Wheels (Australia)

Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’

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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.

DELECTABLE DOZEN

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.

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