After the short production run of only 23 340 Americas, Ferrari made an even shorter-lived model called the 342 America, with just 6 total models sold in 1952. Even though only 6 were sold, this new 4-seater was designed as a milder version of the F1-inspired 340, with a broader appeal meant to draw in a wider customer base. Whereas the 340 was basically a road-going race car, with one example winning the 1951 Mille Miglia, Ferrari took the edge off for the 342; you can think of the 340 as a 599 GTO and the 342 as a standard 599 GTB Fiorano. The 342 was the second in the line of range-topping America models, starting with the 340 and ending with the 365 California.
While it used the same 4.1-litre V12 as the 340 America, a 220-bhp powerhouse that propelled 340 America to a reported top speed of 150 mph, it had been detuned to produce 200 bhp in the 342. This represented one of the first uses of the new Lampredi-designed V12 engines in a production Ferrari. Compared to the Colombo designs that had previously been used, these engines featured a larger bore, making for a longer engine block. For this reason, many people refer to the Lampredi engines as the “long block.” To make things even more civilised, the 342 also used a new, all-synchromesh 4-speed transmission that was friendlier to the average driver.
While the very first 342 was a cabriolet designed by Vignale, the remaining 5 were all Pininfarina designs, in both coupe and cabriolet form. Compared to the 340, the wheelbase had been extended a considerable 230 mm, from 2420 to 2650. Combined with a wider front and rear track, this surely made for a more comfortable, stable ride compared to the race-ready 340 America.
One black Pininfarina-designed cabriolet was built specifically for Leopold III, disgraced former king of Belgium. Rumour has it that the engine in that particular model had been modified to produce somewhere in the neighbourhood of 300 bhp, making it a particularly desirable model for collectors.
Images Copyright of RM Sotheby’s