auto-jockeys, you’d think the Dreyfus team would be unstoppable, considering the Barchetta purebred’s ~150 mph speed down the Mulsanne Straight! Chiron started the event and almost immediately began a toe-to-toe battle with a competing Ferrari 340, though was Chiron was so preoccupied with the close competition he missed a vital pit stop signaling and ran out of fuel!
One of the team’s mechanics rushed to the thirsty racer with a can to refill the tank—the Dreyfus team was back in the race! Shortly after, Chiron returned to the pits so Dreyfus could take the wheel. Unfortunately, the event director Charles Faroux black-flagged the Dreyfus 340 due to illegally refueling the car outside the pit. After only 29 laps, the team was disqualified. Though, it’s worth mentioning that inside of that time, number 16 placed the 11th fastest lap time of the entire 24 hour event!
Determined to complete the event in chassis 0116/A, Dreyfus entered the car in the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans. This time, René Dreyfus (of no blood relation to Pierre Louis-Dreyfus) shared wheel time with Pierre, and Chinetti remained the team mechanic. Qualified starting in 15th, the Dreyfus Barchetta moved up to 14th before falling out of the event just five-hours in due to a slipping clutch—bad luck had struck again.
Chassis 0116/A went on to race various other events but never again in Le Mans—its prime-time competitiveness had passed. After exchanging hands a number of times, in 1964 it was acquired by famous Ferrari collector Pierre Bardinon and was added to his Collection Mas Du Clos. The retired racer was restored in Modena and sold to Italian politician Giuseppe Medici before being purchased by Belgian based Italian enthusiast Ennio Gianaroli.
Ennio raced the car in the 1990 and 1998 Mille Miglia and attended the Ferrari 50th Anniversary Meet in both Rome and Modena in 1997. The current owner entered the car in another five Mille Miglias among other events and displayed the car at the 2008 Concorso d-Eleganza Villa d-Este.
This numbers matching 340 America Barchetta was recently restored to its former ’51 Le Mans specifications and presents in beautiful mechanical and aesthetic condition, proudly wearing its original number—we love the Tetris-esque digits in the grill.
If you’re in the market for a vintage racer with Le Mans championships, this isn’t the car for you. But if you’re seeking a car with guts and a try-hard attitude, we’re not sure there’s a better candidate available—we’d take it to Le Mans Classic and aim for first, finally.
– Formerly of the renowned Pierre Bardinon Collection Mas du Clos
– Entrant in the 1951 and 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans
– The third of twenty-three 340 America built; the second of eight bodied by Touring
~317 horsepower, 4,100-cc Tipo 340 60-degree V-12 engine with three Weber 40 DCF carburetors, five-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with transverse leaf spring, rear solid axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,420 mm.
Chassis no.: 0116/A
Engine no.: 004/A
Gearbox no.: 9A