“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 ‘0310 MM’, March 2008
In 1952, Italian driver Giovanni Bracco made good on his promise to win the 1000-mile race or “die in the attempt”, overcoming factory Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs and 33 other Ferraris to triumph on the Mille Miglia.
His small coupé, a 3.0-litre 250 Sport by Vignale, was a prototype for the short series of production racing cars that debuted later that year. Named the 250 Mille Miglia after Bracco’s dramatic win, the berlinetta coachwork was by Pinin Farina, while Vignale built 250 MM competition spiders. At the heart of the cars was a 2,953cc V12 designed by Gioacchino Colombo.
Thirty-one 250 MMs were built, 17 as berlinettas, 14 as spiders. All were right-hand drive, as was traditional for Ferrari sports cars.
Although ostensibly a customer car, works-assisted Ferrari driver Count Paolo Marzotto was at the wheel of a 250 MM Berlinetta on the 1953 Mille Miglia, well up in the classification when the car suffered an electrical fire with only a short run left to the finish at Brescia. Bracco was also driving a 250 MM Berlinetta in that event, and the factory entered a car for Luigi Villoresi at the Gran Premio dell’Autodromo, Monza in June 1953. They were popular mounts for Gentleman Racers the world over.
With its 2,953cc V12, and compact and aggressive bodywork by Pinin Farina featuring a characteristic ‘egg-crate’ grille, the 250 MM Berlinetta set the tone for Ferraris all-dominating GT cars of the late-1950s and beyond. The racing Ferrari 250 was born, a sequence that culminated in the greatest of them all: the 250 GTO.
This Motor Car
Chassis ‘0310 MM’ was the sixteenth 250 MM built, and the ninth Pinin Farina 250 MM berlinetta. The first owner was VIP Ferrari client Dott. Enrico Wax, of the Genovese firm of Wax & Vitale, a company specialising in imports that included Johnny Walker whisky and Connolly leather – Ferrari’s main supplier.
Pinin Farina took delivery of the chassis on 4 May 1953, completing it in Rosso, finitura corse (‘red, racing finish’). As a serial buyer of new, increasingly personalised Ferraris, it was not unusual for Wax to keep cars for only a short length of time, and later that year he sold ‘0310 MM’. It can be but conjecture that the car was used by Scuderia Ferrari during the 1953 season.
Wax – via Ferrari – sold the car to French textile scion and Gentleman Driver Pierre Noblet. Thanks to Noblet’s son, car collector and connoisseur Gregory, in 2008 Kidston SA learnt the fascinating story of how the young Roubaix-based businessman bought the powerful racing car. Unsurprisingly, the Italian Marzotto brothers, heirs to a yarn, woollens and clothing dynasty founded in 1836, were friends and colleagues of the Noblet family who owned textile mills in Lille.
They suggested to car enthusiast Noblet that they knew “this fellow you must meet who makes superb sports cars in Modena.” The ‘fellow’, of course, was Enzo Ferrari and having first offered him one car, Ferrari later instructed sales manager Gardini to show him Dott. Wax’s 250 MM Pinin Farina Berlinetta – cleverly freshly liveried in French blue from its earlier Italian red. Smitten, Noblet took delivery of ‘0310 MM’ on 16 November 1953.
Noblet’s father, ever the discreet French businessman, was less taken with the idea of such a flamboyant display of wealth in war-ravaged Europe, and son Pierre swiftly had the car resprayed a more sober grey. The original idea was to use the 250 MM as a road car, but Pierre Noblet’s friend, fellow Roubaix resident and serious racing driver Jacques ‘Jackie’ Pollet, asked why didn’t he try racing?
It was an inspired suggestion; Noblet was a natural, one of Ferrari’s finest ‘Gentleman Racer’ privateers, subsequently the owner of many racing 250 GT berlinettas. Driving his own 250 GTO with factory driver Jean Guichet, he finished second overall at Le Mans in 1962. Wisely, he started his career with the 250 MM in low-key, but high-speed, rallies in 1954 and 1955, such as the Rallye des Routes du Nord and the Rallye PanArmoricaine (not to be confused with the Mexican Carrera Panamericana), an event he won in December 1954.
Over the winter of 1955-1956, 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 under-bonnet air pressure, modifications to the rear parcel shelf for strengthening and to make room for spares, and recessing the fuel filler cap out of the airflow.
In 1956, having competed once again in the Rallye des Routes du Nord, Noblet and ‘0310 MM’ made their first serious forays on the race tracks. Despite driving a car some three years out of date, Noblet posted strong class performances at Montlhéry (two firsts, one second) and Monza (one second).
Having proved both his and his Ferrari 250 MM’s abilities, in 1957 Pierre Noblet took delivery of a 250 GT Tour de France. His faithful 250 MM passed to Paris architect Christian de Galea through Paul Vallée’s Autoval dealership. Having changed hands on at least one more occasion, in 1967 it was acquired by the pioneering Italian enthusiast Giulio Dubbini in whose family’s ownership it remained until 1998, when Simon Kidston and his team handled its sale as the cover lot at his inaugural Brooks Gstaad Ferrari auction to Swiss gentleman collector Peter von Muralt.
Von Muralt entrusted ‘0310 MM’ to world-class craftsman Dino Cognolato in Padova for a comprehensive, ‘no expense spared’ rebuild. The stunning results were good enough for Best of Show at the ‘Automobiles Classiques à Bagatelle avec Louis Vuitton’ in 2000, then Europe’s premier concours, where Sergio Pininfarina was one of the Judges of Honour. The car subsequently participated in many top-level events including the Mille Miglia retrospective and Tour Auto.
After nearly 10 years in single ownership, ‘0310 MM’ changed hands discreetly via Kidston SA to join another important Swiss collection. It was sent to Maranello where it underwent inspection and certification by Ferrari Classiche, and soon thereafter the coachwork was returned to the exact grey livery chosen by Pierre Noblet in late-1953. Multiple-award-winning coachbuilder Carrozzeria Cremonini was chosen to complete the task, and Pietro Cremonini himself travelled to meet Pierre Noblet, spending a day looking at colour samples and period photographs to determine the correct shade. The decision was also made to fit correct period fog lights, another feature of Noblet’s ownership, an essential part of its rally specification.
At the same time, the original engine, stamped ‘0310 MM’, was sourced in Italy, in a 250 GT Boano purchased many years earlier from Giulio Dubbini. After protracted negotiations this unit was acquired and rebuilt in Italy without regard to expense, an exercise that included a new crankshaft. On the test bench, it produced the same figure as catalogued by Ferrari in 1953. The gearbox was also rebuilt, the clutch replaced and the suspension totally overhauled. Correct-diameter (16in) Borrani wire wheels were fitted. It was the final finishing touch, and the owner commented: “Of all the Ferraris I’ve owned this one has the nicest balance between power, torque and handling”.
Ferrari Classiche then re-inspected the car, so its certification could be updated to reflect the return of its Noblet era livery and, most importantly, the fitting of its original engine.
All the while, the interior of the car remained largely untouched. In exceptionally attractive and appealing condition, it oozes the history of thousands of high-speed kilometres during a lifetime that now extends back over 60 years.
The modifications and improvements effected during Pierre Noblet’s ownership have been carefully preserved during its restoration and maintenance, which for the past five years has been entrusted to the Ferrari workshop we consider unrivalled worldwide: Autofficina Bonini near Reggio Emilia.
Pierre Noblet’s son Gregory kindly gave the owner an extensive file of newspaper and magazine articles, and these, together with invoices for work over decades of caring ownership and current Swiss road registration, accompany the car.
Rarer than a 250 TdF, SWB or even a GTO, this 1953 Ferrari 250 MM Pinin Farina berlinetta has a long and important history. It’s also a definitive model in the sequence of Ferrari berlinetta competiziones that culminated in the mighty 250 GTO. This superb example in a stunning period colour is factory certified and ‘matching numbers’, eligible for the most important, enjoyable and high-level concours, tours and rallies.
Those searching for a significant, one-car-does-everything Ferrari, the opening chapter in the book that is the racing Ferrari 250, need look no further.