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Ferrari Classiche works its magic

08 marzo 2019

Umberto Zapelloni

After 50 years of use (and misuse) this rare 275 GTB Competizione - one of the stars at Le Mans in 1966 - returned to Maranello, where it was restored to its original splendour

Ferrari hides its treasures well. They are not locked away in a secret safe or in a trophy cabinet, but reside in the archives of the Ferrari Classiche department. That is where the 'grand dames' of the past - the iconic models that represent the Prancing Horse's heritage - are restored to perfection. Classiche is indispensable in verifying the authenticity of an historic car and awarding it the certification that can render it even more valuable with the passing of the years.

One of the most recent restoration projects brought back to life a 275 GTB Competizione - chassis number 09027. When it arrived at Maranello, it was painted red. After the Classiche experts had worked their magic, it left exactly as it had been originally created, wearing the original ‘Giallo Fly’ yellow livery, as beautiful as when it had first left those same factory gates back on June 14, 1966, just four days before competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In that race, the car - bearing the number 57 of the Ecurie Francorchamps team and driven by the partnership of Pierre Noblet and Claude Dubois - placed second in its class and tenth overall. Being ‘broken in’ on track, the car required many modifications on the fly, including increasing the number of openings on the body in order to facilitate engine cooling, as well as the addition of fog lamps.

Photographs taken at the time, recovered by the Classiche department, allowed for verification of all the aesthetic changes made to the car over the years. These were an important trove of evidence because the vehicle had lived victoriously yet dangerously: following its participation in Le Mans and its victory in the Mont Ventoux hillclimb, the yellow 275 GTB/C came out of the Marathon de la Route race at Nürburgring in June 1966 a damaged version of its former self.

It was sent back to Maranello where Carrozzeria Scaglietti – which had built it, based upon Pininfarina’s original design – carried out repairs. In 1967, the car was sold to Patrick McNally, an amateur driver, who changed its colour – from ‘Giallo Fly’ to silver – and who raced it in the 1,000 km of Montlhéry, where the car had another accident. This time it was 'admitted' to Maranello Concessionaires Ltd., in the UK; once repaired, the car was repainted red.

Over the following years, the car changed owners several times, until it was sold at a Bonhams auction in Monte Carlo in 2004. A few years later, the car returned ‘home’ once again, this time to the Ferrari Classiche division, for its definitive ‘remise en forme’. When the 275 GTB Competizione arrived at the Classiche department, it was wearing the wrong ‘dress’: its bodywork in places had been reshaped.

Although the car’s chassis and engine were still the originals that left the Maranello factory in 1966, the task facing the experts was enormous: the air intakes were of differing lengths and not in their original orientations; the front suspension had an extra shock absorber; components that were not original included the oil recovery tank (which was also positioned incorrectly), the front brake discs, the petrol tank and the exhaust system, as well as the wheels, the tyres, the steering wheel and interiors.

Even the ‘targhetta identificativa’ – the ID plaque that is unique to each model – was not original. But the Ferrari experts miss nothing: they know where to go to look for the secret code numbers, such as those that identify the original components and are found in the documents carefully conserved in those precious Maranello archives.
In the end, the car looked just as beautiful as it did the day it first left the gates of Marnaello, some four decades ago. It was a complicated restoration project of which, upon completion, the Ferrari Classiche managers were rightly proud.