Ferrari Daytona Spider – at the helm of one of the magnificent seven

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As the doors on Pete Townshend’s garage hum open to reveal an immaculate, low-mileage Ferrari Daytona Spider, I just can’t connect the British rock legend with the Italian exotic. This metallic blue V12 wedge is one of the highly prized right-hand-drive factory cars familiarly known as The Magnificent Seven. But, thanks to a Corvette-based rep, this 352bhp 170mph 1969 sensation will always evoke Miami Vice and Don Johnson for me. Townshend, with rolled satin jacket sleeve hanging over those aggressive Pininfarina-designed flanks, cruising Palm Beach or Baca Roton just didn’t figure. Even with Theresa Russell as a passenger. 

It’s little surprise that 96 of the 122 Daytona Spiders went Stateside. Where the 250GT California and 275 NART Spider introduced European glamour across the Atlantic, the 365GTS/4 echoed American automotive trends. With ultimate straight-line speed its primary goal to blitz Sant’Agata’s rumoured Miura Spider, this was Maranello’s muscle machine. 

So how could the genius who composed such teenage anthems as My Generation desire such brutish automotive excess? Doc Martens and Pininfarina just don’t go. Apparently, Eric Clapton is responsible for Townshend’s Ferrari weakness. While The Who squandered fortunes on private jets home to Blighty after European gigs, EC indulged in new toys from Modena. For his 60th birthday, Townshend decided it was time to have that long-promised Daytona, and in 2006 he bought the best. 

Being handed the keys to your musical hero’s pride and joy is a bizarre experience. Testing this highly original road-rocket on narrow Sussex lanes – with no outside mirrors – only adds to the tension of the situation. My first impressions as it burbles gently down Townshend’s long, leafy driveway are of the heavy controls, particularly the weighty steering. “I once drove it back from Norwich,” says Paul Bonnick, Townshend’s loyal minder. “My legs and arms ached for days.”

Yet once the oil-temperature needle starts to wake after a few miles, the devilish Daytona begins to work it charms. Firstly, the driving position in those jazzy, raked leather seats is superb – with a long stretch to the chunky three-spoke, leather-rimmed Momo wheel. The view to the busy cluster of black-faced Veglia gauges is race-car clear. The steering continues to disappoint, with negligible self-centring and annoying kickback jiggle at moderate speeds on bumpy back-roads. But once the route irons out and speeds climb, everything – ride, handling and even the steering – starts to rally. Impressively, there’s no hint of flex thanks to Scaglietti’s torsional improvements. Patience is also required with the transaxle, so changing gear is initially slow and deliberate to avoid crunching into second. But once the oil is warm, the long-throw gate with dog-leg first is a joy to shift. 

As confidence builds, so the Daytona comes alive around you. Not surprisingly, the acceleration is heady as the chassis hunkers down for a dragster-style charge. Thanks to that positive change and awesome torque, it delivers momentous thrust with 100mph easily reached in third. Best of all, its mid-range punch is intoxicating for overtaking. Like the unassisted steering and hefty clutch, the brakes demand a firm push despite being servo-assisted, but this physical character matches the Daytona’s tough, involving nature. As in a GT40, you feel as if it’ll look after you the faster you go. Into tight country bends there’s predictable understeer, but the last pure-blood Maranello roadster wasn’t conceived with the Southern Home Counties in mind. 

To have brought it home factory-fresh from Italy in 1972 would have been fantastic. You could really have exploited that astounding grunt and sure-footed, high-speed handling across Switzerland and France. That magnificently shaped windscreen demands epic vistas where you never have to plan three-point turns. In little England, the Daytona may look like a baseball pro at a cricket match, but its pulverising performance and purity have an undeniable dignity against Maranello’s current bling. Unlike the latest glitzy California, the Daytona’s discreet badging says it all. How can a car this spectacular have covered less than 500 miles every year? 

Little is known about Diana Glass, the glamorous first owner of the last right-hand-drive Daytona Spider built. The Marks & Spencer heiress ordered the car through UK Ferrari importer Maranello Concessionaires, in metallic Azzuro Metallizzato with blue Connolly hide trim, air conditioning and a special chrome grille guard to protect the nose. Glass also supplied her own Lex Jet Stereo 8-Track player. Payment of $17,300 (about £7000 in ’72) was made direct to Dr Manicardi at Modena, possibly to avoid VAT in the UK. When Glass inspected the Spider at Maranello, she wasn’t happy with the colour and ordered a repaint in Blu Dino Metallizzato. She clearly enjoyed driving the car and made the most of its awesome performance, clocking up 6800 miles in the first five years. The hood was a constant source of concern and was regularly refitted. ‘At speeds in excess of 130mph,’ wrote Glass, ‘the roof pops out at the sides and water rushes in even more.’ In the end she had Hoopers retrim the top in white cloth, but still complained about the revised fit. 

Glass returned home to Canada after getting divorced and the Daytona went with her as part of the settlement. Eventually she sold it to Boris G Freesman, a Toronto-based barrister with a passion for Ferraris. “I flew up to Ottawa to see the car,” recalls Freesman. “I remember she was a very attractive and adventurous blonde, but the right-hand-drive Daytona was difficult to sell in Canada. The car was comfortable at ordinary speeds... but once it reached about 85-90mph, it seemed to sit down and felt marvellously solid and responsive. At 170mph, there was still lots of rpm before hitting the redline. What was lacking was my own intestinal fortitude. I loved the Daytona’s design and lines. From the driver’s seat, it just oozed sexuality. And I was a bit of a show-off at the time – I’m too old for that now. The response of others was a real ego booster.

“I put it through its paces on two occasions at Watkins Glen during Ferrari Club of America events. It was a thrill except for the time I boiled the brakes and almost crashed. That was scary. I had a lot of fun with the Daytona. Interesting things happened when driving it, such as being stopped at the US border on suspicion of being a drug trafficker. I used to get pulled up for driving a right-hooker and even considered converting it to left-hand drive, but fortunately I was talked out of it. Once I was stopped after running at 120mph but the policeman’s main interest was taking a closer look at the car. I showed him the engine, let him sit in the driver’s seat, and he let me go with just an admonition to slow down! I only sold it because I also had a ’73 246GTS and ’61 250GT SWB. Three Ferraris is too much.” 

In 1979, the Spider headed back across the Atlantic to third owner Noel Gibbs, a farmer and occasional supercar broker based in Ripley, Surrey. But three years later it was bound for South Africa to Charles Schlamm in Johannesburg. At some point the car was resprayed Rolls-Royce Le Mans blue and the soft-top was retrimmed in black. On delivery, Schlamm drove the Daytona home from Cape Town, which must have been heavenly. Just imagine the Spider blasting along that sublime coast road to Port Elizabeth, its metallic blue matching the Indian Ocean as the glorious roar from those quad Ansa exhausts reverberated off the rock faces. Then Schlamm pointed that aggressive nose inland across the high desert roads to Bloemfontein and home to Johannesburg on National 2. The exotic Daytona was the star at any event it turned up for, including the 1985 Southern Equitorial Ferrari Automobili Club concours where it scooped three top trophies including Car of the Day.

By June ’85, the Daytona was back in the UK with Robin Lodge, a well-known historic racer and collector who commissioned Modena Engineering to carry out a sympathetic refurbishment. Lodge did well, having paid £130,000 and selling five years later for £798,500 at the market peak to Crawford Hewlett of The Drambuie Liqueur Company. The mint Spider was auctioned by Bonhams at Gstaad in 2001 for £293,093 and late in ’03 it attracted Frank Sytner, who sold it to Townshend. “We advertised it in The Sunday Times,” says Lee Maxted-Page who brokered the sale, “and by 9am Pete and Ross Brawn had both contacted us about buying the car. Pete came up in his 550 Maranello. It was a sunny day and after a drive he quickly agreed to buy it before Ross, who bought a red Spider soon after.”

Investment or not, Townshend has covered 2000 miles in two years, a higher average than most of its owners managed over four decades. I just hope he found some epic roads where he could ‘see for miles and miles and miles’...

FACTFILE – FERRARI 365GTS/4

Sold 1969-’73/122 (seven right-hand drive) Construction tubular steel chassis with stressed steel panels Engine all-alloy, dual-overhead-camshaft-per-bank 4390cc V12, two valves per cylinder, six Weber 40DCN20 carburettors, dry sump Power 352bhp @ 7500rpm Torque 318lb ft @ 5500rpm Transmission five-speed manual transaxle, driving rear wheels Suspension independent all round, by unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bars Steering recirculating ball Turning circle 39ft (11.9m) Brakes ventilated discs all round, with servo Length 14ft 6in (4420mm) Width 5ft 9in (1756mm) Height 4ft 1in (1245mm) Wheelbase 7ft 10in (2400mm) Weight 2646lb (1200kg) Mpg 12 0-60mph 5.9 secs Top speed 170mph Price new $25,500 (US)

This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Classic & Sports Car magazine, which retains the copyright to all words and images.

Words: Mick Walsh; pictures: Tony Baker

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