This 1969 Ferrari DayTona Speciale stands at the crossroads of automotive history. Two major trends were playing out when it was created and, intriguingly, this one-off in many ways signified the end points in both. The story begins in 1966, when the Daytona was conceived – but in Turin and not Ferrari’s home base of Maranello. That’s when 28-yearold stylist Leonardo Fioravanti was in the early years of his meteoric rise in Pininfarina’s design department, and happened upon an unclothed Ferrari chassis for the first time. ‘It was a 330 GTC-GTS,’ he joyfully recalled, ‘and [it] struck me as something really unique.’
That chance encounter sparked a serious creative urge, and soon Fioravanti’s pen was sweeping across the proverbial blank sheet of paper. ‘I wanted to faithfully follow the shape and dimensions of the mechanical underpinnings,’ he said, ‘with extreme attention paid to the aerodynamics. The first drafts, and the more specific sketches I made later, really pleased Sergio Pininfarina.’
Although the up-and-coming designer didn’t realise it, the timing of his sketching binge could not have been better. In mid-1966, many thought Ferrari would go mid-engined with its next top offering, as Maranello had been dominating endurance racing with the configuration since 1963.
Pininfarina had already designed the Le Mans-winning 250 LM, and the carrozzeria had shown a potential mid-engined street Ferrari with the very first Dino prototype at 1965’s Paris motor show. But several months later, upstart rival Lamborghini shook the automotive world’s foundations at Geneva with its Miura prototype. As Gianpaolo Dallara, the car’s father and Lamborghini’s chief engineer at the time, remembered: ‘Every rich and impatient man wanted to have one!’
That fact was not lost on Sergio Pininfarina. ‘The problem of creating a [mid-engined] car was debated at length,’ he recalled, ‘and I was between two schools of thought. There were those who strongly believed that, in a car destined to have extreme performance, a mid-engine layout was necessary. But Enzo Ferrari was reluctant to follow this path. He was afraid it would be dangerous in his customers’ hands.’
In the midst of the raging debate, Pininfarina presented Fioravanti’s sketches to Ferrari. Enzo was enthusiastic, and asked Pininfarina to develop the theme further.
‘The fundamental objective we set was to obtain a svelte car like a mid-engine design, even though we were at a disadvantage,’ Pininfarina noted. ‘With the exhaust pipes below the body, it made the car higher. The whole body was really a search for this sense of lightness and rake – what could be referred to as a “slender look”.’
The concept was refined over the next two years, with Ferrari and Pininfarina constructing three versions of Daytona prototypes. The last mimicked the production prototype that was displayed at 1968’s Paris motor show and, with that debut, the mid-engine movement lost some momentum. Road & Track’s commentator noted: ‘The Pininfarina-Dino coupe standing nearby just looked old fashioned in comparison.’ Motor’s show coverage went even further, dubbing Ferrari’s newest ‘the anti-Miura production car’.
And that it was when it hit the streets. ‘It is hard to capture in mere words all the excitement, sensation and sheer exhilaration of this all-time great among cars,’ Autocar’s test enthused. ‘For us it has become an important new yardstick, standing at the pinnacle of the fast car market.’
Which brings us to 1969, when this Daytona Speciale (chassis 12585) made its debut at Paris. According to the seminal work Le Ferrari di Pininfarina by Angelo Tito Anselmi, the car used an early Daytona Spider body which was modified into a show car. The most obvious change is the white-painted fixed roof with a stainless steel rollbar. At the back of the driver’s compartment is a canvas-type rear window that can be removed, like an early Porsche 911 Targa’s. The tail section was subtly modified, with the rear lights set lower in the body, and the back part of the boot recessed more than on the production cars.
The front had the early Daytona fixed headlights under clear Plexiglas covers, and longer bumpers that wrapped around the sides of the body. Inside were unique bucket seats, door panels and centre console.
The overall effect was extremely pleasing, Road & Track’s Paris show coverage calling the one-off ‘a model of restraint and elegance’. Which brings us to the second major trend playing out at the time of its unveiling.
With the Daytona’s superlative performance rebuffing the mid-engine movement until the mid-1970s or later, it takes a more discerning eye to recognise the prolonged death of custom coachwork. This one-off represents the last leg of uniquely tailored road cars, for factory sanctioned one-offs and fuori serie models had all but vanished by 1969.
One reason was labour costs. The salaries of Italy’s craftsmen increased throughout the 1960s, while clients demanded more sophistication and comfort. These two tenets were contrary to what one typically found in a custom-tailored, four-wheeled ‘suit’.
Then, in 1968, America’s safety legislation was enacted, and Lamborghini, which had several one- and two-offs in the mid-1960s, saw its last in early 1968 with Bertone’s Miura Roadster. Maserati had also exited the game, preferring to focus on sleek models such as the Ghibli. And Maranello, the king of custom coachwork variants throughout the 1950s and early ’60s, essentially stopped the practice in 1967 with the 365 California and four 330 GTC Speciales.
As the 1970s dawned, the only Ferraris with custom coachwork were Pininfarina’s design-theme dream cars, or non-factory-sanctioned rebodies carried out on older chassis by the coachbuilders. Then came two gas crises in the 1970s, a severe economic downturn, labour relations filled with disruptive strikes, and ever-tightening global emissions and safety standards. Companies struggled to survive, rather than create, and it would be another two-plus decades before there was any real return of custom coachwork. Only this time, no-one knew about the boom because all the testing was done at night, and the creations went to the islands of Brunei and the royal family.
By then, Ferrari chassis 12585 had long slipped off the radar, forgotten by almost everybody. So imagine my surprise when the phone rang, and on the other end was enthusiast and collector Jack Thomas, excitedly talking about his newest purchase. As Jack extolled the virtues and originality of the car, he ended the conversation with a simple: ‘Would you like to join me on the Copperstate 1000? The car hasn’t been seen publicly in decades, so in a way this will be its coming out party.’
My arm didn’t need another twist. The Copperstate is a sensational multi-day rally that covers 1000 miles on Arizona’s best roads with brief sojourns into bordering states, and we met at the designated location on the rally’s second day. My luggage was loaded into the chase vehicle, driven by master Ferrari restorer Wayne Obry, and off we went.
What makes this Ferrari such a jewel is that it’s not restored but a real time capsule, and not in the vein of some unrestored basketcases that have sold for tremendous sums at auctions over recent years. In sparkling, original condition and completely untouched, the Ferrari is a true automotive archaeological artefact, one so well preserved that it’s the perfect reference point to see how things were originally built. The paint still possesses proper depth, lustre and reflective quality.
Inside you easily see the leather’s grain, feel its suppleness and smell the aroma. Plus the paint and plating finishes in the engine compartment and undercarriage tell you everything you need to know, and more.
The Ferrari has 32,000km on the odometer, and Obry and his men gave it a complete mechanical examination to make sure it would have no issues on its 1000-mile trek. There was none over the next five days, only memorable miles of high-speed driving.
Thomas took the wheel for the first couple of hours, then turned the helm over to me. The roofline is low but the door opens wide so getting in and out is a breeze. Once you’re in the comfortable bucket seat, headroom is plentiful, and all-round visibility is quite good. Especially the viewpoint that matters: the road ahead, framed perfectly by a sensual curve in the fenders over the wheels.
No manufacturer today uses wood-rimmed steering wheels, and that’s a shame as they offer a lovely feel when the rim slips through your fingertips on return, or when you’re simply holding it while cruising or blasting through turns. You work the Speciale’s three-spoked tiller at low speeds, as the steering is fairly heavy until you clear 40mph. Then it lightens up nicely, and has crisp turn-in with excellent road feel.
All the gauges are clearly visible behind those three polished spokes, the tachometer being the most critical. While the double overhead-camshaft (per bank) V12 idles at 700rpm, it’s clearly happier on the far side of the dial. Put your foot in and it is utterly delicious, as the broad torque curve has you hustling along at a pretty good clip from 2000 to 4400rpm. Then those four sets of cams kick in and the Ferrari gains a real sense of urgency, the impressive thrust from the singing engine shoving you into the seat. The tacho sails unhesitatingly toward the 7700rpm redline, which makes passing other cars on the Copperstate an effortless – and exhilarating – breeze.
The five-speed transmission is brilliant, gearchanges needing little effort but remaining precise, so you easily feel every shift slot into place. The only letdown is the second gear synchros, which are starting to show their age and thus make downshifts a bit more tentative than in other gears.
What’s marvellous about the Copperstate is that the organisers take full advantage of Arizona’s diverse terrain and open spaces. Classic desert with towering Saguaro and spindly Ocotillo cacti come to mind, but the state has grassy plains, thick forests, clear lakes and snow-covered mountains – and fabulous, sparsely trafficked roads that take you from one to another. Such open spaces really are the Speciale’s domain, for it (and all properly fettled Daytonas) possess that sweet combination of comfort and road feel. It chews up the straights heading off to the horizon, and gobbles up long, sweeping turns like a starving kid chowing down his favourite dessert.
Straight-line stability at triple-digit speeds is superlative, so much so that Thomas took his hands off the wheel at more than 100mph to highlight its arrow-straight tracking. And while this Ferrari won’t fool a Miura or Dino driver with ballerina-like litheness, it is remarkably nimble for a front-engined continent crusher. On one continuously curvy stretch, where some other rally participants appeared to struggle, the Daytona easily found its rhythm, the front and rear pivoting as one. If the car has a shortcoming, it’s the brakes.
They work quite well when you stand on them but pedal feel is wooden, with slight travel before they bite. Jack, though, is amazed; he’s used to drum-braked Ferraris, in which you need to preplan when you want to stop!
After four days and several hundred miles, I was sad to part company with this one-off Ferrari. Not only is there that fascinating historical back story, it possesses numerous qualities that make a car truly collectable: rarity, provenance, condition and big-league stature in the automotive world when new.
Best of all it’s still a superb drive, leaving no doubt as to why Autocar proclaimed the Daytona ‘an all-time great, at the pinnacle of the fast car market’.
Above and right Roll hoop and folding rear window recall early Porsche 911 Targa; patinated interior features unique seats, door panels and centre console. Right and below The Copperstate 1000 follows a route through extraordinary scenery, past the strangest of locations; 4.4-litre V12 revs to 7700rpm.
‘The tacho sails unhesitatingly towards the 7700rpm redline, which makes passing other cars a breeze’
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 1969 Ferrari Daytona Speciale
Engine 4390cc V12, DOHC per bank, six twin-choke Weber DCN20 carburettors
Max Power 352bhp @ 7500rpm / DIN
Max Torque 318lb ft @ 5500rpm / DIN
Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Steering Worm and nut
Suspension Front: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes Vented discs
Top speed 174mph.
0-60mph 5.4sec (Autocar tested, 1971)