Sold for $9,075,000 at 2013 RM Sothebys
Jim Kimberly was not some snotty-nosed, racing upstart, although that is how he would earn his money to go racing. Known as 'Gentleman Jim', Kimberly would thoroughly believe SCCA racing was for the amateur ranks, but he wouldn't ever really cry about the presence of the professionals. Someone experienced drivers felt comfortable going wheel-to-wheel with, Kimberly usually had the best cars, and therefore, served as a good measure of talent. Going up against the unique 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spider would be the ultimate measure of talent.
Kimberly was the grandson of one of the founders of the Kimberly-Clark Corportation, the makers of Kleenex and other products. Although born into such wealth, Jim was a driven individual with a strong work-ethic and he wasn't one to avoid anything.
Kimberly would serve in the Navy during World War II, he would race airplanes, boats, enjoy sport fishing and sailing. However, racing cars would become his passion and it would lead to him beginning a racing career in 1950. It would also be in 1950 that Kimberly would begin his long-term relationship with Ferraris.
Entering the 1st 6 Hour Sebring race in a Ferrari 166, Kimberly would finish 1st in class beating out Ferrari-importer Luigi Chinetti driving Briggs Cunningham's 195. He would also go on to score victories at Elkhart Lake, Pebble Beach and a number of other locations throughout the United States. Kimberly would even venture south to Argentina to take part in races there.
Having the means to enjoy himself on the track, Jim would, therefore, also have the means to enjoy himself off the track. Friends with many influential individuals, including King Hussein of Jordan and actors like Gary Cooper and Mel Torme, Jim was considered a professional on the track and certainly had a bit of a reputation as a playboy away from it.
But, his wealth and his actions away from the track would not diminish his reputation and achievements on the track. Quite often during his racing career he would go wheel-to-wheel with such racers as Phil Hill.
The success on the track, the understanding of what he wanted and the means to afford it would enable Kimberly to negotiate almost directly with the Ferrari factory. One such example of his influence would be the Ferrari 375 MM, chassis 0364AM.
Throughout the 1953 season Jim would compete with a Ferrari 340 Vignale Spider. He would enjoy a good deal of success with the car but he would also grow frustrated with the loss of braking associated with the overheating built up around the front brakes. Kimberly knew what he wanted in a car to overcome this frustrating issue.
Only a total of 12 spider examples of the 375 MM would ever be produced and it would be Pinin Farina that would hold the contract to design and build the bodies for the Tipo 102 chassis. However, Kimberly would have his own ideas in which he would pen and submit to Pinin Farina himself.
Well before Scaglietti's 250 Testa Rossa, Kimberly would sketch a 375 with an area of the bodywork cut out from behind the front wheels. This would be to alleviate the overheating problems and would, by accident really, give birth to the pontoon-fender design.
Pinin Farina would try their best to give Kimberly exactly what he wanted. A few days after the chassis was completed at the Maranello factory, Pinin Farina would set to work fashioning the body that would sit atop it. Besides the cut-out areas behind the front wheels, the air scoop on the top of the hood would be enlarged to feed more air to the Lampredi V12 engine. Additionally, the fuel filler would be positioned in the center to help center every bit of the weight within the car. The only one of the 375 MM Spiders to be adorned in such bodywork, the car would even be adorned in a very special livery, a color that would become dubbed Kimberly Red.
Completed in Jim's favorite number, '5', he would take the new 375 MM Spider and would enjoy one of the most dominant seasons in SCCA racing history. Over the course of the 1954 season, Kimberly would take part in 20 races and would come away with 17 class victories. A total of 16 of those would be overall wins. In May of that year the car would suffer its one and only retirement. Interestingly, he was actually leading that race until it suffered a failure on the very last lap of the race. As a result of the success over the course of the season, Kimberly would earn the Most Improved Driver Award and the Class C Modified National Championship. As a result of the performance over the course of the 1954 season the Most Improved Driver Award would be later renamed the Kimberly Cup.
In 1955, the 375 MM Spider would suffer damage while being transported to Sebring. Being repaired, the cutaways behind the front wheels would be replaced with standard fenders. The car would then be taken by Kimberly and entered in a race, even before it had been repainted. Not concerned with the looks of the car, Jim would go on to win yet another class victory.
By September of 1955, the 375 MM Spider would be done racing with Kimberly and would be sold to Richard Lyeth of Detroit, Michigan. Lyeth would look at his purchase with a much more practical eye and would end up replacing the expensive Lampredi engine with a much cheaper Corvette engine. A number of other modifications would then take place to be able to fit the Corvette engine to the car. This would include the addition of a Quick Change rear differential and a number of other components. Bodywork changes would include a headrest and fin reminiscent of that which adorned the Jaguar D-Type.
The fate of the engine is literally underwater. The engine would be sold and installed on a boat for the intention of racing. However, the boat would sink in Galveston Bay and that is where the engine is believed to remain, even to this very day.
Lyeth would compete with his modified 375 MM up until 1960. The car would then be sold toward the end of 1960 going to Dick Londrigan before it ended up with Allen Berlinski, a GM designer. Then, in 1968, the car would be sold again, this time, to another gentleman racer Charles Weiss.
Weiss started racing toward the end of Kimberly's racing career and would end up working with people like Jackie Stewart. He would be noted for racing with a Ford Thunderbird, perhaps the last car one would consider as a racing car. Yet, Weiss would have a good deal of success with the car and would silence a good number of critics in the process.
It would be twenty years before Weiss would restore the car to its original look and feel. The work would be completed by 1989 after having involved considerable effort from a number of individuals. That year, the following year and would end up making its first appearance at Meadow Brook's concours event.
Over the course of the restoration event Weiss would come to discover just how unique the car actually was. Being a one-off design by Pinin Farina for Kimberly, the coachbuilder would have no notes, no drawings of the work done.
The original engine was lost to the sea but Kimberly, who assisted Weiss often throughout the process, would have memory of a spare engine but it was no longer available. This particular aspect of the restoration process would actually take a number of years until a spare engine could be located. Thankfully, a spare, which seemingly was never actually fitted to any chassis, would be found and installed in 0364AM.
A number of people, from a number of different American car manufacturers, would be involved in the project. It would be a remarkable collaboration that would see Dave Cummins of Chrysler responsible for the body restoration. Jim Quinlan of Ford Styling would be involved in aspects of the interior and upholstery.
When completed, even the original Kimberly Red livery and the number five would adorn the car. Following the debut at Meadow Brook, the car would be displayed at the Monterey Historic Races and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. In 1990, the car would win First Place at the Eyes on the Classics show and the Montefiore Concours d'Elegance. At the 1991 VMCCA National Meet the car would continue its winning ways taking home 1st in class, Best Race Car and the Judges' Choice awards and a Gold Award for vehicles scoring over 95 points in their first-ever showing.
Since its restoration at the end of the 1980s, the 375 MM Spider has been featured in a number of publications and remains one of the most remarkable Ferraris known to exist. Very exclusive and rare, even amongst it brethren, this 340 bhp champion is certainly expected to command top dollar when it makes its appearance at the 2013 RM Auctions Monterey event.Sources:
'Lot 140: 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spider by Pinin Farina', (http://rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1061975). RM Auctions. http://rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1061975. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
'The Bill Kimberly Interview', (http://www.themaseraticlub.com/Kimberly.html). Il Tridente Online. http://www.themaseraticlub.com/Kimberly.html. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
By Jeremy McMullen