Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’
THE LAST FRONT-ENGINED V12 FERRARI FOR 23 YEARS WAS A MOTORSPORT GOD
PEOPLE OFTEN MUSE on what makes certain cars great. They would do well to study the Ferrari 365 GTB/4. It helps to be the fastest production car in the world, which the 365 GTB/4 – or Daytona, as it’s more widely known – was at its launch in September 1968. The popular but stubbornly unofficial Daytona moniker was given by the press, honouring Ferrari’s sports-racers finishing 1-2-3 in the 1967 Daytona 24 Hours.
The 365 GTB/4 came at a pivotal moment in Ferrari’s history, being the last V12 model approved before Fiat’s June 1969 acquisition of 50 percent of old autocrat Enzo’s company. It would, in fact, be Ferrari’s last front-engined V12 two-seater flagship for more than a quarter of a century, as the company turned to a series of mid-engined flat-12s in the meantime.
The Daytona also marks a watershed in Ferrari’s styling, shrugging off the last vestiges of its road cars’ 1950s curves with crisply elegant lines penned by genius Leonardo Fioravanti, fresh from co-designing (with Aldo Brovarone) the Dino 206 and 246 GT.
Under that svelte skin was familiar Ferrari practice, with a chrome-moly tube spaceframe chassis and double-wishbone suspension at each corner. Fioravanti’s masterful styling, which makes it appear that the 4.4-litre V12 up front is leaving the body’s glasshouse behind, also hints at the weight distribution enhanced by the rear mounting of the five-speed gearbox and transaxle. The wheels were iconic centre-lock 15-inch five-spoke alloys, or optional Borrani wire wheels.
Daytonas were rare enough – only 1406 were built, including 15 alloy-bodied Competizione coupes – but rarest were the Spyder versions, of which 122 were built (only seven in righthand drive). The J-curve of collector-car values meant that, in the 1980s, a fair few ‘common’ coupes copped the chop.
The Daytona’s gorgeous styling had to take a small backward step in 1971 when US legislation banned the plexiglasspanelled headlights, which were replaced with pop-up units.
The Daytona’s top speed of 280km/h took the crown
(by just 5km/h) from the Lamborghini Miura LP400. Contemporary road tests cite the car’s dual personality; that of being solid, stable and responsive above 190km/h or so, but rather inconveniently harsh-riding, heavy to steer and a bit truck-like below that.
The latter was of no concern to the Daytona’s creditable career as a racer: the Competizione coupes brought GT class victories at Le Mans in 1972 (taking the first five places),
1973 and 1974.
The Daytona’s ‘Tipo 251’ V12 was a 60-degree, quad-cam, 24-valve unit with its roots in a 1960 Colombo design, substantially upgraded in 1967 with quad cams and, for the Daytona, a 4390cc capacity and dry sump. Fed by six Weber carbs, it made 263kW at 7500rpm and 431Nm at 5500rpm, to pull 1200kg (dry). 0-100km/h was a blistering 5.4 seconds.
PURITY OF PURPOSE
The Daytona’s interior is hailed as one of the best compromises between grand touring elegance and pared-down functionality. A cluster of eight white-on-black dials face the driver through a classic wood-rimmed wheel. The slimline one-piece seats offered no backrest adjustment, but were light, comfortable enough and super-supportive. Narrow pillars provided brilliant visibility.