The name Ferrari has become synonymous with everything a fast car should be and conjures up a special magic whenever it is mentioned. This aura has been built up, not only by the range of exciting fast cars produced, but by the unrivalled success of the blood red racing cars in almost every branch of motor racing. Many people believe the 365GTB/4 Daytona to be the ultimate front-engined Ferrari, perhaps because it was the last of a classic line of front-engined grand touring cars.
The ‘365’ part of Ferrari’s designation denotes the capacity in cubic centimetres of one of the cylinders of the classic V12 engine which reached its climax in this model. Enzo Ferrari was anxious that his grand touring cars should not suffer with the advent of new American exhaust emission regulations in 1968, so he had the overall size increased to 4.4 litres, to give 263 kW of power. It was fed by six Weber carburettors. The top speed alone of 280 km/h ensured that the 365GTB/4 would become a legend.
The final figure ‘4’ stood for the four overhead camshafts with which this engine had been endowed in the earlier 4.0-litre touring car form, developed from the more highly tuned single overhead cam units used in cars like the 250GTO and Testa Rossa. The initials GT were obvious, with the B showing that this was a berlinetta, or small saloon, rather than an S for spyder (or open carriage) with a minimum of bodywork: a style originally developed for horse racing.
The Ferrari’s superbly crafted engine was set as far back in the chassis as possible and linked to a transaxle at the back for the best balance, in distinct contrast to its rivals which had their engines and transmission in the front or behind the seats. There was nothing to better the handling or stability of these Ferraris in the days before tyre technology, developed on mid-engined racing cars, was adapted for the road. The styling, which established trends others would follow for more than two decades, was the work of Pininfarina’s brilliant 28-year-old designer Leonardo Fioravanti with body construction by Scaglietti
Its sleek nose formed a horizontal sharp edge from which the planes of the upper and lower bodywork. swept away in streamlined curves, the corners emphasised by bumpers. The rear edge of the bonnet was scalloped up to follow the curve of the windscreen and provide easy exit for hot air from the engine compartment at the same time as it eliminated the one-time problem of where to park the windscreen wipers, elegantly out of sight, yet ready for instant action.
A spider version of the 365GTB/4 Daytona was shown at the Frankfurt motor show the following year. With suitable out-of-sight reinforcements by Scaglietti, this open model was an immediate success with customers in warm climates although the majority still ordered the fixed-head coupe because that was what was used in competition. Some owners even had their cars modified for races such as Le Mans and in which the big coupes were not disgraced by much lighter mid-engined opposition.