Road test 1969 Ferrari 365GTC LHD version

2014 / 2015 Drive-My

Ferrari’s gorgeous 365GTC in the shadow of the Andes. Enzo meets Evita Ferrari 365GTC through Argentina. Maranello’s Forgotten Masterpiece. Mick Walsh has a dream drive on a deserted Argentinian Ruta Nacional in the sublime Ferrari two-seater that many in the know rate above the Daytona – the 365GTC. Photography Tony Baker.


The fuel-gauge needle is buried in empty, and we’re running cautiously north on the Ruta 40 through western Patagonia on one of the world’s greatest roads. Smooth, clear and spectacularly scenic, there’s one major disadvantage to this remarkable northsouth route – the lack of petrol stations.


1969 Ferrari 365GTC LHD version road test

1969 Ferrari 365GTC LHD version road test

The Ferrari 365GTC is a thirsty beast. However you drive, it seems to guzzle gasoline at an eager 12mpg. But if the triple twin-choke Weber carbs had run dry, and the magnificent 4.4-litre, 320bhp single-overhead-cam per bank V12 had fallen silent, I wouldn’t have panicked. The past 100 miles with that epic Gioacchino Colombo-designed, quad-exhaust soundtrack had already provided some of the finest motoring in my life. And if you’re going to sit on the bank surveying a dead car, there are few sexier shapes to admire than this sharp yet subtle coupé.

‘GUNNING ALONG IN THE ANDES’ SHADOW WITH THE FULL-BLOODED V12 SOUND WAS A DREAM’

Near Lago Gutiérrez, just as we’re preparing to pull over, a solitary old-style gas station appears in a wooded glade – complete with homely café – and luckily we avoid the embarrassing situation of what might have happened.

Being handed the keys to any classic Ferrari is special, but I’ve long wanted to try this stylish 250 Lusso replacement that respected cognoscenti including Grand Prix aces Paul Frère and Phil Hill rated as one of the most accomplished allround 1960s GTs. This deserted Argentinian highway is one of the best places to explore the stunning performance and exquisite balance of this Pininfarina-styled two-seater evolution of the 330GTC. Wide and fast – with a table-top flat surface – the road undulates over the Andes foothills, and around beautiful lakes with little worry of encountering the policia, or traffic.


Road test 1969 Ferrari 365GTC - 2015 drive-my

From the moment you slide behind the wellraked Nardi three-spoke steering wheel into the hip-hugging seats and survey the wooden facia, plus handsome black Veglia gauges, the interior, like the bodywork, feels understated. The detailing is classic Italian cool, in total contrast to the flash ambience of modern Ferraris where the branding is overwhelming. Here there’s just the Scuderia Ferrari Prancing Horse on the wheel boss, and the crossed Pininfarina flags on the centre ashtray cover. This 365GTC has a cherished, well-worn aura with creased black leather and scuffed trim, but it feels snug and exclusive – like a favourite pair of Santoni loafers. With such slim pillars, the all-round visibility is exceptional, which provides the perfect frame for the breathtaking landscape of our route ahead.

‘IT FEELS TEMPTINGLY NEUTRAL – IN PART THANKS TO PERFECT WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION’

Being a left-hand-drive example, the gearlever is a shorter, more relaxed stretch across the wide centre console to engage the reluctant dogleg first. The controls are weighty at low speeds, just to remind you that this seductive coupé is still a proper Ferrari. The unassisted ZF wormand-roller steering is initially heavy, with poor lock, but such early effort is forgotten once you’re up to speed and into the main ‘H’ gearlever gate. The clutch action is beautifully positive and, as soon as the transaxle oil is warm, the Porsche synchromesh is superbly effective, but it’s hard to resist double-declutching on downshifts just to hear the engine’s glorious roar.

The Girling disc brakes are assisted by two huge servos – one for the front circuit and one for the rear – and feel over-sensitive at slow pace, but their bite is reassuring at higher speeds.

They confidently haul you down from three figures with no hint of fade. The ride is firm, but well damped thanks to the Konis. What harshness the all-round double-wishbone independent suspension (inherited from the 275GTB) cannot cope with, the deeply sprung seats absorb. As expected with such dramatic performance, there’s little roll even through the tighter turns on the higher mountain passes.

Road test 1969 Ferrari 365GTC

Clockwise from top left: finely balanced profile, although pert rump is better resolved than fishlike front end; all-original cabin wears its patina with pride; Colombo-designed V12 thrives on high revs.


Unlike the earlier GTs that were set up to understeer, the shorter-wheelbase 365GTC feels temptingly neutral – in part thanks to its ideal 50:50 weight distribution, with a full tank of petrol. Frère reported that it was perfectly balanced on the limit, when it ‘drifted out smoothly in a controllable fashion’.

The car’s sky-high value deters me from discovering such heroic cornering angles, but the spectacular response proves addictive in the upper gears with the V12 howling through fast open bends. The engine has immense torque and flexibility, but only revving hard really brings it to life. Capable of 0-60mph in 6.3 secs, it’s quick by any standards but consider the 1451kg weight and that figure is even more impressive.

With its clear tarmac and smooth surface, the RN40 could have been built for the 365GTC. The refined extra power just soars up the rev range in every gear, and acceleration feels unlimited. We push to a rock-steady 120mph on one long straight stretch, but this mighty machine feels as if would happily keep climbing to the 151mph at 6600rpm clocked by Autocar in 1969. The miles flash by too quickly, proving the 365GTC to be an effortless grand tourer – as long as the 19.8-gallon fuel tank is topped up. Watching the fuel gauge rather than relishing the V12’s rampant power delivery over the last part of the journey is desperately frustrating.

My special trip was thanks to the generosity of Patricio Magrane, a passionate Alfista based in Buenos Aires who strayed to Maranello in 2007 when he acquired this Blu Chiaro metallizzato (the colours always sound more exotic in Italian) 365GTC from Cars International in London.

“It was delivered new to France and sold through Charles Pozzi,” he recalls. “The rear window still has his original Paris dealer decal.”

Little is known of chassis 11985’s early history in France, but in May 2007 it was auctioned at RM’s Ferrari Leggenda e Passione sale in Modena where it went for €165,000 (about £113,000). Prices have soared over the past seven years, but that doesn’t deter Magrane from driving the Ferrari: “The car is completely original, including the patinated upholstery. When it was overhauled we discovered that the engine had never been opened up in its whole life, and it now runs fantastically well. I intend to keep the Ferrari as original as it is and enjoy it that way. My favourite roads are around western Patagonia, and the 1000 Millas Sport is the perfect event for the 365. My son Tommy and I have a wonderful time, sharing the car on the annual rally.”

Road test 1969 Ferrari 365GTC

Andes provide magnificent setting for a great driver’s car – 365GTC looks spoton with cast-alloy wheels; handling nicely balanced: Ferrari legend Paul Frère said it ‘drifted smoothly in a controllable fashion’.


It would be a depressing time if the spiralling values of the 330/365 range discouraged owners from using these stylish coupés. As the service manager at Garage Francorchamps always advised owners: “The car will be much more reliable and rewarding if driven regularly.”

One of the highlights of the early years of the Goodwood Revival Car Show for me was a gorgeous unrestored Verde Seabird 365GTC. I later discovered that this three-owner 1969 car was used extensively in Europe, including winebuying excursions to Champagne and Burgundy, weekends in the Black Forest and visits to Paris. It was subsequently taken to America and was spotted motoring around Carmel and storming down Highway 1 during Monterey week.

Third owner Tom Kowaleski of Michigan clocked up 20,000 memorable miles, including a grand loop through Montana and Wyoming as well as vacations in Arizona. Local Ferrari specialist Terry Myr of Part Huron kept this exactingly preserved car in fine tune.

“There is no mid-to-late 1960s Ferrari that comes close to its touring capabilities,” enthuses Kowaleski. “The interior is gorgeous and the seats are comfortable for hours on the road. The factory air-conditioning works, plus it has a real trunk that can fit a garment bag and still have room for that case or two of wine found during the trip. It’s the ultimate ‘mature but playful’ Ferrari of the Enzo era. It’s completely understandable why it has been called the best, most elegant Ferrari touring car of all time. We used it as Enzo intended, and couldn’t agree more.”

Specialist David Cottingham of DK Engineering is another fan. “My first Ferrari was a red 365GTC that I owned for 12 months in the early ’70s, which was a lifetime in those days,” he explains. “The quality of the 330 and 365 really appealed then. I was getting frustrated looking at rusty 250GTEs and 330GTs, and the later cars were clearly better built. Ferrari had raised its game about series production with the 330 and 365GTC, plus the bodies were well designed with no rust traps. The panel quality was also exceptionally good, and it was easy to fit replacements. It’s not a complex car and servicing is pretty straightforward. The most difficult job is overhauling the transaxle, which has needle roller bearings. I’d always rather rebuild an engine.”

“I also love the looks,” he adds. “The rear three-quarter and side views are my favourite angles, but the front – with its gaping fish grille – seems less well resolved. As with the Daytona, I prefer them on cast-alloy wheels. I never like to see heavy cars on wires. We had some great runs down through France to Pierre Bardinon’s events at Mas du Clos (near Aubusson). It was quick around the track and the brakes are great, but it’s a shame about the steering. If only Ferrari had fitted rack and pinion. We’re just restoring Paul Alexander’s old car, which is for keeps. The boys (sons James and Jeremy, also at DK) want to paint it Viola (purple), but I want to keep it original. For me, it’s a better car than the Daytona and for years I could never understand why they were undervalued in comparison.”

David’s son James agrees about the 365GTC: “It’s a fabulous car that I’d definitely have over the 330. It has better brakes, a stronger gearbox, more torque and greater power. The visibility is superb, and you can get loads of stuff in the boot. It’s so usable. Rob Walker loved them and owned several that he kept selling to mates. Eric Clapton had two, and we’ve restored one for him. The Germans and Americans adore them and lefthand- drive cars are now around £650,000. The rarity of right-hand drive – just 21 were built – has them upwards of £700,000.”

The 365GTC is clearly a dazzling driver’s Ferrari, so it is always surprising to discover lowmileage survivors – such as the special-order example of late heiress Barbara Woolworth Hutton that was delivered directly to her home in Morocco. It retains its original lipstick coral paintwork and suede upholstery interior with just 13,300 miles on the clock.

Such rocketing values make my memorable run on traffic-free Argentinian roads even more of a privilege. Autocar’s staffers were equally appreciative when, after much persuasion, Rob Walker’s Corsley garage finally agreed to the loan of a 365GTC for the magazine’s first full test of a Ferrari. ‘For the price of a substantial house and with a fuel consumption which fills a Green Shield Stamp book every 800 miles, the car is only for the affluent,’ the report concluded. ‘But even by their standards it never fails to impress the driver, passengers, bystanders, executive chairmen and, above all, cognoscente.’

The 365GTC has again become hyper-exclusive, but thankfully enthusiasts such as Magrane continue to enjoy this sensational Ferrari exactly how it was conceived. That rapid blast down the fabled RN40 will never be forgotten. What makes a great car really special is where you experience it, and the full-blooded sound of that 4.4-litre V12 gunning along in the shadow of the Andes was a dream drive. The celebratory local Malbec tasted particularly fine that night.

CAR SPECIFICATIONS
Car

1969 Ferrari 365GTC

Made in Italy
Sold 1968-1970
Number built

168

Construction

tubular steel frame, steel body

Engine all-alloy, single-overhead-camshaft per-bank 4390cc V12, three twin-choke Weber 40 DFI carburettors
Max power (DIN) 320bhp @ 6600rpm
Max torque (DIN) 268lb ft @ 5000rpm
Transmission five-speed manual transaxle, driving rear wheels via ZF limited-slip diff
Suspension

independent all round, by double wishbones, coil springs and telescopic dampers; front anti-roll bar

Steering power-assisted rack and pinion  
Wheels ZF (Germany) worm and roller
Brakes Girling dual-circuit discs, 11in front, 11 ½ in rear, with twin servos
Measurements 
Length 14ft 9in (4496mm)
Width 5ft 6in (1676mm)
Height 4ft 2 ½ in (1283mm)
Wheelbase 7ft 10 ½ in (2400mm)
Weight 3198lb (1451kg)
Power to weight  225bhp/ton
0-62mph 6.3 secs 
Top speed 151mph
Mpg 12
Price new (GB) £7901 18s 1d
Price now (GB)

£650,000-700,000+

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Additional Info
  • Year: 1967-1970
  • Engine: Petrol V12 4.4-litre
  • Power: 320bhp at 6600rpm
  • Torque: 268lb ft at 5000rpm

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