Words: Chris Rees
Time to celebrate at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
One of Ferrari’s most iconic grand touring cars has reached its golden anniversary. It was 50 years ago, at the 1968 Paris Salon, that the Ferrari 365 GTB4 made its public debut.
For once, the official name of a Ferrari is actually less well known than its unofficial nickname: the 365 GTB4 is almost universally referred to as the ‘Daytona’ – a name coined following Ferrari’s dominant 1-2-3 victory at the 1967 Daytona 24-Hour Race in the USA. Almost uniquely among Ferraris, the nickname stuck and the ‘Daytona’ identity has been co-opted into history.
What makes the Daytona so special? As the replacement for the 275 GTB4, this super-fast, front-engined grand tourer marked a real step forwards, both in terms of performance and modernity.
The bodywork is an absolute classic of postwar GT design, boasting both elegance and purpose. Pininfarina’s lines started with a long, wide, upswept nose, flowing through a characteristic set-back cabin and culminating in a fastback with an abruptly cut-off ‘Kamm’ tail. Another highly distinctive feature was an indent body line running from the front wheelarches all the way around the car. Early examples had a highly individual Plexiglas front strip covering the headlights, but from 1971 this changed to twin retractable ‘pop-up’ lights.
The Daytona was powered by an expanded 4.4-litre development of Ferrari’s seminal V12 engine. Its 352hp power output made it one of the fastest cars on the planet at the time. And with its gearbox transaxle mounted in the rear, it had ideal weight distribution for the sharpest possible handling balance.
A spider version, called the 365 GTS4, arrived in 1969, with a folding soft-top roof and flat boot profile. This accounted for around one in 10 Daytona sales: the final production totals were 1284 berlinettas and 122 spiders up until 1973, when the production ceased.
While the Daytona was conceived as a road machine, it did have a successful racing career. This was, in part, due to the robust engineering behind the car, which lent it great reliability – ideal for endurance racing. The Le Mans 24-Hour Race of 1972 provided the 365 GTB4 with a sensational class victory – in fact, Daytonas occupied the five top placings in their class. Le Mans class wins would follow in both 1973 and 1974, while a 365 GTB4 also won the 1972 Tour de France outright.
In a remarkable twist of fate, the model scored some of its most illustrious results at the race which had given the car its name: the Daytona 24 Hours. A second placing overall in the 1973 Daytona 24-Hour Race was repeated in 1979 – quite an achievement for a car that had been out of production for six years.
The 365 GTB4 has become a highly sought-after car in collector circles – a rare ‘barn find’ example sold recently for a record €1,807,000 at auction.
Now the Daytona’s 50th year is being honoured at the 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where a special class for the Ferrari 365 GTB4 Daytona is being held on March 11, 2018.
Founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Bill Warner, commented: “The Daytona is the last of the true ‘Enzo’ Ferraris created before the Fiat influence arrived in Maranello in 1969. The howl of that big V12 should be part of Il Canto degli Italiani, the Italian national anthem. The big Daytona is a car, a name and a legacy worth celebrating in grand style.”