Ferrari GT Showdown. Can underrated GTC/4 topple the mighty Daytona? Andrew Frankel was already a GTC fan, but could it really beat a fully fit Daytona? Everyone knows about the Daytona, but could its slightly softer-edged 2+2 sibling, the 365 GTC/4, actually be the more satisfying steer? Time to find out. Words Andrew Frankel. Photography Malcolm Griffiths.
DUEL – COVER STORY 365 GTC/4 takes on Daytona
Usually, in the course of my day job testing modern cars, I am happy to find myself in a minority of one. Reassured, even. If I go somewhere, drive something and am none too impressed, when I hear colleagues gushing over it later, I don’t fear I’ve misjudged it, I give thanks that my critical faculties appear to remain intact. I’m not saying they’re wrong and I’m right, for there can only be shades of opinion, but I do at least retain the confidence to believe my opinion is as valid as theirs and am therefore not afraid to say so. But with old cars it’s different.
How do you know that anything more than a few months old continues to behave as its manufacturer intended? How can you therefore say for sure that a car that is not merely many months or years but decades old is in any way representative of what it was like when it was new? The answer is you can’t. Assessing new cars is hard enough; reaching meaningful conclusions about old ones is positively fraught with pitfalls.
‘Drive the Daytona harder and it starts to pay attention. Suddenly the car feels on its toes, beautifully poised’
I’ll give you an example. Years ago I drove a Ferrari 365 GTB/4, which we’re going to call a Daytona from now on to avoid it being confused with the main subject of this story whose name differs by just a single letter. It was quick enough for me to believe most of the 352bhp that started life under its bonnet remained in residence, but I still emerged utterly nonplussed. What was the fuss all about? Looks aside, why was this heavy, saggy, crude, remote, blunt instrument part of Ferrari iconography? Was it just because it looked cool and went fast? Surely there had to be more to it than that.
But that’s all I had to go on. And then a lovely man called Miles Wilkins lent me his pale blue 365 GTC/4 for a day. The GTC/4, you will remember, is the Daytona’s sister car, powered by a similar engine but different in many significant ways, all designed to make it an easier, more relaxing and refined form of Ferrari motoring. It was a pure GT, a cruiser, a Ferrari of a genre I’ve never admired as much as Maranello’s more sporting offerings. But I absolutely loved it. And from that day to this (or at least until the day of this test), I have existed convinced that the Daytona and 365 GTC/4 are respectively just about the most over- and under-rated Ferraris ever made.
Even so, a nagging doubt about that Daytona continued to gnaw away at me. How could this lighter, more powerful, better balanced, more tightly focused and sporting Ferrari not be several streets better than one as broadly defined as the GTC/4? Finding out would not just be a question of finding a couple of cars and going for a run up the road. They had to be the right cars. And it had to be the right road.
The right cars were provided by Richard Bayston’s stunning silver Daytona and a dark blue 365 GTC/4 provided by Rardley Motors. Both cars were in what I think of as perfect condition, which means to say they are not so perfect you are scared to use them. I was assured that both were mechanically standard, fit, well and available on the same day. So that was one big box ticked in my quest. The road was easier to choose because, given the choice, I always head for the wide open spaces of the Snowdonia National Park. So that was box two. Box three was a perfect weather forecast. But there was still one more variable, and it has compromised many a classic car test before this one.
‘Compared with the Daytona’s uncompromising set-up, the the 1972 Ferrari GTC/4 sounds like a limousine’
These cars are valuable – we insured the GTC/4 for £280,000, the Daytona for £700,000. The former is for sale, the latter the jewel in the crown of the owner’s three-Ferrari collection. My fear as I drove up through Wales to meet them was that one, the other or both would come with strings attached, in the form of limits to the revs I could use and the miles I could accrue. Would their providers insist on being on-board at all times, and would I be commanded to tackle corners only gently? It would be like cracking open one bottle of Latour and another of Lafite, and being told I could only sniff their contents.
And that, I guess, is where I got luckiest of all. Rardley’s Simon Underwood brought the GTC/4 and handed it over without let or hindrance. Richard, now fully aware of my Daytona-sceptic position, was positively insistent I left no stone unturned in my hunt for an answer. All the pieces were in place.
Looking at them parked together, I began to think I must have got it wrong – you only had to examine their relative specifications to see that. Though their engines are closely related, they are not the same: the GTC/4 has six sidedraught carburettors compared with the Daytona’s more efficient downdraught set-up. It has different cylinder heads, a wet sump and an 8.8:1 compression ratio rather than 9.3:1. Yes, it has a five-speed gearbox, but it’s bolted to the back of the engine, not located between the rear wheels like a Daytona’s to even-up the weight distribution and improve traction.
The GTC/4 is heavier to the tune of around 150kg and sits on a wheelbase elongated by 100mm. It has power steering, softer suspension with self-levelling at the back and even a pair of rear seats. Compared with the Daytona’s uncompromising set-up, it sounds like a limousine.
Inside it’s far more spacious than the Daytona, for which you can also read less snug, and while it also has Veglia dials, in both layout and design they are of a far more ’70s vogue than those of its sister. It’s a pretty interior, characterful and redolent of its era for sure, but the
Daytona’s, with all its white-on-black dials under one nacelle, big wheel and super-low driving position, is just gorgeous. With every passing minute, this seems an increasingly silly comparison and I feel a touch foolish for suggesting it.
And then I drive the 365 GTC/4, and the situation gets instantly a lot, lot worse.
It’s just not very nice. The engine splutters at low revs, pulls inconsistently thereafter and feels out of breath by not much more than 4000rpm, the most I’m prepared to do while the oil is still cold. The power steering feels a little wooden, the suspension full of friction. It feels like I’ve prodded an arthritic old labrador from its slumbers in front of the fire and a dragged him off for a jog around the park.
But then something I remember from all those years back when I drove Miles’s car, coupled with an aside from Simon that the car has not been used much of late, suggests it may be worth persevering with after all. These are old cars and take far longer than their gauges suggest before all their systems are properly up to temperature; and they are Ferraris, and Ferraris are designed to be driven. If this one has not had much air in its lungs of late, perhaps it can be persuaded to clear its throat.
Twenty miles from our base in Betws-y-Coed and with both cars now thoroughly warm, we turn onto the roads we will be using all day. And with a Daytona now filling my mirror, it is time for the GTC/4 to confirm all I thought I felt about it – or take that illusion and smash it into a million pieces.
Oddly enough it feels better immediately, almost as if it knows what is coming, which is clearly ridiculous. But the quad-cam V12 is already in better voice and, as I ease the speeds up and start injecting some loads into the suspension, so the GTC/4 responds in kind. Within a few minutes a car I’d regarded as a nice old thing but well past its prime is behaving like, well, a Ferrari.
In these days when every supercar engine has either turbochargers or a cubic capacity you’d once only have found in a truck, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when the smaller motors of their forebears needed a few revs to ‘climb on the cam’ as we once put it. And there’s no mistaking the moment it happens on the GTC/4: at 4000rpm it’s dawdling, by 5000rpm it’s flying. How far to go? The rev-counter says 7000rpm, though the equivalent dial in the Daytona, whose engine has the same internals, reckons 7700rpm is OK. But peak power is at 6800rpm, which seems enough to me.
And if you use that guideline, the GTC/4 feels fast. Not a quaint, good-for-an-old-‘un fast, but properly quick; quick enough on this road for there never to be a moment when its 340bhp feels inadequate. When you consider that a stock 488 GTB has almost twice as much power, it does make you wonder whether the ability of the engineers to provide power has not now somewhat outstripped geography’s ability to provide environments in which it can be safely enjoyed.
Back in the GTC/4, surprises are coming at me by the corner. The brakes are fine for this level of performance and, despite the car being driven for lengthy periods on very demanding roads, never feel likely to fade. The gearbox, even without the trademark dog-leg first of Ferrari’s transaxle cars, is the purest of delights: not especially fast but with a superb, oily, mechanical action.
So clearly the chassis has to let it down. Except it doesn’t. I knew that with self-levelling rear suspension and those skinny old balloon-walled 215/70-section Michelin XWX tyres it would ride well. It was harder to see how, with soft springs, power steering and lacking the Daytona’s even weight distribution, its handling might reach anything like such lofty levels. And yet within a mile I am leaning on it; within a couple more, pushing it genuinely hard. And all I get back is a constant flow of happy messages and supplications to go harder still. And, if it were my car, I’d do precisely that. No, I don’t drop the Daytona, but I can tell just from looking in the mirror and seeing how it is addressing the road that this is no stroll for the GTC/4’s sleek sister.
In fact Richard is grinning in the way you’d hope a man who’s just flung his Daytona across a sizeable chunk of Snowdonia might grin. How can I tell him that the GTC/4 has proven to be at least as wonderful as I had recalled and that his low-slung slice of exotica will now have its work cut out just to match it, let alone justify a price premium that saw us insure it for 2.5 times the value of the 2+2 happily ticking away beside it, panels cooling, point proven without any shadow of a doubt?
There is no acclimatisation period for me and Daytona to get used to each other, no half-hour of gentle lolloping just to warm up and dial in. It is me, it and the mountain road. Get in and go. And it’s a rather odd feeling.
Because it is lighter, lower and has unassisted steering, you expect the Daytona to provide a more intimate and involving experience. But it doesn’t. There’s much to enjoy here, not least one of Ferrari’s best interiors and certainly one of its greatest soundtracks but, to be honest, I’m still not getting it. OK, I’m having a stack more fun than I did in that other Daytona a while back, but that could easily be down to the rather more optimal environment. At the far end of the road, I turn around and, partly out of disappointment, partly because I’m not going to dismiss this important part of the Ferrari legend without finding out all I can, I drive back to base as fast as I know is safe for this road.
‘I ease the speeds up. Within a couple of miles, I’m pushing the GTC/4 genuinely hard’
Which is when something happens that I really only associate with racing cars. Proper competition cars – rather than adapted road cars – hate going slowly, it’s not a language they understand and they’re never shy about showing their disapproval. But it is only when I am driving the Daytona far harder than I ever expected to that it starts to pay attention. Suddenly the car feels on its toes, beautifully poised. The heavy steering lightens up and you can now trim your line by foot as much as hand. The sharp and snappy gearshift now makes sense and that engine, until now an oasis of wonder in a desert of disappointment, is now once more among likeminded friends. It all comes together on a plane I did not expect to reach, and a level of ability and involvement that puts clear air between it and the GTC/4.
Over the years I’d read a few times that Daytonas get better the faster you go and that they only feel really right when properly extended, but I’d never taken such comments very seriously. Yet here was the proof, a second Daytona experience so incomparably better than the first all those years ago that it barely seems possible they’re the same car.
What’s odd is that even if you forget the GTC/4, which requires no such commitment to put its best foot forward, even the Berlinetta Boxer that replaced the Daytona is nothing like so hard to enjoy. Nor, I should say, is the 275 GTB that preceded it. The Daytona is a real drivers’ car, so if you’re not going to really drive it, you’ll be far better off leaving it parked. But if you do commit, my goodness what riches await.
So what should we do with this information, now that it has been provided by two Ferraris clearly in the finest of health on roads that leave no room for ambiguity? The first thing I should say is that I was wrong about the Daytona. There were probably reasons for that – not enough time in not the right environment in probably not the right car – but it’s clear enough to me that I’ve been doing the Daytona a disservice over all these years. It is an incredible car, capable of offering a sublime driving experience and fitting entirely my image of how such a car should be. As good as it looks? At least, and probably better even than that.
All it is unable to do is cast its shadow over the 365 GTC/4 any more. After all those decades of obscurity, the time has come for the GTC/4 to emerge blinking into the sunlight and take its place in the pantheon of Ferrari greats. How great? If Ferrari has made a more charming, rewarding 2+2 before or since, I’ve not driven it. If the Daytona is correctly priced, then this is the bargain of all Ferrari bargains.
But it’s not as good a thing to drive as a Daytona and quite clearly never was. Yet this it counters with all those user- friendly features. If you believe the enjoyment a car provides can be measured by how much fun it is to drive multiplied by the number of times you feel inclined to drive it, then it is an astonishingly tempting proposition – a car in which to blast down to the Alps just so you can play in the mountains.
I’ll put it this way: if you drive the Daytona the way it wants to be driven, it will provide one of the greatest experiences of any Ferrari road car from any era. But it’s a car that requires learning and acceptance that its way is the only way. The 365 GTC/4 makes no such demands: the fruits it offers may ultimately not be quite so delicious as the Daytona’s, but they’re still pretty tasty, a damn sight easier to get at and come with less risk of you falling out of the tree.
Were you to assemble and curate a collection of outstanding Ferrari street machines, the Daytona might well be the standout car, and I know Richard feels that way about his. By contrast, the GTC/4 would not even make the shortlist. But, money aside, if you could have only one car to do everything you ever wanted a V12 Ferrari road car to do, I’d take the understated and still under-rated 2+2. I feared this test might make me think less of the 365 GTC/4, yet after a day on the road with what I must now acknowledge is the quite incredible Daytona, I actually want one even more.
‘The Daytona is unable to cast its shadow over the GTC/4 any more’
Thanks to Richard Bayston for bringing his Daytona along and to Dr Ian Levy for the loan of his GTC/4 which is currently for sale through Rardley Motors (01428 606616)
Tech and photos
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona
ENGINE V12, 4390cc
MAX POWER 352bhp @ 7500rpm / DIN
MAX TORQUE 318lb ft @ 5500rpm / DIN
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual transaxle, rear-wheel drive
SUSPENSION Front and rear: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
STEERING Worm-and-roller, unassisted
BRAKES Vented discs, 290mm front, 297mm rear
WHEELS 8 x 15in alloy
TYRES 215/70 R15
POWER TO WEIGHT 223bhp/ton
TOP SPEED 174mph
PRICE NEW IN UK £9582 in 1971 (£142,000 in today’s money)
VALUES TODAY IN UK £650,000-£750,000
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Ferrari 365 GTC/4
ENGINE V12, 4390cc
MAX POWER 340bhp @ 6200rpm / DIN
MAX TORQUE 318lb ft @ 4000rpm / DIN
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
SUSPENSION Front and rear: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers (rear self-levelling), anti-roll bar
STEERING Worm-and-roller, hydraulically power-assisted
BRAKES Vented discs, 290mm front, 297mm rear
WHEELS 8 x 15in alloy
TYRES 215/70 R15
POWER TO WEIGHT 200bhp/ton
TOP SPEED 152mph
PRICE NEW IN UK £9814 in 1972 (£133,000 in today’s money)
VALUES TODAY IN UK £200,000-£280,000
Right – 365 GTC/4 was released in 1971 and its interior has a real ’70s ambience where the Daytona is more your classic ’60s Berlinetta. Still very cool, though. Above and opposite. You really have to drive the Daytona to get the best from it, but when you do its chassis is every bit as impressive as that magnificent 352bhp ‘Colombo’ V12. Above and right – GTC/4 has longer wheelbase, softer suspension and a less powerful version of the Daytona’s 4.4-litre V12 (340bhp plays 352) with side-draught instead of downdraught Weber carburettors and a lower compression ratio.
COVER STORY DAYTONA REMEMBERED – CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE DAYTONA KIND
David Vivian recalls two encounters with day ton as – including one with our cover car.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it must have been 1970 and I would have been 13 or 14. I don’t know exactly where it happened. Possibly the Egham by-pass. Dusk.
We were travelling home from holiday in the family MG 1300 Mk2, my view of the outside, as ever, accessed from the back seat. Dad was an enthusiastic driver more accustomed to overtaking than being overtaken, the little MG saloon’s 70bhp, 1275cc engine a willing and surprisingly effective accomplice. We weren’t dawdling. Far from it.
Five seconds is all it took. A peripheral presence to my right, as sudden and shocking as a jump-cut in a horror flick, rapidly acquiring mass and noise – a wonderful noise beyond my teenage powers of description. Then, through the windscreen, four circular tail lights flaring in the murk as the driver braked into the gap ahead, 12 perfectly orchestrated cylinders sighing to repose after their trivial exertion. It was beautiful, almost an honour – like being playfully tagged on the chin by a dancing Muhammad Ali mid-poem. No commentary was needed, just the whispered uttering of one word. One word that probably determined the course of my life. Daytona.
‘The reason I became a motoring journalist was the hope that, sooner or later, I would get behind the wheel of a Daytona’
There and then I decided that one day I would drive a Ferrari Daytona, aka 365 GTB/4. It would be a life goal. I didn’t know how or when (presumably once I’d acquired a driving licence) but such was the optimism of youth, I imagined that the accumulation of considerable wealth would do the trick. That didn’t happen. Which means, hand on heart, the reason I became a motoring journalist at a tender age was with the hope in my heart that, sooner or later, I would get behind the wheel of the impossibly good-looking Ferrari that overtook a fast-moving, dark brown MG saloon so stylishly all those years ago.
On an otherwise depressingly gloomy day at North Weald aerodrome, Essex, in 1985, it happened. By then I’d driven faster supercars and, in truth, Lamborghini’s Countach QV – a car I’d pitted against a handful of rivals over a standing kilometre in a ‘world’s fastest supercar’ showdown, coincidentally held at North Weald – had firmly established itself as my favourite, even though it lost to a ludicrously boost-tweaked 911 Turbo. Still hurts.
They say never meet your heroes, they’ll disappoint you. Not this one. No, the Daytona wasn’t as ferociously fast as the Countach. It didn’t matter. Nor did I care that the steering was ridiculously heavy at low speed, a trait not even mitigated by the surprisingly huge steering wheel. To be honest, the big car was a bit of a pain at a canter, feeling cumbersome and clumsy, if easy enough to conduct.
But thankfully there was plenty of space at North Weald for the Daytona to stretch and breathe and it was only above 100mph that it all became clear. Everything – the chassis, the engine’s vast powerband, the gearing – was biased for effortless, athletic, autobahn-dissolving speed, all the way up to that remarkable 175mph top speed.
‘The big car was a bit of a pain at a canter. It was only above 100mph that it all became clear’
Below – In 1985, road tester David Vivian drove the very Daytona featured in these pages for an article in Motor magazine. It was every bit as impressive then as it is today.