A special Ferrari indeed. This particular 275 GTB is chassis 9079 GT, the eleventh of the 12 GTB/C built in 1966 for some of Maranello’s best clients. It’s one of the tastier machines I’ve spent time with.
To understand what makes a Ferrari 275 GTB/C so special, find the Canadian police detective who happened to be at Laguna Seca shortly before GTB/C chassis 9079 GT was taken out onto the track, and ask him what he thinks.
The arrest-me-red Berlinetta was parked on the side of the road leading to the pits, and the pleasant, gawking detective couldn’t take his eyes off it. In conversation it was very clear he was a total gearhead, so when the Ferrari’s handler (Bonhams’ Jakob Greisen) returned from a phone call, I said, “you need to take this guy out for a quick blast.”
According to Sergio Pininfarina, those timeless lines found their inspiration in Ferrari’s all-conquering endurance racer of the early 1960s, the 250 GTO. He and his men drew inspiration for this shape from the GTO’s voluptuous (and functional) form.
Jakob shot me one of those “Are you crazy?” scowls.
“Just trust me,” was my reply.
The two jumped into the Ferrari and were gone for a few minutes. When the detective got out on their return, the smile that covered his face would have been advertising gold for any toothpaste manufacturer. “My life is forever changed,” he enthused. “Thank you so much.”
I’ve understood that sentiment ever since I drove a 275-based prototype Daytona in the 1990s, and a number of other cool variants over the ensuing years, but this 275 is extra special. In 1966 Ferrari made a dozen lightweight, very tweaked GTB/Cs for their best customers, and chassis 9079 GT is the eleventh of the bunch. Their ultra-lightweight aluminum coachwork is thinner than a GTO’s, and all glass, save the windscreen, is Plexiglas. Aluminum is also used for the floorpan and the large, twin gas tanks.
There is a reason this man is grinning. Jakob Greisen works for Bonhams Motoring Department, which means he gets to spend time in machines such as this. During our day together filming a video on the car, I facetiously said to him, “Just think. Some people are in cubicles in an office building right now…” I feel truly blessed every day with what I do.
Maranello’s magicians didn’t stop there. The Tipo 213 Competizione 3285cc V12 has a dry sump lubrication system, special connecting rods and pistons, a higher compression ratio, special crank and camshafts, and different exhaust. The sump plate and other pieces such as the clutch bell housing and transaxle casing are made out of magnesium for additional weight saving, and the triple Webers have cool looking, backward facing velocity stacks. Larger Borrani wires are fitted front and rear, and the rear quarter panels were subtly (and effectively) modified to house the wheels.
The car’s first owner was Switzerland’s Scuderia Filipinetti. Not widely known today, in the 1960s Georges Filipinetti was a character straight out of central casting, and his competitive team was a major player on the international endurance racing circuit. An elegant man who often appeared in the pits wearing a tailored suit, Filipinetti lived in a grand castle that hosted numerous memorable parties, and often kept the Scuderia’s cars there…in other words, this was one cool dude!
Ferrari 275 GTB/C chassis 9079 GT was originally sold to Switzerland’s Georges Filipinetti, the man behind the Scuderia bearing his name. “There are very few people in the world…that I have such fond remembrances of,” Carroll Shelby wrote in “Scuderia Filipinetti.” “He was not only a fine gentleman of the old school, but a person who spent much of his time giving to others as well.
A Solid Racing Career
Filipinetti took delivery of his GTB/C in October of 1966, and installed additional fog lamps for it to race at Le Mans the following year; there, it would join the Scuderia’s Ford GT40 and Ferrari 412P. Piloting the GTB/C were Dieter Spoerry and Swiss motoring journalist Rico Steinemann, and they drove a very steady race. After starting 34th, by the ninth hour, 9079 GT was in the top 20. The beautiful Berlinetta would run as high 8th before finishing 11th overall and won the GT class.
The Ferrari raced for two more years (including at Le Mans, where DNF’d both times), and over the following decades, it went through a succession of owners in America and Europe. It was then shown at Pebble Beach in 2006, where it placed second in the Ferrari Competition class. It also participated in the Goodwood Revival, Silverstone Classic, and Tour Auto, and has a coveted Ferrari Classiche certification.
That tasty 3285cc Tipo 123 V12 is filled with go-fast goodies such as hotter cams, special connecting rods, crank and pistons, a higher compression ratio, a trio of trick Weber carbs, and a dry sump oiling system.
My paths crossed with this illustrious Ferrari several years ago when the auction house Bonhams wanted some expert commentary for a video prior to its Scottsdale sale (you can see the video here: http://www.bonhams.com/video/17789/). While not perfectly sorted at the time of our drive, it still did everything well enough to give a good impression of how sensational it would be when completely dialed in.
A businesslike interior that was still quite comfortable. Even back then this degree of finishing was unusual on a competition car. But it made sense, for this was the very tail end period of the true “dual purpose machine”—those cars you could drive to the track, race, and drive home.
The first thing one notices when on the move is the accelerator pedal’s long travel, the corresponding elasticity of the engine, and that incredible, hard-edged concert when your right foot is planted on the alloy floorboard. Just like a 250 GTO, this V12 undergoes several character changes the higher the revs climb. It accelerates crisply once you cross 3,000 rpm then gives a much harder shove at 5000—which seems to increase another 50% when the tach sails through 6000.
Just a lovely shape. Here you can see the exaggerated rear fenders that were necessary to fit the larger Borrani wire wheels the 275 GTB/Cs used.
The five-speed box is one of my favorites when warm. It’s light with the right amount of effort and has a lovely precise feel when slotting it into the next gate (think of cutting through a cube of cold butter with a knife) while making a great “snick-snick” sound with each shift. The chassis demonstrates remarkable poise, and the entire package feels incredibly rigid, no doubt aided by a thick rollbar, inches behind your head and shoulders. The bucket seats are surprisingly comfy, with lateral support at the sides and back,and the cushions have just enough give in them to make this a great helm for hours of motoring on the autostrada or going flat out down Mulsanne.
An item truly desired by 275 GTB aficionados is the outside filler cap. It looks cool, is functional, and helps to give the car a more purposeful appearance. And it’s found on very few 275s…
The car’s dual-purpose nature was noticeable long before we hit the track. The steering is nicely weighted at most every speed, and on the county roads around Laguna Seca, the suspension’s suppleness and the V12’s tractability didn’t bat an eye in traffic. The ride was surprisingly refined for a racecar, allowing you to travel in a relaxed fashion at any speed. And unlike last week’s Cheetah, you didn’t have to raise your voice much to speak—at least until the throttle was given a strong shove. Then that insane bellow filled the cabin, and I simply shut up to soak in every decibel of the howling, soulful 12-cylinder symphony.
That outside filler cap was put to work at the local gas station! Pretty wild, seeing a rare $9+ million car in this environment. It also shows the Ferrari’s dual-purpose nature, for not too long after this image was taken I was out on Laguna Seca Raceway, turning lap after glorious lap for a film crew…
Keep the Speed Down
Needless to say, I was seriously smitten by the end of the day. Sure, the finicky racing clutch was either in or out, which made taking off from a dead stop a bit tricky, and the brake pedal had more travel than I liked, but those could be remedied with a modest amount of checkbook effort. The GTB/C is surprisingly docile, yet forceful when asked. It looks like a Ferrari should, felt better than you could imagine, and that sound is truly otherworldly (just listen to that video!).
Okay…one more shot. I’m sorry, but I just love that shape! The proportions, detailing, forms, competition necessities (and the car’s history) are just irresistible…
Making it no wonder I got a phone call while alone out on Laguna Seca, that went something like this: “You need to keep your speed down, for you are exceeding the area’s 90 decibel, off-hours sound limit!”