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It must have been a test of Enzo Ferrari’s resolve to sanction the car that the 365GTB/4, aka Daytona, became.
That was to be expected.
But to resist the temptation to follow suit with such a configuration for the 275’s successor took guts – or perhaps just good old-fashioned instinct about what buyers really wanted.
History proved Enzo right, though.
When Daytona production finished 50 years ago, 1406 Berlinetta and Spider models had been built – almost double the trendsetting Lamborghini’s total.
And, while it was to be Ferrari’s final throw of the two-seater, front-V12-engined dice until the 550 Maranello emerged 23 years later, there was no doubting its impact: ‘This is the most exciting projectile we have ever been fortunate enough to handle,’ said Autocar in its September 1971 road test of the new 365GTB/4.
While the Miura wowed with its new-age design and technology, the Daytona was the more complete package, its traditional underpinnings wrapped up in a Pininfarina body that was, in its own way, just as contemporary as that of the Miura yet blessed with a degree of long-distance GT practicality for which the Lamborghini had no answer.
That was perfectly demonstrated when Dan Gurney and Brock Yates won the 1971 Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash in a Daytona, the pro-racer and renowned scribe blasting across the States in 35 hours and 54 minutes, covering 2876 miles at an average speed of 80.1mph.
“We never once exceeded 175 miles per hour,” joked Gurney.
And that latter point was the Daytona’s other star turn: outright speed.
While both the Daytona and Miura could genuinely achieve 174mph, making them the fastest production cars in the world in the late 1960s/early ’70s, only the Ferrari could do so in relative comfort and with complete stability (it took Sant’Agata five years to fully resolve the Lamborghini’s propensity for high-speed take-off).
The new Ferrari’s performance in other areas was equally outrageous: Autocar’s test car managed 0-60mph in 5.4 secs and a standing quarter-mile in 13.7 secs at a terminal 104mph, and it accelerated from 130-150mph in 10 secs – all more than half a century ago, remember.
So how did the Daytona, which had inherited so much hardware from previous models, raise the bar so high in the then newly branded ‘supercar’ class?
To help tell the story today, we have three Daytonas: a well-used and loved early Plexiglas-nosed Berlinetta (365GTB/4), a beautifully preserved Spider (365GTS/4) and a period-converted Competizione (365GTB/4 C).
The saga begins with the Daytona’s predecessor, the 275GTB, which was introduced in 1964 but never received the acclaim of the likes of the 250GT SWB, from the range it replaced.
Criticisms were mainly directed at Pininfarina’s body design, which was hardly state-of-the-art compared with the more Modernist offerings from rival carrozzerie.
But fundamentally, with a larger-capacity (3.3-litre) Gioacchino Colombo-designed V12, a rear transaxle and all-independent suspension, the 275 showed marked progress from the 250 series.
This was enhanced in 1966, when the 275 gained an extra two camshafts and three carburettors to become the more powerful 275GTB/4.
But by then the writing was on the wall for the 275, and Ferrari had already instructed Pininfarina to look at a clean-sheet design for its successor.
Leonardo Fioravanti, then busy with the new Dino 206, was tasked with creating a cutting-edge look for the new model, and one that built on extensive wind-tunnel research that had been carried out by the design house.
Keeping costs to a minimum, the 275’s separate multi-tubular steel chassis would be used as a base, but with 2in added to its centre section to widen the front and rear tracks.
This was to be clothed with a light-aluminium two-seater body that would be manufactured by long-time Ferrari partner Scaglietti.
As with the 275, all-independent suspension was used, with each corner hosting coils and unequal-length wishbones.
Vented Girling disc brakes appeared front and rear, and the new car employed a five-speed transaxle to even out front-to-rear weight distribution.
As you would expect, the new car’s 60º V12 was a masterclass in performance engineering.
The all-aluminium Tipo 251 Colombo unit, first seen in the 365 California of 1966, displaced 4390cc – more than a litre larger than the 275’s – but used twin overhead camshafts per cylinder bank, versus the California’s single cams.
Its steel crankshaft revolved in seven main bearings and, with six Weber 40 DCN21 twin-choke carburettors sitting in the valley between the V12’s cylinder heads, dry-sump lubrication was essential to keep the engine as low as possible.
Even by contemporary standards, the outputs look prodigious: 352bhp at a giddy 7500rpm, and 318lb ft at 5500rpm.
The first 275-based prototype was built in autumn 1967 and still used that model’s four-cam V12.
While its front-end styling remained recognisable as that of a 275, the overall lines were remarkably close to those of the finished car.
Even so, it reputedly wasn’t until the fourth prototype had been completed that the design of the Daytona’s now familiar shark-like nose emerged, echoed in the finalised production car that made its debut at the Paris motor show in October 1968.
Ferrari launched the car as the 365GTB/4 (‘365’ denoting individual cylinder capacity, ‘4’ the number of camshafts), and not Daytona, a name inspired by the factory’s 1-2 finish in 330 P4 sports cars (with a 412P in third) at the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona.
According to Ferrari historians Pat Braden and Gerald Roush, ‘Daytona’ was the factory’s internal designation for the model, but when the name was leaked ahead of the car’s debut, it annoyed Ferrari so much that he dropped it in favour of the alphanumeric designation.
All the same, the name has stuck.
Viewed today, there’s a purity in the Daytona’s form that has stood the test of time.
Like the very best tailored suits, its design eschewed contemporary fashion trends and retained a classic appearance that anyone could appreciate.
With elegant, sweeping lines, minimal body addenda and that distinctive feature line running between front and rear arches, the Daytona upheld the great GT tradition of looking as if it was travelling at 150mph even when it was stationary.
The Gilbart-Smith family’s UK-supplied GTB/4 perhaps shows this in the best light.
Highly original, down to its distinctive and rare Viola paint, the Ferrari was delivered new to Kevin McDonald in August 1970 (costing £8830, it was the UK’s most expensive two-seater at the time) and has covered more than 70,000 miles, 27,000 of them in the present owners’ 17-year tenure.
As an early model, it has the Plexiglas panel running across the front of the car, shrouding its four Carello headlights.
Given that this car is well used (its keeper describes various 150mph ‘cruises’ across Europe), it feels surprisingly well built for a 53-year-old Italian supercar.
Pull on the delicate chrome doorhandle nestled in the rearmost corner of the window, drop into the wonderfully patinated driver’s seat (still trimmed in original leather, but re-padded) and you find yourself in a cabin that perfectly blends old with new.
A big, wood-rimmed Nardi wheel faces you, behind which is a large, eight-dial binnacle with oversized tacho and speedometer, trimmed in now lightly faded Alcantara.
Press the throttle down a couple of inches – it pivots from a post at the side of the footwell – and after a protracted spin of the starter, the V12 fires and settles to a subdued rumble.
The pedals are a touch offset to the right and the column is fixed, yet the driving position is comfortable – although the fixed-back seat encourages a long-armed style.
Select the dog-leg first (a leather gaiter covers the open gate on right-hand-drive Daytonas), dial in plenty of revs and point the Daytona towards UTAC Millbrook’s Alpine Route.
This stretch of Tarmac is challenging in any car, but the Daytona feels secure from the off.
Vision is good, if impeded slightly ahead by the bonnet’s upward flick, which diverts air over the wipers.
The unassisted steering is heavy at low speeds, but alive with feedback (and kickback over surface imperfections).
For a manual system it’s quite direct, at three turns from lock to lock, but on this fast and sinuous track that’s a boon.
The Daytona is a physical car to drive: clutch, gearbox and steering all require firm inputs, although not to an unacceptable level.
The engine, initially quite subdued, really gets into its stride from 3500rpm.
As soon as both of the Webers’ chokes open, the full majesty of the V12 is released, and if you keep it percolating between 4000 and 6000rpm you’re rewarded with one of the all-time great automotive soundtracks.
It’s immensely flexible, too, pulling heartily from lower revs if required.
After a few laps of familiarisation, you realise how planted and stable the car is as the speeds increase: blind crests are dismissed with barely a wobble from the body and, despite pushing hard, only the merest hint of understeer is detectable.
What it lacks in terms of the pin-sharp turn-in and ultimate precision of a mid-engined car, the Daytona gains with a dynamic reassurance that few powerful GTs of this vintage could carry.
By sheer coincidence, ‘our’ 365GTS/4 Daytona Spider was delivered new to the same first owner as the Gilbart-Smith car, exactly a year later, in August 1971.
It was the last of only seven factory right-hand-drive cars to be produced from a total Spider production run of 122, and was once in Anthony (now Lord) Bamford’s ownership.
It has been residing with its current keeper for the past 32 years, looked after by Cottingham Blue Chip London.
The Spider was revealed at the 1969 Frankfurt show and, since the Daytona had been originally designed as a large-window fastback, significant structural reinforcement was needed to compensate for the loss of rigidity, as well as some new upper-body components such as the bootlid and windscreen frame.
In addition, most Spiders were equipped with Borrani wires, as opposed to the standard five-spoke Campagnolo or Cromodora alloys fitted to the Berlinetta.
Due to US safety regulations, all Spiders other than the original Frankfurt show car (and, from 1971, all Berlinettas) also switched to pop-up headlights, replacing the original Plexiglas nose.
This near-perfect Rosso Chiaro Spider is clearly a cosseted car, having only covered 1000 miles in the past 12 years, and all of its main controls feel more crisp than those in the well-exercised Gilbart-Smith Berlinetta.
Being a later model, there are some minor detail changes inside, such as black instead of chrome bezels around the dials.
The steering wheel is also leather-rimmed and of a smaller diameter, making the cabin feel more 1970s than ’60s.
On the Alpine Route, roof down, the Spider is in its element, its glorious symphony amplified somehow, despite the extra wind noise.
You notice slightly more hesitancy on initial turn-in to the faster bends, undoubtedly caused by the Spider’s extra mass (Autocar recorded the GTB/4’s weight as 3530lb, so both models are heavy for their class), but overall the car is remarkably well tied-down, with no significant structural shakes or shimmies.
Nothing, though, prepares you for the sheer brutality of the Competizione.
Ferrari built just 15 competition versions of the 365GTB/4 Daytona, in three separate batches of five between 1971 and 1973, along with two prototypes and eight factory-approved conversions.
The Series 1 cars were initially outclassed in Group 5, due to late completion of the 500 production cars needed for Group 4 homologation.
These were near-standard mechanically but their aluminium bodyshells featured glassfibre panels and, in some cases, plastic windows to reduce weight.
For 1972, the Series 2 Competizione engines had more aggressive cam timing and ported heads, and their compression ratios were raised from 9.3 to 10.1:1 to make 402bhp at 8300rpm.
Their bodywork was significantly modified, to improve high-speed aero and cooling, as well as accommodating the 9in front and 11in rear wheels.
The final Series 3 cars in 1973 upped the ante yet further, with more suspension upgrades and 450bhp extracted from the still-4390cc V12.
The cars were never campaigned by Ferrari’s official works team but had particular success at Le Mans, including a fifth overall in 1971, and GT class wins between 1972 and ’74.
DK Engineering’s Competizione is not a factory car but a matching-numbers production Daytona converted in 1983 to full Group 4 spec for use in historic racing.
The car was sent to Modena, with bodywork completed by Brandoli (which converted the factory cars) and engine work by renowned expert Sauro.
Resplendent in red, and sporting twin exhausts sprouting from each side ahead of flared rear arches, this Competizione is a thing to behold.
Blue fabric race seats greet you as you enter the well-trimmed cabin and strap yourself in with the Sabelt race harness.
It’s a left-hooker so there’s no gaiter masking the open gearshift gate, but most other controls and instruments ape those of the production cars.
Turn the ignition key and the barely silenced 4.4-litre V12 idles with a staccato cackle; you’re already in the paddock at Goodwood.
What you don’t expect is for this most radical Daytona to be the sweetest driver of the three.
Data suggests that the S2 and S3 cars (DK’s is based on the latter) were around 400lb lighter than the production Berlinettas, and you feel that reduction in mass at the first bend, the Competizione darting towards the apex with an eagerness denied its road-based siblings.
The structure is also much stiffer – aided by the full rollcage – which, when you build up speed, takes the body control to a new level.
And that engine… It’s more peaky than in the other cars, making maximum power at 8300rpm, but the deep, unmuted roar that turns to a high-pitched wail through those open exhausts as you near redline revs is utterly spellbinding.
It’s the perfect finale for the Daytona, said to be the last road car whose development Enzo personally oversaw.
So not only does this trio represent a final link with epic models from the past, but with the old man himself.
Images: Luc Lacey
Ferrari Daytona: where it all began
The very first 365GTB/4 prototype, chassis 10287, was completed in 1967, prior to five further prototypes being built before Daytona production commenced.
Only the first four adopted this car’s hybrid look, melding the long, curved nose, bonnet bulge and Perspex-cowled twin headlights of the outgoing 275GTB/4 with a near-identical roofline and rear-three-quarter design to that of the incoming production car.
Six rather than four Carello tail-lights and a full-width rear bumper also deviated from the Daytona’s final specification.
The prototype’s Tipo 283 engine was completely bespoke and never used in the production 365GTB/4.
Based on the 330GT block but bored out to 4380cc, it featured three valves per cylinder (two inlet, one exhaust, like the P4 racers) versus the 330's two, along with a dry sump and six Weber 40 DCN18 carburettors.
It was initially registered in May 1968 and its first private keeper was Count Vincenzo Balestrieri, to whom Enzo Ferrari loaned the car while the Count was waiting for delivery of his Daytona Spider.
It was then exported to the US and went through various owners before being brought back to Europe in 1989.
After it had changed hands twice more, in 2003 its Dutch keeper commissioned a full restoration.
Now Ferrari Classiche-certified, the car was displayed at the prestigious Museo Ferrari in 2015-’16 and was awarded Best of Show at the 2016 Concours d’Elegance Paleis Het Loo Apeldoorn.
- Sold/number built 1968-‘73/1284
- Construction multi-tubular steel spaceframe chassis, aluminium panels
- Engine all-alloy, dohc-per-bank 4390cc 60° V12, six twin-choke Weber 40 DCN21 carburettors
- Max power 352bhp @ 7500rpm
- Max torque 318lb ft @ 5500rpm
- Transmission five-speed manual, RWD
- Suspension independent, by double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar f/r
- Steering worm and nut
- Brakes Girling ventilated discs
- Length 14ft 6in (4420mm)
- Width 5ft 9¼in (1760mm)
- Height 4ft 1in (1244mm)
- Wheelbase 7ft 10½in (2400mm)
- Weight 3530lb (1601kg)
- 0-60mph 5.4 secs
- Top speed 174mph
- Mpg 12.4
- Price new £9998 (1971)
- Price now £600,000*
Where different from GTB/4
- Sold/number built 1969-’73/122
- Weight n/a
- 0-60mph 6.7 secs
- Price new £10,251 (1971)
- Price now £4m (RHD, UK-supplied car)*
Ferrari 365GTB/4 C S3
Where different from GTB/4
- Sold/number built 1971-‘73/15 (plus eight factory-approved conversions)
- Max power 450bhp @ 8300rpm
- Max torque n/a
- Weight 3130lb (1420kg, est)
- Mpg n/a
- 0-60mph n/a
- Top speed n/a
- Price new n/a
- Price now £750,000 (test car)*
*Prices correct at date of original publication
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