1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider
Fioravanti on the ultra-rare convertible. Few cars are as sexy as a Ferrari Daytona, even more so in Spider form. Massimo Delbò finds out why designer Leonardo Fioravanti was so surprised to see it go topless.
Photography Nate Lindemann, courtesy Mecum Auctions
ROOFLESS AND SINFUL
FERRARI DAYTONA SPIDER
Designer Fioravanti on his sublime soft-top
The first time I saw a 365 GTS/4 was in 1992. It was my first time in California, I was on Santa Monica beach, and suddenly I heard a growling thunder. I turned to look and spotted the red Daytona Spider taking off from the traffic lights on the Pacific Coast Highway. The top was down, and the cool chap behind the steering wheel had floored the gas pedal just right, creating the perfect soundtrack against the perfect backdrop. I was so impressed that to this day, 30 years later, mere moments before slipping behind the wheel of this Marrone Colorado example, I can’t help but vividly recall that moment.
Little did I know what a lucky moment I’d experienced – even in Southern California, a place so rich in exotic cars. Only 122 of the 365 GTS/4 were manufactured from 1971 to 1973. The Daytona (officially 365 GTB/4: 365cc for each of the 12 cylinders, 4-cam, Gran Turismo Berlinetta) was first shown at the 1968 Paris motor show, replacing the 275 GTB/4 that had made its debut a mere 24 months before.
‘The short commercial life of the 275 GTB/4 was completely my fault,’ I’m informed by Leonardo Fioravanti, who was part of the Pininfarina design team from 1964 and who would end up personally designing 11 Ferraris and supervising a further 18. ‘When Sergio Pininfarina and Renzo Carli saw the project that would become the “Daytona”, they asked me if I was crazy but decided to go to Maranello anyway and show it to Commendatore Enzo Ferrari in person. The reason for their surprise was that I had not been requested to do it and did most of the work at home, in my spare time. To their eyes, the 275 GTB/4 was too young for a replacement even to be considered, and from a company perspective they were absolutely right – but that car had a limited view for the driver and a very straight line along the side that flattens the whole appearance, which doesn’t link perfectly with the rear. After the 250, and its racing successes, to my young eyes the 275 was not up to that level.’
‘IT IS BEAUTIFUL TO THE EYES, AND IT WILL ALWAYS BE, BECAUSE IT IS A NATURAL SHAPE’ LEONARDO FIORAVANTI
And it seems that Ferrari agreed. ‘To the surprise of all of us, they came back from Maranello with Enzo Ferrari’s green light. It had almost never happened before, skipping at least two cycles, and it proved that Mr Ferrari saw in the new proposal something he really liked. The model was ready the following Spring, and Il Commendatore came to Turin to look at it – I think that was the last time he personally oversaw a project. ‘I still remember that moment: I think it was the first time that Mr Ferrari had interacted with me, as he walked around the wood and plaster model, based on the rolling chassis of a 275 he had provided. After a while he asked a question, addressed not, as it should have been, to the hosts Pininfarina or Carli, but directly to me. He simply asked if I was happy with the results and, on hearing him, I wished I could sink into the ground, as I wasn’t! Even worse, my concerns were not about the shape of the car but of the limits of the 275 chassis, which was too narrow. How could I, a young, unknown, inexperienced designer, say this to somebody like Enzo Ferrari and hope to stay alive!’
‘SELECT FOURTH GEAR, EVERYTHING ENTERS A NEW DIMENSION – THE WORLD OF THE SUPERCAR – AND THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE GELS AS FEROCITY BUILDS’
A diplomatic approach was clearly called for. ‘Weighing every single word, I said that, to my eyes, and being that it’s a Ferrari, it shouldn’t have the wheels sunk into the wheelarches like a normal car, but they should be in line with the body. I added that it was just a little too narrow and long. He then asked what I would have liked and I fearfully said an extra five millimetres for the track on each side. His reply was to offer a total of five centimetres! He perfectly understood the limitations of what he was seeing, and provided me five times the measurement I had asked for. As soon as he was gone, I had the model chopped in two longitudinally, with an extra 5cm added along the centre, and the final shape of the 365 GTB/4 was born.’ Further work was then carried out, mostly involving the headlights, to make them better integrated and look more modern. ‘To homologate the new front lights, with the Perspex covering, was really hard work,’ says Fioravanti. ‘Under technical tests in the darkroom I had to prove that my solution would be as effective as normal uncovered lights. The test showed I was right, and the European regulators accepted the evidence – though the Americans did not and, in 1971, we had to step back to “pop-up” headlights.’
The new car was an immediate hit and soon gained its Daytona epithet. It was never officially adopted by Ferrari, of course, and none of the insiders I asked knew whether it was first adopted by customers or journalists, or when it was used the first time. It was coined following the 1967 Daytona 24 Hours race, when two Ferrari 330 P4s and a 412P finished 1-2-3, but whoever it was did an amazing job as now, 55 years later, ‘Daytona’ identifies this model far better than its official title. It became a winner itself, too. ‘I well remember that, at Le Mans, a Group 4 finished the 24 Hours in front of some of the prototypes,’ says Fioravanti. ‘I’m an old racer so it made me feel very proud, as it proved that the aerodynamics were good and that visibility was good, too. Both of those aspects are linked, as the two longitudinal strakes along the front wings “squeeze” the air as it passes over the bonnet, improving the roadholding, and at the same time helping the driver to position the car in corners. But while I expected people to go racing with the 365 GTB/4, I really did not foresee somebody wanting to open its roof.’
The 365 GTS/4 – or Daytona Spider – arrived at the 1969 Frankfurt motor show and was built in limited numbers until 1973. ‘The request came from a German customer,’ says Fioravanti. ‘He came to us at Pininfarina, rather than Ferrari, asking for an open Daytona. I was worried, as the car was intended only as a closed coupé, and the chassis would need to be reworked. So we asked Ferrari, and the reply might have been influenced by Luigi Chinetti, who was always looking for open sports cars for his American market. They gave us the green light. From Carrozzeria Scaglietti we received the body of a 365 GTB/4 that had been crudely chopped. That was our starting point. No blueprints or sketches, just the reality of the metal.
‘I always loved working in real time, in 3D, an approach I was taught by Mr “Pinin” himself: the vision is immediately confronted with the reality. I remember going around the car, looking at its front and rear and saying that they were perfect as they were, and nothing had to be changed in those areas. I then looked at the side, and asked for one of the flexible strips of wood we often used. Its natural flow, when laid on the belt line, starting from the front part of the door and going towards the back, is the shape of the “Daytona Spider”. A clear example of what I call the courage of simplicity. Even today, when you look at the side of the car, you notice how clean it is and how much benefit it receives from the small rounded swell of the rear wing, just behind the door. It is beautiful to the eyes, and it will always be, because it is a natural shape.’
With the metalwork decided, the creation of the soft-top was, in Fioravanti’s words, ‘merely a technical matter’. But the German customer wanted wire wheels and for the indentation along the body side to be painted black. ‘Both were a stylistic mistake on the Daytona shape,’ says Fioravanti. ‘Marking the indentation damages the 3D vision of the car, splitting its sides into two separate entities. The wire wheels, even though they were used on most of the Daytona Spiders manufactured, are from a different era than the style of the 365, and you can see the contrast. This is why I originally styled the star-shaped rims, a first on a road-legal Ferrari, as that shape was originally in use only on racing cars.
And, when you look at the pictures of the original 365 GTB/4 prototype, you can see that it sports the “star rims” we created for this car. They are slightly different from the final version, as the five spokes were too narrow and we had to reshape them slightly.’
The 365 GTS/4 is not only about its beautiful looks as, under the long bonnet, there is the same Tipo 251 six-carb V12 as the coupé’s, good for about 350bhp and a maximum speed of 174 mph – enough for the Daytona to claim the title of the fastest production car of the period. ‘It is not an easy car to drive,’ says Fioravanti. ‘It is quite big and heavy. I was lucky enough to have had an exceptional teacher for the Daytona, Mike Parkes. During long journeys together, he showed me that the Daytona’s weak spot is its brakes; it needs to be driven with the gas pedal and the steering wheel. If you are capable of doing that, you’ll experience something fantastic.’
As I’m not Mike Parkes, it is with a degree of concern that I turn the key of the 365 GTS/4 you see here. Chassis #16573 was manufactured in December 1972, destined for the USA market, where it was distributed in August 1973 through the Chinetti-Garthwaite outfit in Paoli, Pennsylvania, and sold to Orange Motors in Miami, Florida. It still has the copy of its original bill of sale and all the SEFAC delivery sheets and import papers in its glovebox, and sports the original colour combination of brown coachwork with tan leather interior. The odometer reads less than 18,000 miles and, following a restoration in 2009 by Motion Products in Wisconsin, it won the FCA Platinum Award at the 2010 Cavallino Classic in Palm Beach, a factor in this car’s story that’s considered as important as its Ferrari Classiche certification. In the trunk is the original tool-roll, itself so valuable that any normal human might consider it to be a family asset. Those facts, taken together, resound in my head as a ‘take it easy’ warning while I gently warm-up the engine and the transmission.
Setting off, the Daytona feels firm but not stiff, and as soon as a few miles have passed, with everything reaching working temperature, it gets better and better. The visibility is perfect, as well as the driving position, which allows you to sit in comfort while enjoying the powerful rumble that immerses you. It’s actually quite sedate up to 3000rpm, but that changes as soon as you floor the gas pedal. From 3500rpm there is a burgeoning crescendo, strengthening as it closes on 6000rpm, where I set my self-imposed rev-limiter. At around 4500rpm in second gear, I recognise that same sound I heard on my first meeting with this model while, within the cockpit, you can perceive the distinction between mechanical work going on under the bonnet and the musical results of it coming from the quadruple Ansa exhausts.
Into third and at more or less the same revs you wave ‘ciao’ to the speed limits while the soundtrack intensifies. When I select fourth, dropping a mere 700rpm from the previous gear, everything enters a new dimension – the world of the supercar – and the whole experience gels as ferocity builds. The gearbox and clutch are not as difficult as many suggest, though the brakes feel less than effective. Thankfully, the steering is very responsive, heavy only while manoeuvring at very low speeds, and I just need to get used to applying a little more lock than in shorter, lighter Ferraris. Driving any Daytona is dramatic, the Spider even more so thanks to its rarity and the rawness brought to the experience by its folding roof. And then there’s the way it looks. I park and spend some time just taking in its shape, listening to the countless clicking noises of the engine cooling down, admiring it as if it were a piece of art.
I don’t think I’d fancy it as much for Le Mans, but I’m definitely sure I’d be interested in a date for a drive from Santa Barbara to Carmel. Or a ride on the Santa Monica highway at sunset…
Clockwise, from above Seats and trim are recognisable from the coupé; pop-up headlights were stipulated by US regulations; tail styling was unchanged from coupé’s; V12 is good for 352bhp.
TECHNICAL DATA 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider
- Engine 4390cc 60° V12, DOHC per bank, six twin-choke downdraught Weber 40 DCN 20 carburettors, dry sump
- Max Power 352bhp @ 7500rpm
- Max Torque 318lb ft @ 5500rpm
- Transmission Five-speed manual, rear wheel drive
- Steering Rack and pinion
- Suspension Unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
- Brakes Vented discs
- Weight 1250kg
- Top speed 174mph
Clockwise, from top The Daytona Spider’s profile in all its glory – note the swell above the rear wheelarch, key to its overall harmony; quadruple exhausts let the V12 sing; glorious interior on open-air display.