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Almost twins

It was during the years of the ‘dolce vita’ that Ferrari introduced its first ever coupé and spider pairing, the 275 GTB and 275 GTS. It is a tradition which continues to this day with the Roma and Roma Spider
Words: Chris Rees

The new Ferrari Roma Spider is but the latest in a long and distinguished line of front-engined Ferrari ‘twins’ built in both convertible and coupé body styles. Whilst Ferrari has always offered fixed-roof and soft-top models, it was not until 1964 that closely-related ‘twins’ were launched together. 

This was during the heart of the ‘dolce vita’ era of optimism and elegance – a period expressed perfectly by so many Ferrari models of that time that combined sophistication, performance, comfort, and above all elegance, in a way that only Ferrari could. It’s undoubtedly that ‘dolce vita’ spirit that the Roma Spider captures.

The beautiful 330 GTC seen here was followed by a spider model in October 1966, unveiled at that year's Paris Motor Show

The very first Ferrari coupé/spider twins were the 275 GTB and 275 GTS, both of which debuted at the 1964 Paris Salon. They shared exactly the same 2,400mm wheelbase, rear-mounted gearbox and all-round independent suspension, providing superbly well-balanced handling. 

However, in style and character, the twin souls of coupé and spider were quite different. For its part, the 275 GTB had the daunting task of replacing the 250 GT Lusso, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful berlinettas the world has ever seen. However, the new Pininfarina-designed 275 GTB was arguably every bit as handsome, only intensified when it evolved with a longer nose and then – as the 275 GTB4 – with a torquier four-cam engine.

Design house Pininfarina was also behind the 275 GTS but it created a completely different style for this spider version. Its softer, more sober lines harked back to its forebear, the 250 GT California.

Despite perhaps being not quite as well known as its legendary coupe cousin, the 365 GTS4 Daytona was a very sought-after and stylish model

At the 1966 Geneva Motor Show came a new pairing of coupé and spider models: the 330 GTC and 330 GTS. The 330 GTC slotted in between the 275 GTB and the longer-wheelbase 330 2+2, whose 4.0-litre V12 engine it shared. 

Not only was the spider version identical mechanically to the 330 GTC, but it also shared its shape, with the exception of the fabric roof that folded behind the seats.

The 330 GTC coupé was replaced in 1968 by the 365 GTC, the main difference being the engine bay air outlets moving from the flanks to the bonnet. The biggest change occurred under the bonnet, with a larger V12 engine that offered greater flexibility and livelier acceleration. Meanwhile, the 365 GTS replaced the 330 GTS, sharing the same innovations as the 365 GTC. 

Movie star and comedy icon Peter Sellars proudly looks out of his 275 GTB - which was later joined in the Ferrari line up by a topless 275 GTS

A much bigger revolution greeted enthusiasts at the 1968 Paris Salon when Ferrari showed its new 365 GTB4, the replacement for the 275 GTB4. An aggressive new look evolved the successful themes of its predecessor – set-back cabin, long bonnet and shark-like nose – but in a dramatic new style, once again widely regarded as a perfect piece of design. Subsequently, the new 365 GTB4 quickly acquired the nickname ‘Daytona’ as a tribute to the Ferrari 1-2-3 finish in the 24 Hours of Daytona the previous year.

Then in 1969 came the spider version of the ‘Daytona’: the 365 GTS4. Identical below the waist, its folding fabric roof endeared it to a new generation of sun lovers, particularly in the USA. However, it was very exclusive: with just 122 spiders made up until 1973. 

There then followed a gap of over 45 years to the next pairing of front-engined coupé and convertible full-production models from Ferrari. First came the 812 Superfast in 2017 – a spectacular V12 berlinetta with visceral performance– followed in 2019 by the 812 GTS, the first ever V12 Ferrari with a retractable hardtop.

The spectacular 812 Superfast of 2017 was complimented by the equally powerful 812 Competitzione A - a spider evolution of the supercar 

Serie Speciale versions with a more extreme, racing-inspired character soon followed: the furiously fab 812 Competizione and 812 Competizione A. In the former’s case, an absolute highlight was the all-new, patented single-piece aluminium rear ‘screen’. Meanwhile, the Targa-roof 812 Competizione A adopted a different approach, replacing the coupé’s rear screen and vortex generators with a ‘bridge’ to reduce drag.

Today, the story of Ferrari coupé and spider ‘twins ‘has evolved again. The Roma and Roma Spider represent a new embodiment of ‘la dolce vita’: twins with two souls and two sets of emotions, but a single shared origin.