Lifestyle

Along Came a Ferrari Spyder


The 1969 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Spyder Conversion was the most powerful road-going GT and the world's fastest production car of its time

Ferrari's fabulous V12 front-engined sports car, the 365 GTB/4, debuted at the Paris Salon in 1968, soon gaining the unofficial name "Daytona" in honor of the 1-2-3 finish by the Ferrari 330 P4 at that circuit in 1967.

Pininfarina's Leonardo Fioravanti was responsible for the influential shark-nosed styling, creating a package that restated the traditional "long bonnet, small cabin, short tail" look in a manner suggesting muscular elegance. An unusual feature was a full-width transparent panel covering the headlamps, which was replaced in the second half of 1969 by electrically-operated pop-up lights to meet U.S. requirements.

The Daytona displaced 4,390 cc with 352 hp, 318 lb-ft of torque and dry-sump lubrication. A five-speed transaxle enabled a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. The chassis embodied the long-standing Ferrari practice of oval-section tubing. The all-independent wishbone and coil-spring suspension was more recent, having originated in the preceding 275 GTB.

The Spyder version of the Daytona was shown at the Paris Salon in 1969, with deliveries commencing in 1971. Although the rear end had been extensively reworked, the surgery was so successful that it was hard to imagine that the Daytona had not initially been conceived as a spyder.

CAPABLE OF OVER 170 MPH

The most powerful road-going GT and the world's fastest production car of its time, the Daytona was capable of over 170 mph and is surely destined to remain a front-ranking supercar in the foreseeable future. Ferrari's production run of just 124 Daytona Spyders left many would-be customers disappointed, which inevitably led to a number of coupes being converted to Spyders, including the example offered here, s/n 12779.

This Daytona was manufactured as a coupe in July 1969 and sold by Garage Francorchamps to Mr. André Gérard. Its next owner, a prominent private collector in Switzerland, had the car converted by ex-Scaglietti employee Egidio Brandoli of the respected Carrozzeria Brandoli in Montale near Modena. It was purchased by the vendor from German dealer Mario Bernardi (its third owner) in 2003.

Faithfully converted to the desirable Spyder configuration, this accident-free example of one of the most capable Grands Routiers of recent times is offered with partial tool kit, build/delivery authentication, sundry service records, and a roadworthiness certificate.

The SCM Analysis

This car sold for $267,565 at the Bonhams auction in Gstaad, Switzerland, December 17, 2006.

A friend recently called for some advice; he had seen an ad for a Ferrari 456 GT that had been converted to a cabriolet. He thought the car looked smashing and wanted my opinion on converting his 456 to a cabriolet. The call paralleled many calls I fielded two decades earlier from clients considering converting a Daytona coupe to a Daytona Spyder. Like many Daytona owners back then, my friend had a higher mileage car with some cosmetic issues. Again, like the Daytona owners, he wanted to know how much a conversion would cost and what it would do to the value of the car.

ONLY 124 SPYDERS, BUT 1,273 COUPES

Daytona Spyder conversions were quite popular in the 1980s. Only 124 or so Daytona Spyders were built, versus approximately 1,273 coupes. The Spyders usually out-value the coupes by a factor of two or three to one, so converting a coupe to a Spyder can be desirable for both economic and rarity reasons. Back then, a rough or wrecked Daytona coupe could be sent to a shop, and by throwing $20,000 to $45,000 at it, you'd end up with a beautiful copy of an original Spyder. It was a relatively painless process and in the heyday, one or two cars a month went under the knife.

Not all conversions were created equally. Structural reinforcement, top construction, and panel fabrication are not an exact science. A good conversion should counterfeit the appearance and operation of the original version. The best shops developed resources to source original parts or made jigs to fabricate their own. The most prolific shops had small assembly lines for uniform and cost-effective production. Maybe a hundred coupes were converted worldwide and they varied greatly in quality. Eventually economics, including increasing scarcity and cost of donor cars, drove up conversion costs, beating down demand and ending the conversion craze.

This particular Daytona conversion was rare in that it was an early European model with the plexiglass-covered headlights. Except for the prototype, all real Daytona Spyders featured the later pop-up style headlights. It also had an early-style wood rim steering wheel rather than the usual leather-trimmed wheel. There's little chance any knowledgeable Ferrari enthusiast would confuse the Bonhams Spyder with a real Daytona Spyder, which I'm sure limited its desirability.

People who buy a Daytona conversion don't buy one to show it. Most major shows wouldn't allow a conversion on the field. The appeal of a Daytona Spyder conversion is that it can be driven. Once you chop a top off a car you've broken the chains of keeping it a low-mile original car. Future buyers are far less concerned about the history of a converted car than they are about its current condition. Paint chips, fender benders, and interior wear come with the territory and won't discourage a conversion buyer.

KNOW WHO DID THE CONVERSION

When considering a Daytona Spyder conversion, know who converted it. A car converted by a known shop will always command a premium price. In the U.S., Mike Sheehan- or Richard Straman-converted Spyders are the top dogs. In Europe, Autokraft of England and Auto Sport in Italy are the best-known brands. If the car wasn't converted by one of those four shops, then expect to hear that it was converted by Ferrari's normal body builders, Scaglietti or Pininfarina.

But if a seller's feeding you the Scaglietti or Pininfarina story, don't trust anything else you hear. Scaglietti and Pininfarina were Ferrari contractors and Mr. Ferrari didn't take well to people copying his designs. Unless you were an extremely important client, these companies wouldn't even take your calls. If you were an important client, you could get something far more exclusive than a cut Daytona.

To get as much as $267,000 for #12779 is a bit of a surprise. Daytonas have been hot for the last couple of years, with coupes moving from $125,000 to over $225,000. A rule of thumb puts Spyder conversions worth about $25,000 more than a coupe. Open-top Ferraris are less popular in Europe than the States, so traditionally European Spyder prices are a little soft. A plexi-nose conversion should pull at least $10,000 less than a pop-up headlight car, and I would have factored winter in Switzerland to hurt the price a few thousand more. I think the seller got all the money and then some. There seems to be a trend of buyers paying a premium for the instant gratification of getting a car at auction rather than shopping for months. This sale may have benefited from the trend.

Years Produced: 1969–1974

Number Produced: 1,273 coupes, 124 genuine Spyders

Original List Price: $19,500 plus $20,000–$45,000 for conversion

SCM Valuation: $200,000–$250,000 (at time of print)

Tune-up Cost: $3,500

Distributor Caps: $500

Chassis #: 12779

Chassis # Location: Stamped on frame above right spring mount

Engine # Location: Below head on rear passenger's side of block (does not match chassis #)

Club Info: Ferrari Club of America, PO Box 720592, Atlanta, GA 30358

Web Site: http://www.ferrariclubofamerica.com

Alternatives: 1973 Porsche Carrera RS clone, '71 Hemi Challenger convertible clone, 1969–72 Maserati Ghibli SS Spider conversion

Investment Grade: C


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