Ferrari not for the weak
Paul Newman one of few to master it
Restored Daytona needs concentration
I don't have much in common with actor Paul Newman. I
don't have a mantle full of film awards and I can't make
a good salad dressing. But we do share one thing - we've
both driven a Ferrari 365 GTB/4.
For him, it was in 1977, as he piloted the car to a
laudatory fifth-place finish at the Daytona 24-hour race
a month after he turned 52.
For me, it was 27 years later when I finally got a
chance to experience the magnificent GTB/4, otherwise
known as the Ferrari Daytona.
All Ferraris have an aura about them. They are
enveloped in a blanket of class, elegance, detail and
The Daytona is all that, but it's the black sheep of
the family. The car's rugged appearance makes it stand
out as the bully in the Ferrari group.
When the car debuted in 1968, it had a top speed of
275 km/h. Production numbers varied, with about 1,400
Berlinettas (coupes) built and 124 Spyders. A few of the
latter were not factory-original convertibles and remain
in a gray area for collectible status and value.
its heyday of the late 1980s, prices for the Berlinetta
reached $750,000 (U.S.), while asking prices for the
Spyder went as high as $2 million.
Replica kits became widely available and replicas
were seen in such television shows as Miami Vice.
It also stars in the movie Gumball Rally, driven by
Italian race car driver Franco (played by actor Raul
Julia). His line - "The first rule of Italian driving:
What's-a-behind me, does not-a-matter," as he whips the
rear-view mirror aside - has become a cult saying among
Ferraristas and car buffs alike.
I fell in love with the car a year ago, after a long
drive as a passenger. The car had been sold and needed
to be driven to the border to be shipped. But with the
wrong paperwork, it was refused entry to the U.S. after
several hours of waiting.
A wasted day perhaps, but in my eyes, it was like
winning the lottery - we would have to drive back.
With the heater not working, I wrapped myself in the
car cover and sat back to experience the sounds of 12
musical cylinders. When a piece of the dash popped into
my lap as we accelerated, I placed this model on the top
of my wish list. I yearned to experience the car from
the only other seat: the driver's.
My wish finally came true recently with a fly yellow
1971 GTB/4 that has been restored meticulously to
showroom condition. The owner is an avid collector who,
like myself, holds this model as his most favoured.
Grabbing its tiny handle at the base of the window, I
open the lumbering door and jump in enthusiastically.
It has a simple Ferrari interior that would later be
found in other models, such as the 308. The leather
seats have beautiful ventilated inserts, adding to the
I wonder: has Paul Newman ever graced this particular
It's distracting to have such a long front end and I
am tricked into thinking the car is longer than its
4,425 mm (about the length of a Honda Civic).
With a curb weight of 1,633 kg, it's not a
lightweight, but at speed, the Daytona is dedicated to
the asphalt and quite maneuverable.
Small mirrors restrict what visibility there is
ahead, but the suede dash reduces glare. The seats
comfortably hold your driving position, but the
seatbelts fall short in keeping you planted firmly when
start-up, I have goosebumps.
The sound is hard to describe. The interior noise
level is high, which would normally make me cringe, but
this car is different.
A V12 gives off a primal sound that intimidates the
weak. The roar can be heard kilometres away. It echoes
in a tunnel, and I grin.
Shifting is typically 1970s-style Ferrari, notchy
when cold, easier when warm, yet always with a
temperament. A little blip to coax the shifter into
gear; smoothness only happens at higher revs.
It is a hard car to drive, taking full concentration,
strength and stamina. Driving any modern car seems like
a cake walk.
But driving it is exhilarating. The clutch is hard
and the gearing set up such that it lurches at low
speeds. City driving would be insane. What the Daytona
wants is a long stretch of roadway to give it an Italian
A 0-to-100 km/h start is recorded at less than six
seconds and the vented disc brakes easily bring the car
to a stop.
Rumour has it that Enzo Ferrari himself thought
highly of the Daytona. Known to be a fan of the
front-engine and rear-wheel-drive cars, he said it was
best to "put the horses in front of the cart."
The difference here is that the horses have a wild
streak (at 350 horsepower) and the Daytona is far from a
With its racing heritage at Le Mans, Sebring and
Daytona, the car is legendary. For five years after the
end of production in 1974, the car would race until its
fitting exit at its namesake track, where it finished
My respect for the car is only surpassed by my
respect for owners who drive them. Once, when Paul
Newman brushed past me at the Road Atlanta racetrack, I
blurted out, "Any man who can drive the 365 GTB/4 the
way it is meant to be, I will always adore."
He stopped, gazed at me with those piercing blue eyes
and said, "Thank you."
No, thank you, Mr. Newman.
My drive left me aching for two things: a certain
Hollywood actor-turned-racer, and the Ferrari 365 GTB/4