Original Bliss: Ferrari Daytona Speciale s/n 12585
A good, tight Ferrari 365 GTB/4 “Daytona” is a luscious, exhilarating thing to experience. Well into the 1970s and possibly even into the 1980s it contended for the world’s fastest production car title, so way back when they were less than 10% of the price today, I scrounged together most every penny I had and went out looking for one to buy. After several months I found the right car and owned it for two years, putting 24,000 miles on it in that time.
What an absolute joy, for this was decades before Ferraris and other cars became an asset class, modern art or just big watches you park in the garage instead of on your wrist. I drove it for the pure pleasure of that singular experience, in that nothing (still) drives like a Daytona. But then I came to the reluctant realization that if anything major went wrong, I was financial toast. Almost all my eggs were in that magnificent Maranello basket, and I sold it before they ran in price in the mid- to late-1980s.
Twist my Arm…
I’ve driven around a dozen since then and by far the most memorable experience was when a friend called and asked if I wanted to join him on the Copperstate 1000. We would be in his Daytona, which happened to have show history. Neither of my arms needed even the slightest twist to say yes. Ferrari Daytona Speciale s/n (serial number) 12585 was no ordinary 365 GTB/4 when it made its world debut at 1969’s Paris Auto Show. According to the seminal work “Le Ferrari di Pininfarina” by Angelo Tito Anselmi, this one-off used an early Daytona Spyder body, and was then modified into a show car. There are a number of changes compared to the production cars, the most obvious being the white-painted fixed roof with stainless steel rollbar.
An Ideal Representation
While 12585 isn’t that extreme in appearance, it realistically represented the last of uniquely tailored Ferrari road cars of that period. Factory-sanctioned one-offs and fuori serie models had all but vanished by 1969, and the few custom coachwork specials that Pininfarina exhibited after this were ideas/dream cars.
My adventure with the one-off began in New Mexico out in the middle of nowhere on the event’s second day, and the following four days and several hundred miles demonstrated just how delicious a proper Daytona can be. Once situated in the comfortable bucket seat, headroom is plentiful, and all around visibility quite good. Especially the viewpoint that matters: the road ahead, framed perfectly by a sensual curve in the fenders over the wheels.
One of a Kind Feel
No manufacturer today uses wood-rimmed steering wheels, and that’s a shame for they offer a lovely feel as the rim slips through your fingertips on return, or just simply holding it while cruising or blasting through turns. You work the Speciale’s three-spoke tiller at low speeds, for the steering is fairly heavy until you clear 40 mph. Then it lightens up nicely, and has a crisp turn in with excellent road feel.
All the gauges are clearly visible behind those polished spokes, the tachometer being the most critical. Putting your foot in it is fabulous, for the broad torque curve has you hustling along at a pretty good clip from 2,000 to 4,400 rpm. Then those four 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 tach freely sails toward the 7,700-rpm redline, which made passing other cars on the Copperstate an effortless—and invigorating—breeze.
The five-speed tranny is brilliant, with a light effort to shift but still precise so you easily feel every shift slot into gear. The only letdown was second gear’s synchros, which were starting to show their age and thus make downshifts a bit more tentative than in other gears.
Just the Open Road
And should you get a chance to participate in the Copperstate, especially with a proper gran turismo, do it! The organizers take full advantage of Arizona’s (and the surrounding states’) diverse terrain and open spaces, and the latter is this Speciale’s domain. It chews up the straights heading off to the horizon, and gobbles up long, sweeping turns like a starving kid chowing down his favorite dessert. Straight-line stability at triple digit speeds is superlative, so much so that you can take your hands off the wheel at 100+ mph, and it still tracks arrow straight.
While this Ferrari won’t fool a Dino owner with ballerina-like litheness, it is remarkably nimble for a front-engine high speed cruiser. On one continuous curvy stretch where some other 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. The owner is amazed though; he’s used to his drum brake Ferraris, where you need to really preplan your stop!
After four days and several hundred miles, I was sad to part with this one-off Ferrari. Chassis 12585 had never been touched cosmetically, and only “freshened” mechanically so it is still all original. With only 32,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) on the odometer it was as tight as a drum, ran like a top, and gave something that is becoming harder and harder to find these days—an accurate accounting of how astonishing such a car felt when it was new.