Normal Ferrari models with a special bodywork mounted on their chassis are nowadays hard to imagine. Of course there are a few exceptions, for example the Touring Berlinetta Lusso, but nowadays customers are generally bound to the designs ex works. This was different in the 1950s. Those who could afford it or wanted it had the chance of sending the chassis of their new Ferrari to coachbuilders such as Touring, Zagato or Ghia in order to get an individual one-off car. Among these customers was Robert C. Wilke, the manager and owner of the Leader Card Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He expressed his love for speed by sponsoring a team at the Indianapolis 500 from the 1930s until his death in the 70s. His own team won this great race in 1959, 1962 and 1968. Privately, he enjoyed driving exotic sports cars. As Enzo Ferrari’s personal friend, his collection naturally also included his products. Over the years he owned seven Ferrari cars, most of which were fitted with special bodies. Although they had to be designed as conspicuously as possible, Wilke at the same time demanded the possibility to be able to drive his cars everyday. He didn’t want them to be pure showcars.
The most historically important Ferrari from his possession and at the same time probably the most striking was his fourth with the chassis number 0467AM, the penultimate built 375 MM with the Lampredi-developed V12 engine. This delivered approximately 340 hp by the use of three Weber type 42 DCZ 3 carburettors and an ignition system by Magneti Marelli. Instead of receiving a bodywork at Pinin Farina preparing it to race on circuits, this chassis was sent to Ghia in Turin in November 1954 on behalf of Wilke. Until the following spring, the sensational Coupé body made of alloy over a steel inner structure was built there. Altogether only nine 375 MM received a Coupé bodywork and only this one came from Ghia. At the same time it was the last Ferrari ever to get a coachbuilt bodywork by Ghia. In terms of design, it followed forms which were also used in the same period for the DeSoto Adventurer II concept car or the Supersonic Coupés based on some Fiat 8Vs, Jaguar XK120s, an Aston Martin DB2/4 or an AC Cobra 427. The long bonnet is followed by a passenger cell with a semi-fastback roofline. Air outlets are integrated into the B-pillars. Subtle tail fins with integrated rear lights can be found further back.
Until today this Ferrari shows its original colors ‘Salmon’ over ‘Anthracite metallic’, set off with various chrome details. Designed this way, Ghia exhibited the 375 MM together with the famous turbine-powered concept car Gilda at the 1955 Turin Motor Show. A month later the Ferrari finally reached the garage of Robert Wilke via the dealer Luigi Chinetti. He kept it until the end of his life, had safety belts by International Harvester retrofitted in 1969 and only drove the car for about 12,000 kilometers in total. After his death, his son Ralph sold the 375 MM to Dr. Robert E. Steiner in Milwaukee in 1974. Ten years later he sold it through the Vintage Car Store in Nyach, New York, to the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, California. Another three years later, the car moved into the collection of Erich Traber in Europe, who showed and drove the Ferrari at various evetns. In the workshop of his Sportgarage Graber, the V12 engine underwent an extensive overhaul.
Since August 2007 the Ferrari 375 MM Speciale by Ghia belongs to its current owner and has only been seen at a few events since then. A few years ago it was repainted in its original colors. The leather interior built by Ghia remained in the car to show its beautiful patina. Currently, the mileage is just below 13,400 verifiable kilometers. Ferrari gave a Classiche certification to the car, which proves that until today the original engine, the original gearbox and the original differential are in the car. Now RM Sotheby’s is looking for a new owner for this unique car during the Monterey Car Week. The hammer price is expected to be between five and seven million US dollars.
Images: RM Sotheby’s, Darin Schnabel, Carrozzeria Ghia