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Ferrari's retro V12 madness

2011-09-22 09:08

CONTEMPORARY COMPETIZIONE: Would you believe this is based on a 456GT? Image gallery

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer GWA
Model 340 Competizione
Engine 5.4-litre V12
Power 355kW
Transmission Six-speed manual
Front Suspension Double-wishbone, coil springs
Rear Suspension Double-wishbone, coil springs
Very few people have ever heard of the Ferrari 340 Mexico Berlinetta, Maranello’s rival to the original Mercedes-Benz 300SL road racer.

Only three of these striking road racers were built back in 1952.

Their legend was established on the notorious Carrera Panamericana road race through Mexico. Front-engined, with classic GT-lines and characteristic ovoid grille, they remains some of the most cherished of all Ferrari’s V12 cars.

A CELEBRATION...KIND OF

To pay homage to this Ferrari road-racing legend American custom specialist GWA Tuning, based in San Antonio, Texas, has crafted a one-off contemporary interpretation of the Mexico Berlinetta and called it the 340 Competizione.

The irony, of course, is that GWA is an acronym for Gullwing America and the company’s speciality has been recreations of classic Mercedes-Benz gullwing models, including the C111 concept car and 300SL.

For reasons unknown, GWA’s decided to build the epic one-off 340 Competizione.

Although the bodywork, crafted from aluminium, shadows the original car to an extent, there are a few GWA details sure to grate on Ferrari traditionalists. The quad headlights, oversized bonnet scoop (the original Mexico Berlinetta had a comparatively tiny air duct cut into its engine cover), five-spoked alloy rims (original had multi-spoke wire wheels) and a spoiler between the rear windscreen and boot are sure to draw the ire of Maranello’s fiercest followers.

456 GT IN RETRO...

Mechanically, the car rides on a Ferrari 456 GT chassis, retaining the fabled Ferrari 456 5.4-litre V12. The 456 chassis ensures that the Competizione’s also 300mm more substantial bumper-to-bumper than the original Mexico Berlinetta.

GWA binned the standard Ferrari air-filters and exhaust system in favour of free-flow renditions of both, boosting the 5.4-litre V12’s peak power to 355kW (standard one 330kW), which should ensure rapid performance – although the company’s unwilling to disclose the Competizione’s mass statistics.

All the other best bits of the 456 remain untouched under the outrageous Competizione bodywork: ventilated disc brakes with ABS assistance and independent double-wishbone suspension front and rear. These are mechanical details Alberto Ascari could only have dreamed of when racing the original 4.1-litre V12 Mexico Berlinetta - he had to be content with drum brakes all round and cope with a dynamics of a live rear axle, suspended by leaf-springs...

RETRO DONE RIGHT: OK, so the red lacquer fascia is going to reflect like made with a setting sun behind you, but how epic is this cabin...The Competizione’s switches are classic retro Ferrari, with huge dials and composite three-quarter bucket seats with head restraints.

Oh, and of course, thanks to its 456 drivetrain, there’s a proper chromed, exposed, open shift gate that the six-speed manual transmission’s shifter operated through – something, unfortunately, that Ferrari doesn't offer as an option today.

GWA boss Arturo Alonso (not related to Ferrari F1 driver, Fernando) says the Competizione’s a one-off creation but it's sure to upset Ferrari collectors no end. If you’re after a stunningly individualistic V12 prancing horse GT with a proper (manual) transmission and some retro weirdness, well…

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