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Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona

Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona

By Jack Nerad

Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and, if that's true, then the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona has been flattered like no car in recent history. Not only have many cars "borrowed" many of its classic lines, most notably Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro, but a cottage industry of knock-offs of the model appeared in the 1980's, sincere flattery indeed for a vehicle born little more than a decade earlier.

But is the Ferrari Daytona more than just a pretty melding of sheetmetal, glass and rubber?

Emphatically the answer is yes. In fact, the 365 GTB/4 has a number of prerequisites - looks, technical excellence, leading edge performance - to land it on our elite list of the 50 greatest cars of all time.

To understand the genesis of the Daytona, one must look at the riveting automotive world of the late 1960's, a time one might accurately call a Golden Age of the Motorcar. Not only was Ferrari in full flower, but Maserati with its Bora and Lamborghini with its Miura were pointing the street-legal sports/GT car in a new and exciting direction. Meanwhile, Ford had gone GT racing in a big way, first with the Shelby Daytona Coupe and then with the invincible Ford GT40. And Chevrolet was filling American streets with high-powered Corvettes, while the Chevy-powered Chaparrals of Jim Hall were making a name in sports car road racing.

Amidst this highly charged milieu, Ferrari's sophisticated but small displacement 3-liter and 3.3-liter V-12 engines were beginning to look a bit anemic. After all, Ford and Chevrolet both were fielding sports racing cars with 7-liter displacement, while Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lamborghini and Maserati all had well-respected overhead cam engines of four liters or so. Clearly the competition was fielding vehicles with plenty of machismo. Of course, Ferrari had also toyed with larger engines, particularly 4-liters, but none of them had been built in any numbers until the Daytona.

When the decision was made to build a larger displacement engine, however, Ferrari pulled out all the stops. At the heart of the engine was the Colombo-designed V-12, but the engine was so thoroughly re-engineered that nearly nothing remained of the original. Displacing 4.4-liters, the all-aluminum powerplant featured four-bolt main bearing caps, a forged billet-steel crankshaft, forged connecting rods and dry-sump lubrication. The beautifully machined heads contained twin cams that activated two valves per cylinder, and the stock compression ratio a relatively mild 8.8:1. A half dozen downdraft Weber carburetors delivered the fuel to produce 352 horsepower at a dizzying 7500 rpm. (Racing versions of the same engine were said to produce well in excess of 400 horsepower.)

But as sweet and powerful as was the engine of the 365 GTB/4, it was its exterior design that set it apart from other Ferraris. It was a shape that was staunchly traditional in its layout, yet modern and eventually timeless in its execution.

Again, a little scene-setting is necessary. Before the Daytona was introduced to the public, Lamborghini set the world on fire with its debut of the Miura, and many auto enthusiast magazines quickly began calling that car the prettiest automobile ever built. And not only was the Miura an appealing shape, it also housed a midships-mounted V-12 engine. It was a configuration that took modern racing practice and gave it to the (wealthy) man in the street.

Despite this, Enzo Ferrari decided that his newest berlinetta would use the traditional configuration of all its previous "civilian" sporting machines - front engine, rear drive, although the front-mounted engine was situated well back in the chassis for balanced weight distribution. Pininfarina, the studio that designed virtually all of Ferrari's most attractive street automobiles, was commissioned to pen the exterior design. The actual sketches borrowed heavily from a concept that was originally intended for the 330 GTC, but found a perfect vehicle in the stouter, more masculine 365 GTB/4.

The design is the epitome of the "long hood, short deck" look that had spelled sports car from the days of the Stutz Bearcat, Duesenberg and Mercedes-Benz SSK. Faired headlights (pop-ups on U.S. versions) and a broad and extremely short grille with vestigal bumpers gave the front end a knifelike appearance. The hood, covering the potent V-12 engine, stretched back to a very "fast" radically sloped windshield. All the roof pillars were strikingly narrow and the fastback roofline sloped back to a rear end that recalled the 250 GTO. Cromodora 5-spoke alloy wheels gave the coupe a purposeful look - a look that would be knocked off on countless Chevrolet Camaros a decade later.

Introduced at the Paris auto show in 1968, just as Ferrari was reaching an arrangement with Fiat, the Daytona proved to be controversial. Certainly no one in the auto magazine field could deny its obvious beauty, but there was much less enthusiasm for its traditional front-engine layout. Some writers had the temerity to declare the Daytona old-fashioned.

There was nothing old-fashioned about the car's performance, however. Despite the fact that it was the heaviest of the berlinettas ever to come down the pike at a substantial 3600 pounds, the car offered both mind-numbing acceleration and exhilarating top speed. An early test of the car by Road & Track magazine found that the stock Daytona would jet from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.9 seconds. Top speed was variously reported as 174 to 180 miles per hour, impressive numbers even today.

A rather traditional Ferrari tube frame chassis was hidden beneath the Daytona's lovely hand-formed steel bodywork. Suspension was all-independent with sophisticated double wishbone layout fitted front and rear. The 365 GTB/4 also was the first Ferrari to use fiberglass "tub" construction to form the passenger compartment, a technique that would be used in many subsequent Ferraris.

In spite of the fact that the Daytona was designed for street use, its passenger layout, while aesthetically attractive, offered few concessions to comfort and ergonomics. The one-piece bucket seats were mounted low and offered no rake adjustment. Pedal effort and steering were both regarded as heavy. On the other hand the Daytona did feature such niceties as air conditioning, power-operated windows and a trunk that could actually accommodate a small amount of cargo.

As with most Ferraris, the proof was in the driving. With an impressive top speed and excellent cornering prowess the Daytona was able to make miles disappear in prodigious quantities. As a street car, it became one of the most popular Ferrari models of all time. Some 1,400 365 GTB/4's were produced between 1968 and 1973, a long and successful run by Ferrari standards. Of these, but 100 were Spyders (convertibles) but that attractive variant would ultimately become the most desired of all.
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