Passion

For four years, Ferrari Classiche have helped an avid American collector return a 340 America that raced at the 1951 Le Mans back to its original splendour
Words: Richard James
Photographs: Marc McAndrews

Driving through the Italian countryside surrounding Maranello, crowds had gathered in each village and town to watch a stream of classic and modern Ferrari pass slowly through as part of the marque’s 70th Anniversary celebrations. 

 

Vintage Italian thoroughbreds are not designed for crawling through stop-go traffic, and some of them began to overheat. Kevin Cogan and his wife, Antoinette, were aboard their classic 1961 400 Superamerica, and it too began to suffer from the slow pace. 

 

Since its restoration the re-born Ferrari 340 America has won the top award at Cavallino Classic in Modena 

“People were coming out onto the small streets, and they were all clapping and cheering Ferrari,” recalls Cogan. “I could feel that I was losing fuel pressure. I saw a little side driveway and I pulled the car into it to let it cool for a second. Then I looked up over my head, and it was the Museo Ferrari, the home of Enzo Ferrari, where it all started in Modena. I looked at my wife and said, ‘Well, I believe our Italian lady has decided she wants to come back home.’” 

 

For Cogan, a real estate developer from Louisville, Kentucky, who had developed his passion for Ferrari into a truly stunning collection, it was one slice of serendipity in a Ferrari journey full of such wonderful moments. 

 

The first time that Kevin Cogan heard the exhaust note of a Ferrari he became hooked on the Prancing Horse. He bought his first Ferrari in 1980 by scouring the classified ads of the Los Angeles Times, a 308 GTS from 1978, that he and Antoinette drove all the way home from LA to Kentucky, beginning a lifelong love affair that has encompassed not only all things Ferrari, but all things Italy too. 

Kevin Cogan, a real estate developer from Louisville, Kentucky, behind the wheel of his restored Ferrari 340 America 

This includes the 1951 340 America Barchetta. Raced by Pierre Louis Dreyfus - the Second World War pilot and Parisien gentleman racer nicknamed ‘Helde’ - at Le Mans in 1951, just one week after Dreyfus took delivery of the car, and in ’52. 

 

Cogan has just spent four years collaborating with the Ferrari Classiche experts to return the astonishing car to the condition in which it was delivered to Dreyfus in the middle of that June in 1951. 

 

“Classiche helps the Ferrari enthusiast get their car back to how it was when it was born,” says Cogan. “Ferrari has all the archives of almost every car they have ever produced, including the blueprints of various gears, the pistons ... it’s phenomenal,” he enthuses. “They have the document showing whether a car had a Weber carburettor or a Solex. It’s a journey, it’s like a treasure hunt. And if you like it, you do it right, and you get your family involved. It starts to tell a great story. It’s not the value aspect, although that’s important; it’s truly the fun, the history of putting it back to how it was originally.” 

The engine now back to the condition it was when the 340 America raced at the 1951 Le Mans 

Restoring a road car to original condition can be a challenge; far more difficult a task for race cars which have often been modified for different circuits or adjusted for rule-changes. In the case of the 340 America Barchetta, Cogan and the Classiche team were aided by another of those moments of serendipity: a chance meeting that led to a treasure trove of materials and correspondence between Enzo Ferrari, Luigi Chinetti, and Dreyfus.


It started when the Kentuckian got lost on a visit to Milan, wandered into a bookstore, and bumped into Dreyfus’ grandson, Peter Mann, himself a Ferrari racer. It was only much later, when leafing through photos whilst considering the actual 340 purchase, that Cogan recognised one particular image - Mann sitting in grandfather Dreyfus’ car. Mann had shown it to the lost American that day in the Milan bookshop. 

 

Such material was now their restoration roadmap, enthralling the Classiche craftsmen. It solved many queries. For example, old images showed a passenger-side tank. A letter from Dreyfus revealed why: the gentleman racer disliked pausing for oil during long races, so they added a reserve oil tank to feed the engine. Restoration complete, Cogan was ecstatic: “Receiving your Classiche Red Book is a moment of true happiness.” His re-born Ferrari 340 America Barchetta has since won top award at Cavallino Classic in Modena and placed second-in-class at Pebble Beach’s Concours d’Elegance. 

 

31 maggio, 2022