The Symphony of God: Ferrari’s 275 GTB/C
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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!”