An American enthusiast has been reunited with the 330 GTS that his father once owned and which helped shape his passion for great cars. We went to meet him. Words Massimo Delbo. Photography James Lipman.
Family Reunion Feature car: 1967 330 GTS
The story of a family reunion How Brent Martini bought back a spyder once owned by his uncle and his father
This 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS, chassis #10703, achieved a world record price for the model when it sold for $2,530,000 at Gooding & Co’s Scottsdale, Arizona auction back in January 2018. It is a wonderfully restored, matching numbers car, and a rare machine, too, being one of only 100 examples built. And yet while so much of this could be reason enough to feature it in these pages, the real reason it’s here has nothing to do with any of the above.
We’ve travelled to southern California to meet the new owner, for the very same reason that David Gooding, president of Gooding & Co, put the following lot on hold while he congratulated the buyer and explained to the assembled throng why he was so happy about this particular sale. As Gooding explained, the buyer was respectively nephew and son of the first two owners, thus returning the 330 to the very family that had owned it in its early years.
‘It’s a rare machine, too, one of only 100 examples built’
Brent Martini, 59, is a successful businessman, retired racer and a typical car guy, with a nice selection of modern exotics in his garage, though his main passion is for Stuttgart prancing horses, both modern and classic. It’s a passion rooted in his childhood, when he was lucky enough to be exposed to a number of great cars. His grandfather had moved to New Jersey from Tuscany, Italy, and started a pharmaceutical business that later flourished with Brent’s uncle Emil at its head. ‘So I grew up with different influences, with my father being an American car lover, my uncle always having amazing cars, and a neighbour crazy for Porsches.
‘There are two moments that I still vividly remember today that shaped my passion for cars. One was the amazing ride I was given in a 911 S from a German friend living close by. From that moment I dreamed of owning a 911, and since 1981 I’ve always had one in my garage.
‘Then there was my uncle Emil. We were close. Dad and him worked together for more than 36 years, and he was a very elegant man, with a lovely home, always well-dressed, only the best of the best in everything. Back in the 1960s and ’70s there weren’t many fancy cars in New Jersey, but I do remember a Maserati Ghibli in his driveway – he was the first in town to own one – also a De Tomaso Mangusta and others.
‘Back then, nobody in New Jersey had a Ferrari’
‘One day, after he moved to California, he bought new, from Luigi Chinetti, the Ferrari. I was eight years old, and that was the coolest car I’d ever seen. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it, totally different from any other car I ever saw before, red (Rosso Cina) with black trim, magnesium wheels, and this deep, loud engine growl.
‘My father Robert always had American cars – a 1967 Oldsmobile 442 high-shifter was our fun car. I remember being very disappointed when one day in 1972 he come home with a BMW, but that ended up being a great car and started my and dad’s love for European cars.’
The family business, in the meantime, was going very well, and a few years later after a journey to Europe, where he stopped off in Maranello, uncle Emil bought two Ferraris: a Daytona and a 246 Dino GTS. With these new acquisitions, he decided to offer the 330 GTS to his brother Robert, at the same price he had paid when it was new.
‘The first thing I noticed while driving was that the steering wheel is still the original’
‘It was 1970-1971, I was 12 and the New Jersey wing of the family was living in a $28,000 home with an $11,400 Ferrari in one side of the two-car garage!’ says Brent. ‘Back then, nobody in New Jersey had a Ferrari.
‘I remember the emotions of the first ride in it, the noise, the smell and the sound of the opening and closing of the garage door. I can remember the clicking of the electric fuel pump and the deep rumble, the amazing sound of a V12 coming alive. I don’t remember ever seeing the car with the top up or driven in the rain.
‘I was playing in the baseball junior league at the time, and dad would come to pick me up after the game. When my team won a game, we would drive the two miles up to the ice cream shop in the 330, a bunch of children inside. In my memories this car is always surrounded by excited children, asking for a ride. I was also attending a Catholic school and one of our teachers was this big, serious, awe-inspiring guy. Dad invited him for a ride and off they went. When they came back it was the only time I ever saw him smiling!
‘The 330 was part of our life. My personal best memory is linked with an evening out for dinner with dad, while I was attending a summer camp. There was a long drive on a dirt road to enter and to leave, and after dinner he dropped me off and left. I remained there, listening to him driving away, the car burbling on the gravel until, arriving on the tarmac, dad opened up and I listened to him going through the gears in the dark…’
The family parted company with the 330 in 1976 after Robert Martini was offered the chance to buy either his brother’s Daytona or the Dino. ‘We had a long talk at home and decided to go for the Daytona, because of its 12-cylinder engine,’ says Brent. ‘We sold the 330 for $12,800 – unfortunately before I could drive it – and bought the Daytona for $28,000.
‘The Daytona was the first Ferrari I drove and raced in the club track days, and I felt very ashamed when, although it was not my fault, I crashed it at Lime Rock. Dad “let” me pay the mechanic shop and eventually got over it, even if was not easy because for a good year every friend told him: “I saw your son crashing the Daytona…
‘Funnily enough, the Daytona was sold only five years ago. Dad didn’t ask me if I wanted to keep it, and I didn’t tell him I’d love to preserve it, and one day it was gone. That was a mistake…’
Robert died a couple of years later, so it was no wonder that, when Brent spotted the 330 in the Gooding & Co catalogue, he vowed to buy back such an important part of his early life.
‘I have to admit that I had never been to a car auction before January 2018, and considering how much it cost me, it’s probably better if I don’t go back for a while!’ he laughs. ‘Anyway, being interested in cars, I always receive the auction catalogues, mostly to look for modern Porsches, and one weekend in early January 2018, I was at home with my wife and a couple of long-term friends. We were in the living room, I don’t remember what we were talking about, but we were very relaxed, and I was flipping through the pages of the Gooding & Co Scottsdale sale. The first page was dedicated to the 330 GTS and I said to the very distracted audience that my dad had one of those. I didn’t recognise it at first, but how could I? To me, the Martinis’ 330 was red on black; this was black on green.
‘I read the five bullet points and turned the page, probably not even interested in reading the “provenance” box, when I jumped on my chair on seeing the black-and-white picture of the car. There she was, a 330 GTS parked in my New Jersey driveway. I couldn’t believe it and started to scream “That’s our old Ferrari!” or something like that. I just remember seeing the astonished faces of our guests. It was exciting and hilarious, but I do believe the decision to buy it back into the family was taken right there, in those excited minutes, supported by my friends, totally agreeing on this crazy project.’
Brent then began to piece together what had happened to the Ferrari after it left the Martini family: many years spent in Georgia, then a period in Switzerland before a return to the US in 1994 with the change of livery. It was described as being in very good condition, with about 20,000 miles covered, matching numbers and complete with everything right down to the handbook and the original toolkit. On the Monday, Brent called another friend, Shawn Williams at Exclusive Motorcars in LA, and asked him to dig a little deeper. Williams soon discovered that the 330 GTS was already close, being at the Gooding warehouse in Santa Monica, and went to inspect the car on Brent’s behalf.
‘I was living an internal fight, between a hope of him coming back with a “don’t buy it” to the hope of having the car back,’ says Brent. ‘With his green light, and my wife’s too, I had to start to look for the money. I’m wealthy, but not in the league of having a couple of million in cash to spare, and to free the money takes time. In the meantime, I started planning how, if bought, I’d present the car to my daughter as a gift, not only from me but from her family, as part of her heritage.
‘So we went to Scottsdale with the same friends, and when I saw the car it looked wonderful, but I decided not to touch it or sit in it. I explained to David Gooding why I was looking and I started trying to understand how the “professional buyers” go about it. The auction of lot 138 was quite short and intense. One of my friends made a video, and you can really see how quickly everything happened and how exciting it was. Seconds after I bought the car, David Gooding explained to the crowd in the room what just happened, and that the 330 GTS was going “back home”. I’ll never forget the applause from the room.
‘After Scottsdale I asked for the car to be shipped directly to Pebble Beach, where my daughter is studying. She didn’t know we were looking for the car, she wasn’t aware of the family legacy and I was happy to surprise her. We met for lunch, and my first drive ever of the 330 was on the 17 Mile Drive, with my 16-year-old daughter by my side.
‘The first thing I noticed while driving was that the steering wheel is still the original – some of its cracks I recognised! Thankfully my daughter, after a moment of astonishment, was very happy about this new addition and responsibility in her life. I was crying a lot, and everything was absolutely perfect. The few hours we spent together were the top moments I’ve ever shared with her, and the most remarkable thing of all was when she asked me, actually encouraged me with a “hey dad, let’s take a pic of you with the car”. She rarely, if ever, asks to take a picture of me, and as I was posing for a nice but standard picture she yelled out over the noise of the surf: “No dad, show me what it really feels like to have your dad’s car”! So I leaned down and patted the 330 with tears running down my face. It was an extraordinary moment in my life, shared with my beautiful daughter. Something never to be forgotten.
‘Now the family debate is trying to decide whether to keep the car as is, or bring her back to the original colour combination, but this is really just a detail. We are all happy about this “crazy” purchase, and never regret for a second doing it. The only issue is my wife: through Gooding & Co, a new set of old pictures of the car surfaced, picturing me pretending to drive, with my then-girlfriend in the car with me. Because of that, so far I’ve been not able of convince my wife to be pictured with the car. She doesn’t want to be the second girl in it.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS
ENGINE V12, 3967cc
MAX POWER 300bhp @ 6600rpm / DIN nett
MAX TORQUE 288lb ft @ 5000rpm / DIN nett
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
SUSPENSION Front and rear: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
STEERING Worm-and-roller, unassisted
BRAKES Solid discs front and rear
WHEELS 7 x 14in wire-spoke
TYRES 205 VR14
POWER TO WEIGHT 235bhp/ton
0-60MPH 6.9sec (claimed)
TOP SPEED 146mph (claimed)
PRICE NEW (1967 UK) £6515
VALUE TODAY (2019 USA) £2,000,000+
Left and below: Not its original colour scheme – the 330 was red with black trim when the Martini family first owned it in the late ’60s and early ’70s – but black over green still seems to suit it very well. Above and right: Brent Martini reunited with the family Ferrari after more than 40 years; car is in wonderful condition and even still has the original toolkit. Right and below: Looking right at home in the California sunshine, the 330 will now be passed on to Brent Martini’s daughter.