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Lot 221: Ferrari 400 Superamerica Series I Coupé Aerodinamico

Automobiles d'Exception a Retromobile, Bonhams (23 January 2010)

Enzo Ferrari's relationship with Battista Pininfarina reached fruition with the beautiful and stunning 400 Superamerica Coupe Aerodinamico, introduced at the 1961 Geneva Salon. The two men combined their abilities and talents to create what is now considered to be an automotive masterpiece of the twentieth century. As the 1950s came to a close, Ferrari automobiles still reigned supreme on the world's race tracks. The Ferrari 246 enabled Mike Hawthorn to win the 1958 World Championship, the last time a front engined Grand Prix car would do so. Ferrari sports racing and grand touring cars dominated their respective categories. In 1960, then 62 years old, Enzo Ferrari was on top of his game. At the same time, almost as if by fate, 67 year-old Battista Pininfarina had succeeded in becoming the preferred coachbuilder to Italy's most famous automobile maker. He had proven himself to be not only a great designer and coachbuilder, but a major manufacturer as well. Like Ferrari, he had achieved world-wide success and recognition. Battista Pininfarina's graceful, pleasing lines profoundly defined the state of automotive design in the decades that followed World War II. The concept of the acclaimed Coupe Aerodinamico dated back to the mid 1950s, when Pininfarina developed partially covered rear wheel openings and faired in headlights on the Alfa Romeo Superflow. The 1956 Ferrari Superfast I show car, although festooned with fins, exhibited the same thinking. The mature themes were exhibited on Superfast II, the star of the 1960 Turin Auto Show. While the Superfast II was a one-off show car, the design, with a few changes such as the use of fixed headlights rather than pop ups, was essentially the same as the 'production' 400 Superamerica Coupe Aerodinamico show at Geneva the following year. Discussing the series of the Ferraris known as America, Super America (or Superamerica) and Superfast can be confusing. They were always big cars for big customers, (cars for the 'ridiculously rich' as Mike McCarthy, writing in Classic and Sportscar, put it). The 340, 342, 375, and 410s used the large block Lampredi engine. These top-of-the-line Ferraris were called Americas, until the advent of the Superamerica series which began with the 410 in 1955. In 1962 the 410 Superamerica was replaced with the 400 Superamerica. And what of the 'Superfast'? Initially the Superfasts I-IV were a small series of showcars, and the name was transferred to the 500 Superfast, which followed the 400 Superamerica. The 500 Superfast series ended in 1967 and with it the era of custom built Ferrari cars. In terms of numbers, the America, Superamerica and Superfast series of cars built by Ferrari from 1951 to 1966 totaled only 162 chassis. From the start, the big luxury Ferraris were so exclusive and esoteric that changes and details went unnoticed by the automotive press. This was no doubt intentional, as most of Ferrari's customers at that level had no desire for publicity, no matter how elegant or ostentatious the car. As factory records eventually divulged information to eager historians, the list of first owners read like a name dropper's dream; Emperor Bo Dai of Viet Nam, his wife Princess Nam Phuong, Count Graf Fritz Somsky, Shah of Iran, Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, President Juan Peron, and the king of comedy, Peter Sellers. Superfast II, as we have seen, was the prototype for the magnificent 400 Superamerica Coupe Aerodinamico. Mechanically, the 400 Superamerica was almost entirely new. Dispensing with the big Lampredi engine, Ferrari returned to the Colombo block with its 90mm distance between bore centers. The bore was increased to 77mm, and a new crank allowed a stroke of 71mm for a displacement of 330.62cc per cylinder. The total displacement, therefore, was 3967cc. Heads were of the outside plug type with coil valve springs, while either Weber and Solex carburetors were employed. The new engine was designated the 163, with a horsepower rating of around 340. Following Ferrari practice, the 400 should have been named the 330 Superamerica, but it was the first Ferrari to forgo the traditional method of model nomenclature based on the displacement of one cylinder. Exactly what "400" meant has never been definitely ascertained. Some say it indicated horsepower, ("somewhat optimistic," wrote Antoine Prunet) or the four liter engine (too vague). What it did do was differentiate the model from the previous Superamerica 410, which was a different car altogether. Ferrari's car for kings was a joy to drive. The chassis was conventional Ferrari: large diameter tubular ladder-type with coils and double wishbone suspension at the front, and a solid rear axle located by semi-elliptic springs. Koni shock absorbers helped transform it, as did the four wheel disc brakes (Dunlop), which received rave reviews. At least in some cars, (each one was a bit different in options and features) there was a four speed transmission with electric overdrive, and a single plate dry clutch isolated the transmission from the engine, providing a light clutch action. The steering was as light and sensitive, accurate and yet without power assist. Driving the 400 Superamerica was a delight; powerful, solid, comfortable and nimble, despite a test weight of over 3700 pounds. Such were the basics of the 400 Superamerica, produced in two series between August 1959 and October 1963. The first twenty-five cars were built on a very short wheelbase chassis of only 242cm. The first five chassis numbers of the 400 Superamerica series were not Coupe Aerodinamicos, but two special coupes and three cabriolets, all by Pininfarina. Of the remaining, seventeen were the streamlined coupes with both open and covered headlights. The second series consisted of another twenty two cars, eighteen of which were Coupe Aerodinamicos, but were built on the normal short wheelbase chassis of 260cm. Despite a fear of being trite or repetitious, it must be stated once again that photos of the 400 Superamerica Coupe Aerodinamico rarely if ever truly capture this absolutely stunning design. Like many works of art, it was not fully appreciated in its own time. Its rarity was such that some critics may not have laid eyes on the actual car, judging it by mere photographs. In person, one is impressed by the relative small size, a visual impact heightened by the tight, rounded lines that flow harmoniously throughout the length of the car. The cabin area integrates well with the streamlined body, yet provides excellent visibility on all corners. It is masterpiece of beauty and functional form. All street Ferraris built and designed before the 400 Superamerica led to this moment; all Ferraris afterward were in some way compromised by either overwrought design (one might think of the 365 GT California) or changing circumstances (purchase of Ferrari by Fiat, changing labor conditions and the death of Pininfarina in 1966). Ferrari historian Marcel Massini compiled a brief history of the Ferrari Superamerica Coupe Aerodinamico chassis 3221 SA. It was completed by Pininfarina on January 30, 1962 with a Pininfarina body number 99519, built on the short wheelbase (242cm) series one chassis. The original exterior color was bianco (white) and the interior was appointed in grigio (gray) Connolly hides. Chassis 3221 SA was the 12th of the seventeen streamlined coupes and featured the highly desirable optional covered headlights and sported the chrome trimmed small intake on the hood. The factory lists the internal engine number as 36SA . First sold to Franco-Brittanic Autos, which was the official Ferrari importer to France, it was delivered new to Hubert Charpentier of Paris. Nobility was apparently involved in the ownership history as one early owner is listed as being a Marquis de St. Didier. In 1986, a famous French connoisseur of art rescued the Coupe Aerodinamico. Alain Dominique Perrin had recently been promoted to be the head of the Directorship of Cartier International and Cartier SA and had also created the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris. Perrin recognized the importance of the 400 Superamerica and had 3221 SA completely rebuilt in Italy. After a few more years in France, in 2005 Philippe Lancksweert of Belgium purchased the car and had it completely restored by Carrozzeria Bachelli and Villa in Modena, who returned the coupe to its original Bianco color with light gray Connolly leather interior. The current owner acquired the car in 2007. Since then, 3221 SA has been maintained by Phil Reilly & Company in Corte Madera, California, where new ring and pinion gears have recently been installed. The four speed transmission is augmented by the electric overdrive, which serves as a fifth gear. The engine number stamped on the crankcase is the correct 163/10854. In the trunk is the Ferrari tool kit. The car is ready to be enjoyed by both the lucky driver and onlookers. In 1963, Road & Track had the rare privilege of testing Bill Harrah's 400 SA Coupe Aerodinamico. Harrah's car, chassis 2861 SA, was very similar to 3221 SA in many details. After cruising through Nevada at speeds over 135 mph, the authors of the road test wrote "...we can honestly say that to own a car such as this would be the ultimate in automotive satisfaction." True then, true today. Cars such as this amazing Ferrari 400 SA Coupe Aerodinamico - the perfect blend of two of Italians greatest artisans--are rarely available on the market. This is a unique opportunity to own one of the greatest Ferrari automobiles ever built.

Lot Details
Auction Automobiles d'Exception a Retromobile
Bonhams, Porte de Versailles, Paris
Lot Number221
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number3221SA
Engine number3221SA
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2