Feb. 17th 2012 – Car of the day (Ferrari’s) Car #3
-One of just seventeen 250 MM berlinettas and arguably the most charismatic
-Significant period racing history with Pierre Noblet
-Fully certified by Ferrari Classiche and ‘matching numbers’
-Eligible for every top level historic event and ready to go
“In today’s world the 250 MM looks lean and lithe, more of a whippet compared with later ‘60s Ferrari greyhounds…With all the scoops, bulges and vents on the taut bodywork and its aggressive stance on those widely spaced Borrani wires shod with large racing rubber, there is no doubting this is a competition car…” Octane magazine on ‘0310MM’, March 2008.
The Ferrari 250 MM is significant as the design which established the Colombo-engined 3-litre configuration as the basis of Ferrari’s fabulously successful 250 series.
This Ferrari 250 MM is even more interesting because it was built for Dr. Enrico Wax, serial purchaser of special bodied Ferraris, and was the first ‘top tier’ race car for noted post-war privateer Pierre Noblet. One of only seventeen of the thirty-one 250 MMs built to be bodied as berlinettas by Pinin Farina, it established both itself and its second owner, Pierre Noblet, as forces to be reckoned with in competition.
During the early Fifties Ferrari had two powerful V12 engines to work with, the original V12 designed by Gioacchino Colombo and its much larger successor designed for the 4 1/2 litre Grand Prix Formula by Aurelio Lampredi. While the Colombo engine could be stretched to the then-limits of metallurgy and machining accuracy to give three litres, the Lampredi engine was easily sleeved and de-stroked to displace three litres, but was heavy and bulky for the power it developed. Ferrari built two three-litre series in 1952-53, the Colombo-based 2,400mm wheelbase 250 MM which was described by Ferrari as producing 240 horsepower and the Lampredi-based 2,800mm wheelbase 250 Europa cataloged at 200 horsepower, to test each configuration.
The short wheelbase 250 MM proved to be the more successful and satisfying three litre automobile, thus assuring the continued development of the Colombo engine upon which so much of Ferrari’s reputation and the company’s racing and commercial success were based.
Also significant in the 250 MM’s history is Pinin Farina’s emergence as Ferrari’s coachbuilder of choice with this series, bodying well over half the 250 MMs built (and virtually all the 250 Europas).
This wonderful example of the 250 MM, chassis number ‘0310MM’, is the sixteenth built and the tenth Pinin Farina berlinetta. It is recorded by Ferrari as completed on 4th May, 1953 and delivered two weeks later to Dottore Enrico Wax, the principal in the Genovese firm of Wax & Vitale, an importing company which included among its notable products Johnnie Walker whisky, Moet et Chandon champagne and Connolly leather (Ferrari’s main hide supplier). Dr. Wax can best be described as a serial purchaser of Ferraris, keeping his new cars for only a few months before passing them on to new owners and acquiring a replacement from Ferrari. Over the years he increasingly specified individual, custom-designed coachwork, creating an important legacy of unique one-off Ferraris for subsequent generations of similarly-inclined connoisseurs of the finest things in life.
Dr. Wax’s 250 MM is of course right-hand drive, the configuration still preferred for sporting and luxury automobiles in Italy and France at the time. The lightweight Pinin Farina berlinetta coachwork accommodates two in form-fitting bucket seats with the spare tyres located behind them under the large, sloping rear window. Its racing pedigree is reflected in the outside-laced Borrani wire wheels and abundance of aerodynamic embellishments to duct and manage airflow. In appearance the Pinin Farina berlinetta is at once both graceful and aggressive, introducing the style that would soon make Pinin Farina the dominant supplier of coachwork for Ferraris but also sharing styling themes of earlier Ferraris to continue the marque’s visual identity.
Somewhat unusually for the period, Ferrari’s records show that the car was first liveried in Rosso (‘finitura corse’ or racing finish, the factory tells us) when delivered which implies it might have been “borrowed” by the Scuderia for competition before its delivery to Dr. Wax. This was not uncommon for Ferrari at the time, and new cars were frequently employed by the Scuderia for one or more events before being freshened and delivered to their first retail buyers.
Janos Wimpffen’s voluminous record of endurance racing “Time and Two Seats” in fact represents that ‘0310MM’ was the mount for 1952 Mille Miglia winner Giovanni Bracco in the 1953 Mille Miglia, a history which is generally settled upon another 250 MM, chassis ‘0256MM’. Held on 25-26th April, 1953, participation in the Mille Miglia is not inconsistent with ‘0310MM’s recorded completion date of 3rd May, but is at odds with the registration of Bracco’s 250 MM on plates ‘BO 21092’, which infact corresponds not to a Ferrari but a Fiat (!), so this attribution seems unlikely.
In any event, Dr. Wax owned his 250 MM berlinetta for only six months, officially selling it on 16th November, 1953 to Pierre Noblet of Roubaix, France under intriguing circumstances as described recently by his son Gregory, a renowned car collector and connoisseur.
The Noblet family owned textile mills in Lille and Pierre numbered among his friends and business colleagues none other than the racing Marzotto brothers, those famously tailored producers of fine Italian woolens. Pierre Noblet was introduced to “this fellow you must meet who makes superb sports cars in Modena- he’s called Enzo Ferrari”- by one of the Marzottos and Enzo remarked that he would be happy to sell Noblet a car and had just the thing in mind.
A few months later Noblet heard from Ferrari that he had another car, “an even better one for you,” and proceeded to invite him to the factory where sales manager Signor Gardini showed him Dr. Wax’s 250 MM Pinin Farina berlinetta – cleverly freshly liveried in French blue from its earlier Italian red.
Noblet proudly arrived in Lille with the bright blue Ferrari much to the consternation of his father who promptly banned Pierre from letting the workers see it. In the interests of inconspicuousness it was soon repainted grey.
Although Pierre Noblet intended to use his new Ferrari 250 MM on the road his friend “Johnny” Pollet, a successful Peugeot racer, suggested he try it in competition. After winning his first local race Pierre Noblet’s racing career began in earnest, proceeding through a series of Ferraris. In 1961 he and Jean Guichet won the Le Mans 24 Hour GT category and finished third overall driving 250GT SWB chassis ‘2689GT’. A year later they achieved an even more important result, finishing a remarkable second overall and first in GT with Noblet’s 250 GTO, chassis ‘3705GT’.
Seeing high speed rallying as a valuable way to build experience, Noblet entered and won the Rallye PanArmoricaine on 7th December, 1954 driving ‘0310MM’ (not to be confused with the Carrera PanAmericana). Further national rallies followed and in the winter of 1955-56 the 250 MM was rebuilt, repainted and modified with a reinforcement behind the centre of the windshield (which had proven fragile in competition), vents in the front wings to relieve high air pressure at speed under the bonnet, modifications to the rear package shelf to reinforce it and make room for dual spares and recessing the fuel filler cap under a hinged access flap out of the air flow.
Having proved both his and his Ferrari 250 MM’s abilities, in 1957 Pierre Noblet took delivery of a 250GT Tour de France. His faithful 250 MM passed to Paris architect Charles de Gallea through Paul Vallée’s Autoval dealership. It was acquired from him in 1967 by the pioneering Italian enthusiast Giulio Dubbini in whose hands it remained until 1998, when Simon Kidston handled its sale on behalf of the Dubbini family at his inaugural Brooks Gstaad Ferrari auction to Swiss gentleman collector Peter von Muralt, whose high standards need no introduction.
Chassis ‘0310MM’ was then entrusted to Italy’s best known restorer, Dino Cognolato in Padova, for a comprehensive, ‘no expense spared’ rebuild, taking Best of Show at the Louis Vuitton Concours d’Elegance at Bagatelle in 2000, then Europe’s premier concours: Sergio Pininfarina was one of the Judges of Honour. The car subsequently participated in all the most important, enjoyable and exclusive events including the Mille Miglia, Tour Auto and Targa Florio. It was maintained by Costantini in Zurich and proved to be consistently reliable.
In October 2007 chassis ‘0310MM’ changed hands discreetly via Kidston SA to enter the ownership of Jean-Pierre Slavic, one of Europe’s foremost collectors focused on the Ferrari marque. The car was promptly sent to the Ferrari factory in Italy for work necessary to obtain official Ferrari Classiche certification, including fitting an original 250MM engine (the car had been previously fitted, during Dubbini’s ownership, with a 250GT unit) and mounting all correct ancillaries: magneto, distributor ignition (previously changed to electronic), triple air filters, original spec fuel pump etc. In addition to this, the factory’s sub-contracted coachbuilder Autosport of Bastiglia (known also as Bacchelli & Villa) were entrusted with a coachwork restoration to include repainting in Rosso Corsa.
Late in 2008 Kidston SA once again handled the sale of ‘0310MM’, this time to another long term collector based between Switzerland and Eastern Europe. His first decision was to return the car to the livery of its Noblet era which he considered to be the most significant period in its history. Master coachbuilder Pietro Cremonini of Lesignana, near Modena, travelled to meet Pierre Noblet in France and spent a day going through colour samples and period photographs to determine the correct shade of grey for the era. The car was then sent to Italy, stripped and completely repainted to the highest standard: Cremonini’s work has been shown at both Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach. Correct period fog lights (as per Noblet’s ownership) were also sourced and fitted.
The next step was to reunite the car with its original engine. Contact was resumed with the Italian owner of a 250GT Boano fitted with the powerplant from ‘0310MM’, which had been purchased many years earlier from Giulio Dubbini. After protracted negotiations this unit was acquired and sent to Tommaso Gelmini in Soragna where it was stripped and completely rebuilt without regard to expense, even including a new crankshaft. Bench tested before fitting, power was in line with Ferrari’s catalogued output. The gearbox was rebuilt at the same time, the clutch replaced, the suspension rebuilt (turning the leaf springs from their upside-down position ensured the correct ride height and improved handling!) and the brakes overhauled. Borrani wheels of the correct 16” diameter and matching Michelin tyres replaced the 15” items previously fitted, a finishing touch ensuring the right look and feel. The owner commented: “Of all the Ferraris I’ve owned this one has the nicest balance between power, torque and handling”.
Finally, chassis/ engine ‘0310MM’ was sent to Ferrari Classiche in Maranello to be re-inspected so its certification could be updated to reflect the return of its Noblet era livery and, most importantly, the fitting of its original engine.
The car’s rich history shows in its interior, which is largely untouched and in exceptionally attractive and appealing condition, oozing the history of thousands of high speed kilometers during a lifetime which now extends back almost sixty years. The modifications and improvements effected during Pierre Noblet’s ownership have been carefully preserved during its restoration and maintenance.
Pierre Noblet’s son Gregory kindly gave the last owner an extensive file of newspaper and magazine articles, and these, together with invoices for work over decades of caring ownership, FIA historic papers and other documentation, accompany this historic and beautiful 250 MM Pinin Farina berlinetta.
Octane magazine tested ‘0310MM’ prior to the recent restoration and the related article appeared in their March 2008 issue (#57), which concluded: “The pared down and very original interior is one of the most inviting cockpits for long, fast road trips. Chassis number 0310MM has that special aristocratic mien that only a very few handbuilt sports cars of the ‘50s can offer.”
Rarer than a 250 TdF or SWB, even than a GTO, the ex-Pierre Noblet 1953 Ferrari 250 MM Pinin Farina berlinetta has a long and important history as well as being an example of a seminal model in the development of Ferrari’s front-engined V12-powered legend. Swiss registered, factory certified and ‘matching numbers’, it is eligible for all the most important, enjoyable and significant events, tours and rallies and has consistently demonstrated both its attractiveness and its reliability. The successful purchaser will need no other car.
Value – $2.0 – 2.7 Mil.
Price – ?? Being sold by Kidston.com in Switzerland
Comment – Wonderful car with a strong engine, the coachbuilt body is a watershed moment for car designs and period racing history. Excellent event car, will make someone very happy.