16-17 August 2013
1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spider by Pinin Farina
- Chassis no. 0364AM
Sold for $9,075,000
- The 1954 SCCA National Champion
- Commissioned, owned, and raced new by legendary gentleman driver Jim Kimberly
- Single-family ownership since 1968
- Exhaustive and extremely well-documented restoration
- One of only twelve 375MM Spiders
- The only 375MM Spider with unique pontoon-fenders, liveried in unique “Kimberly Red”
Today, the tales of the great privateer racing drivers of the 1950s are nothing short of legendary; they are the stuff of adolescent racing dreams and are characterized by independently wealthy and dashing gentleman drivers who drove daringly behind the wheels of the greatest sports racing cars of the day. The likes of Briggs Cunningham, Miles and Sam Collier, Bill Spear, and Jim Kimberly immediately come to mind, as not only pioneers of American road racing, but also as examples of stateside appreciation for the racing machines that came out of Europe. The Automobile Racing Club of America, and subsequently Sports Car Club of America, became the hotbed of high-revving, paint-trading competition, where Ivy League-educated sportsmen drove the latest Ferraris, Astons, and Maseratis at tracks like Watkins Glen and Sebring, with little more than driving goggles, an open-faced helmet, and gloves to protect them.
Few drivers embodied this era as fittingly as James H. Kimberly. “Gentleman Jim,” as he was often known, was the grandson of one of four founders of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which produced Kleenex and a variety of other paper products. He was certainly to the manor born, but his family instilled in him a strong work ethic, resulting in his summers spent shoveling coal at a paper plant in Canada. During the winter months, the dashing Jim evidently enjoyed racing ice boats on Lake Winnebago, and during World War II, he served his country in the Navy.
His college years at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology were marked by a friendship with Harley Earl—a friendship that lasted many years and would later influence the color of his cars. He raced airplanes, sport fished, sailed, and, ultimately, developed an interest in sports cars, which began most notably with a Jaguar XK120, the first destined for the United States, courtesy of a personal friendship with Bill Lyons and Lofty England. Driving the car back from Chicago, he stopped by the races at Watkins Glen, where he witnessed Zora Arkus-Duntov at speed in his Allard, before returning to the Midwest, where fellow Chicago natives, including TV personality and Ferrari owner Dave Garroway, persuaded him to enter the races at Palm Beach in 1950.
His foray into Ferraris began later the same year, when he raced in the first-ever six-hour Sebring event in a Ferrari 166, finishing 1st in class, ahead of Luigi Chinetti in Briggs Cunningham’s 195. In fact, before the design of the unique 375 MM ever even entered his imagination, Jim Kimberly enjoyed an extraordinary racing career. He won the first ever event at Elkhart Lake and raced in Argentina and across North America, including at Pebble Beach, where he rolled his Ferrari, after fighting for the lead against Phil Hill, walked away unscathed, and then later took Ginger Rogers to the dance!
As outlined in an exceptional biographical article for Vintage Motorsport by Carl Goodwin, Kimberly raced eight different Ferraris throughout the 1950s, beginning with the 166, then a 195S Berlinetta, two 340 Americas, the subject 375, and concluding with a 121LM, a 375 Plus, and even a 625 LM Spider. Aside from his remarkable prowess on the track, Kimberly also had a memorable personality, an infectious magnetism, and tremendous style. His Kimberly racing team members wore tailored red driving suits, waiters were attired in matching red jackets, and racing trailers were appropriately liveried and immaculately presented. In 1955, Popular Science declared, “Scuderia Kimberly is breathtakingly elegant in all aspects.” In fact, the Ford vans in his racing entourage had an addition built onto the top so his friends and spectators could watch the entire race. There was certainly a bit of flash and eccentricity woven into his personality, as evidenced by the gold earring that he frequently wore—a remnant of his Navy days and the special ceremony bestowed on sailors who have crossed both the international dateline and the equator.
Handsome and silver-haired, he kept company with the likes of Jean Padgett, Mel Torme, and Gary Cooper, and at Kimberly-Clark, he served as an essential manager for 37 years, before selling his multi-million dollar interest in the company. He had three daughters and fashioned a large, elaborate garage behind the family home in Neenah, Wisconsin.
By 1958, Kimberly’s racing career, star-studded with his favorite number, 5, on the side, started coming to an end. He remained involved here and there, sponsoring the Jack Brabham-piloted, one-of-a-kind Kimberly-Cooper T-54 at Indianapolis in 1961 and serving as president of the SCCA and Grand Marshal at a variety of races and concours events. He retired in Palm Beach and lived many of his later years in a 12-room mansion, enjoying the company of such luminaries as King Hussein of Jordan (who later bought his house), Don Aronow of Cigarette Boats, and the rest of Palm Beach high-society. Aside from all the glitz and glamour, Kimberly was known to his closest confidantes as an extraordinarily generous man who gave freely to charity and supported the less fortunate.
A Bespoke 375 MM
During the 1953 season, Kimberly’s 4.1 Vignale Spider was quite competitive, even finishing 3rd in championship points, but the car’s brakes sometimes faded from overheating, which prevented the driver from truly taking advantage of the 340’s raw power and torque. As a preferred Ferrari customer, Kimberly had an open dialog with the Maranello factory about this issue, and he soon clarified that he wanted specialized bodywork on his next Ferrari, in the interest of improved brake cooling.
Pinin Farina, which had earned the contract to body customer versions of the 375 MM competition berlinetta that debuted at Le Mans in June 1953 (and really made a name for itself at the subsequent Carrera Panamericana), truly outdid themselves when crafting the body for Kimberly’s new car. By late 1953, the design firm had already built the first two examples of the twelve spider bodies that would eventually adorn the 375’s Type 102 chassis. For this third car, however, they took innovative measures to accommodate Kimberly’s request, resulting in a rather influential piece of work, which Kimberly himself evidently sketched out for them.
Cutting away the trailing sections of the fenders behind the wheels, Pinin Farina crafted one of the earliest examples of a pontoon-fender sports racer, paving the way for Scaglietti’s yet-to-be-born 250 Testa Rossa, which is more commonly credited as the design’s progenitor, and dozens of other purpose-built sports racers. The new coachwork was to be the only such body ever mounted on a 375 chassis, making the resulting car a one-off and absolutely stunning, particularly when considered in profile. It should be noted that this one-off 375 was Sergio Pininfarina’s first full commission, which he made known to Dave Cummins at Meadow Brook in 1989.
Chassis 0364AM was the eighth of twenty-six 375 MM examples that were eventually constructed, and it completed frame assembly at the Maranello factory on September 21, 1953. Four days later, it entered Pinin Farina’s plant to receive its innovative bodywork. In addition to the important fender design, the body featured such performance cues as a large hood scoop to improve air flow to the prodigious F1-derived Lampredi V-12, a single windscreen, and a rear-centered external fuel filler for optimal weight balance. The car’s paint is a shade of red that was mixed by General Motors’ color lab and dubbed Kimberly Red, after Kimberly called his old friend Harley Earl at GM and asked him for help in designing his own special color.
Taking delivery of the rousing 375 MM, Kimberly, who had visited the factory repeatedly to monitor the progress of the car, decorated the car with #5 and proceeded to do nothing less than dominate class C Modified competition during the forthcoming season. Before he could even begin, however, SCCA scrutineers did not take kindly to his unusual, new Ferrari, as they were unsure if it assisted with brake cooling or if it actually improved turbulence in the wheel wells. Evidently, it wasn’t until fellow privateer racer John Fitch put in a word that the matter was dropped, so long as a three-inch tab was inserted in the wheel well.
According to SCCA results, and the recollection of Kimberly himself, 0364AM was entered in 20 races during the 1954 season, resulting in 16 overall wins and 17 class wins (see adjoining table). Taking advantage of the lightweight spider’s legendary acceleration and handling on tight, short courses (for which it was the factory’s competition choice of the period), the 375 won a majority of the SCCA races held at U.S. Air Force bases, starting with the Festival of States Trophy on January 31 at MacDill Air Force Base (AFB) in Tampa, Florida, where it also claimed the Governor Dan McCarty Memorial Trophy with a 1st place finish. Four successive 1st overall finishes followed at Hunter AFB, Bergstrom AFB, and Andrews AFB.
On May 2, the car experienced its first and only DNF of the year at the President’s Cup at Andrews’ AFB; Kimberly was leading in the last lap, and then he lost a connecting rod. A seemingly unstoppable run of 1st place finishes rounded out the year’s calendar, including a win at Wilmot Hills, Wisconsin, on August 1, and a 1st in class and 2nd overall at the International Sports Cars Grand Prix at Watkins Glen on September 18.
Finishing the season with two more 1st overall finishes at Akron Airport in Ohio during October, the car experienced its first non-podium finish at its final race of 1954, an atypical 6th place at March AFB in California on November 7 (Kimberly was slowed down by a hay bale late in the first lap and, although he recovered enough to finish the race, he did not take the checkered flag). At the end of the ’54 season, his commanding points-total resulted in being crowned the SCCA’s 1954 Class C Modified National Champion and the winner of the Most Improved Driver Award, which has since been renamed the Kimberly Cup in his honor. In fact, he had earned 9,500 points, 5,500 more than his rival Bill Spear.
Kimberly clearly intended to campaign the successful Ferrari during the 1955 season, and he dutifully trucked the car to Sebring early that year. Unfortunately, fate intervened with an accident during transit that resulted in damage to the body. An IndyCar builder was retained to repair the coachwork, and in the process, the original cutaways of the rear fenders were eliminated and replaced with standard ones. Kimberly entered the still unpainted car at Beverly, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1955, with bare aluminum coachwork, finishing 1st in class (2nd overall), but the magic was gone. He decided to participate in one final race with 0364AM, at Elkhart Lake’s Road America, on September 11, 1955, where he finished in an ignominious 7th place. At that point, Kimberly was already contemplating his next racing Ferrari, and the 375 MM would not remain in his stable for much longer.
In late 1955, Kimberly sold 0364AM to its second owner of record, Richard Lyeth, of Detroit, Michigan (owner of Lyeth Engineering), who clearly had a more characteristically American slant on the car’s competition potential. Intending to campaign the car in high-torque sprint races, Mr. Lyeth eventually removed the original Lampredi V-12, which, at the time, was a remarkably difficult motor for a stateside enthusiast to repair without readily accessible spare parts, and replaced it with a supercharged Corvette 283 cid engine, with the assistance of an engineer from GM. Further modifications included the addition of a Quick Change rear differential and a headrest mounted into a new rear fin on the bodywork, in the style of Jaguar’s concurrent Le Mans-winning D-Type. Interestingly, the Lyeth Hi-Tork differential was advertised in Hot Rod Magazine, as Lyeth was trying to market the technology to rod owners.
As an aside, 0364AM’s original V-12 was sold by Lyeth to a Ferrari enthusiast and hydroplane racer in Houston, who fitted it to one of his boats with the intention of racing. After colliding with a log during an initial practice run in a shipping lane, the boat unfortunately sank, and the Ferrari engine is believed to remain at the bottom of Galveston Bay.
Renaming the 375 MM the Hi-Tork Special Number 1, and decorating it with #91, Mr. Lyeth entered 0364AM in events that ranged from Road America to Watkins Glen, even winning the LASC Green Acres on July 5, 1958, and the modified class at Harewood Acres two weeks later. On May 14, 1960, the car achieved its final competition measure of note, taking 2nd place at the LASC Green Acres in its last known racing performance.
Later that year, Lyeth sold the Ferrari to Dick Londrigan, who only kept the car a brief time before passing it on to Allen Berlinski, of Detroit, a stylist at General Motors. Mr. Berlinski reportedly used 0364AM (still fitted with the 283 Chevy engine) as a road car, which must have appeared quite unique given the car’s rear-finned revision. After seven years, and a frustrating roundtrip to New York through the rain in the open sports car, Mr. Berlinski decided to sell the car in 1968 to the consignor, who has retained possession ever since.
Single-Ownership for a Half Century
Enthusiasts would be hard-pressed to consider a more appropriate subsequent owner than Mr. Charles Weiss, the gentleman driver, engineer, and aficionado who has lovingly tended to this car for 45 years, and the one who oversaw its remarkable restoration, which was finished just in time for the 1989 Meadow Brook Hall Concours d’Elegance in Michigan.
A true enthusiast with an appreciation for mechanical ingenuity and perfection, Weiss was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, worked at a Ford dealership as a young man, and served in the Marine Corps in the early 1950s, all before earning his engineering degree, which segued into a career as a steering, suspension, ride, and handling mechanical engineer at Ford for most of his career (1968 to 1995). It has been a remarkable career; one that is highlighted by him conducting test track work with 100-mph lane changes, pushing the limits of safety with test cars, and working with Jackie Stewart as a consultant for Ford. Privately, he raced on the SCCA circuit in the early years, when Kimberly was at the tail-end of his racing career, and he continues to own the 1955 Ford Thunderbird that he bought new in 1955 and raced from 1956–1959.
In 1956, and the following two years, his driving prowess saw him hold the C-Production lap record at Watkins Glen for over a year. Racing was a passion that started for him in 1955, when he bought his beloved Thunderbird, and despite thinking that he had a great sports car, he was quickly confronted by the likes of Austin-Healeys and even Gullwings on the track. So he joined the SCCA in Pittsburgh and first raced in a novice race at Cumberland the same year, but, as testament to his driving and engineering abilities, he eventually won the C-Production class, beating Corvettes and Jaguars in the process. As he recently put it, “A lot of people laughed when we showed up in the Thunderbird, but nobody was laughing when we left!”
The following two years saw him race at Nassau against competitors from all over the world. At one event in particular, he sat on the starting grid with Bill Lloyd and Carroll Shelby alongside him and none other than Fon de Portago behind him. A verbal agreement and a wink between Weiss and Portago saw the Marquis jump the start and move to the inside of Weiss, who was photographed entering the first turn hot on de Portago’s tail, with Shelby and the others remarkably far behind.
In fact, Mr. Weiss currently owns 26 cars, all but three of them Ford products, with several of them being Lincolns, Thunderbirds, and Mustangs. Perhaps it should be noted that although Kimberly was a Ferrari racing enthusiast, he was also a lover of American cars and privately drove Lincolns and Cadillacs.
In 1968, when Weiss bought 0364AM from Berlinski, he was certainly part of the glory years in Detroit’s automotive history. Weiss, who was an excellent engineer, started to get deeply involved in the hobby with many of his friends and colleagues, and eventually developed a reputation as a Thunderbird expert. In speaking over the phone with a gentleman who wanted help with buying a T-Bird, Weiss was informed about another Detroiter who apparently had a Ferrari sports car sitting in a garage under a cover.
Weiss agreed to a price and wasn’t quite sure what he owned at first, but he viewed this new project as something that he could continue racing with. Certainly the car looked considerably different with a tailfin and a Chevrolet motor, but, thankfully, the car had not been extensively modified in front and the engine mounts had not been damaged.
Confirmation of the car’s identity came with the serial number and old issues of Road & Track. Although he intended to race the car, the restoration would prove to be quite time-consuming, but it was a task that was heroically undertaken in 1988, as a labor of love, with the assistance of a team of engineering colleagues. It was completed in time for the unveiling at Meadow Brook the following year—an esteemed concours event for which 0364AM graced the cover of the race program.
A friend at Ford brought in newly uncovered photographs of the car in period, as did Jim Kimberly, both of which greatly aided the restoration process. While Weiss himself was previously turned away at the doors of Pininfarina, GM styling chief Chuck Jordan, who had close ties with the coachbuilder, lent assistance, as he confirmed for Weiss that there were never any design drawings of the car at Pininfarina; the entire rear of the car, for example, was entirely done by hand and on the spot. He also combined the product of the Italian coachbuilder’s talent and the vision that Kimberly had in mind and relayed it to Pininfarina from overseas.
While the hydroplane accident clearly ruled out sourcing the car’s original AM-designated Lampredi V-12, the possibility remained that the 375 had an original spare engine somewhere. Like many privateers, Mr. Kimberly had retained spare engines for his cars if the need arose, and as his memory later served, he had sourced an engine expressly for this purpose. It took many years for a proper 375 MM engine to become available, and after joining the Ferrari Club of America and regularly staying informed, Weiss finally discovered 0436AM. According to many Ferrari enthusiasts, the motor was never officially fitted to any chassis. Fresh research in this regard has revealed the existence of official Ferrari factory documentation, which confirms Kimberly’s account. As revealed by an official Maranello period invoice, this engine was originally sold by the factory to Mr. Kimberly as a spare for 0364AM, proving that the owner’s restoration reunited the car with one of its two original engines, making for the purest, most authentic drivetrain presentation possible.
Jim Bartel and Bud Bennett, of Restored Memories, contributed to the chassis and body restoration project, while Dave Cummins, of Chrysler Styling, was singularly responsible for the body design. Fellow Ford engineer and 375 MM owner Fred Leydorf was a vital contributor to the search for parts and overall research. Jim Quinlan, of Ford Styling, contributed to such components as the interior and upholstery.
A rear body in Pinin Farina’s original 1954 dual-cutaway, pontoon-fender style was crafted under the direction of Cummins by Ed Scutchfield, of Scutchfield Metal Shaping in Michigan, and a fresh coat of paint in the original shade of Kimberly Red was applied by Ray Kowalski and Jim Quinlan, after color was approved by Kimberly. Mr. Weiss (with invaluable help from Leydorf) conducted extensive research to uncover many of the car’s original details, in the interest of administering as accurate a restoration as possible. This pursuit led to repeated direct contact with Kimberly, who shared recollections of the 375 MM and his documentation of the car’s racing record.
Completing restoration in 1989, chassis 0364AM enjoyed immediate exhibition success, as it was shown at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance in August 1989 (as a feature car, but it was not judged), where the Ferrari was the featured poster car for the races and participated in an officially staged public reunion with Jim Kimberly. Two weeks later, Weiss showed the car at the Monterey Historic Races and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
In 1990, the arresting Pinin Farina Spider was presented at the Eyes on the Classics design show at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, where it won First Place. The car subsequently took First Place at the Montefiore Concours d’Elegance and ran at the 1991 VMCCA National Meet, where it took home 1st in class, Best Race Car, the Judges’ Choice Award, and a Gold Award, for vehicles shown for the first time and score over 95 points. The car was also shown (and this time judged) at Meadow Brook in 1990, where it took Best in Circle and earned the Peter Helk Award for Best Race Car.
Chassis 0364AM Today
Exhibited at a handful of concours and FCA events over the following three years, 0364AM has been featured in several marque publications, including Ferrari yearbooks and the January 2002 issue of Cavallino magazine. The car is accompanied by numerous valuable and historically significant accessories, including Jim Kimberly’s actual race helmet (an English-style riding helmet that he also used for ice boat racing in the 1930s), five competition trophies (including the Watkins Glen 1st in class in September 1954), Jim Kimberly’s personally embossed 1954 volumes of SCCA magazines (with 0364AM featured on the cover of the May/June issue), and a copy of a 1989 Meadow Brook poster that is signed by Mr. Kimberly.
And what of its driving dynamics? Mr. Weiss recently recalled his first serious outing with the car, “I drove mine for the first time on the track at Laguna Seca in practice. It was very easy to drive, and if you drive it well, it’s very friendly and tremendously enjoyable. I can certainly see how at home Kimberly was in this car. Compared to some of the other Ferraris he owned, this one was one of his best driving. It goes like a son of a gun!”
Mr. Weiss continued, “I first heard a 375 MM run at Cumberland in 1955. Briggs Cunningham had one of these, and there were three brand new Maseratis at the event, too. The flag dropped, and when I heard that Ferrari roar by (driven by Sherwood Johnston), I simply couldn’t believe it! I was sure there was nothing that could wail like that and last for a three-hour race…it would surely blow up. But sure enough, the Ferrari ran beautifully, and I never forgot that sound.”
With an airtight chain of documented ownership that features just five caretakers, including a current period of care exceeding four decades, this restored and well-documented 375 MM Pinin Farina Spider is one of the most extraordinarily desirable vintage Ferraris to become available in some time, offering rarity, racing provenance, limited ownership, and historic documentation. The car’s beautiful and highly influential one-off coachwork would be immeasurably valuable even without the chassis’ notable competition pedigree, but the racing record and chain of ownership truly distinguish it from a small and elite handful of such cars. This 375 MM is, bar none, a benchmark blue-chip Ferrari of the highest order, one whose availability is a singular, once-in-a-lifetime event.
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