Ferrari experiences

I was interested to read Mr. J. H. Thomas’ letter. While I am by no means a “knowledgeable member of the Ferraristi”, as he appears to be hovering on the brink of a plunge into the Modena Pool, I offer the following points from my own experience, for what they are worth.

I have been fortunate over the last ten years to have owned several interesting cars. I matriculated with a used TR3 and graduated to a new TR4, and then to a new 4.2 E-type. Like Mr. Thomas I had daydreamed about owning a Ferrari (used, of course), had seen Bandini and Scarfiotti win at Le Mans, and, as for as Sports/Racing and Grand Turismo cars were concerned, considered them the utmost in desirability. I decided that I had to find out for myself what it was like to own a Ferrari, “get it out of my system” if you like, so in 1967 I took the plunge and traded in my E-type for a 1965 275GTB Ferrari. I had studied the various advertisements offering used Ferraris for sale for some time and eventually started making more detailed enquiries about this particular car. I found out that it had had three previous owners. This would have been suspicious in a saloon car only two years old but is not unusual in a car like a Ferrari which is quite often used for a few thousand miles and then changed for something similar.

I found out who the previous owners had been, and learned that the car had spent some time up on blocks in the Channel Islands (which is just about the only place for Ferraris in the Channel Islands, I should imagine!). This could have accounted for the car’s relatively low mileage of 15,000. I took the precaution of investing in an examination and written report from Maranello Concessionaires, this being quite in order as they were not the vendors. The car received a good report, after a thorough examination.

When I first saw the car it was everything I had ever imagined and more. I was almost scared to step into it! But the deal was completed, I drove it back to Scotland and it ran very well, in ideal motorway conditions. As Mr. Thomas is obviously a Ferrari fan he will no doubt be familiar with the specification of the 1965 275GTB. It has a 3.3-litre V12 engine, single overhead camshaft per bank of cylinders. My car had the optional six double-choke Weber carburetters giving over 300 b.h.p. It was this option that caused a lot of unhappiness for the nine months or so that I had the car.

Let me say that the engine and gearbox remained perfect mechanically. The trouble was that plug fouling was endemic. It was impossible to run the car in traffic, or even 90 per cent of “normal” motoring for that matter, without oiling the plugs. “They” say, “Plugs oiled? Stick it in 2nd and run her at 7,000 r.p.m.—that’ll soon clear ’em !” It doesn’t. Two finger-skinning, foul-language permeated hours are required to remove the plugs from where they hide, deep below the cam boxes, using a multi-jointed plug spanner. After they are cleaned and dried put them in again, off you go, and they’re oiled up again. I believe the standard 3-carburetter GTBs were not so prone to this, but this particular car was strictly for a blast down the Autostrada del Sol and back. Mind you, when she hit all twelve it was a shattering experience and a gorgeous noise! I thought if I used “hotter” plugs it would cure the fault and it probably would have, but I was advised by the Concessionaires that to do so was to risk damage in the alloy head at high r.p.m. Visions of the bill for a new engine booted that idea out of the window. Brakes were another sore point. The car had Dunlop discs all round and, while they were adequate in the dry, they were suicidal in the wet, pulling the car violently to the left. Despite repeated attempts this was never satisfactorily cured.

What finally decided that the Ferrari and I part company was the paintwork. The car was in metallic light blue and, while parked in an industrial area one day, a shower of rain fell. Whatever that rain washed down from the atmosphere certainly affected that paint. When the droplets of rain were wiped off circles were left etched in the paint and the car had a distinct pattern of little circles all over it when viewed closely. I was never able to remove this despite repeated polishing and the Ferrari and I said goodbye. Insurance was high and so was fuel consumption, but one expects that, and the spectre of what an engine or gearbox would cost is always with you, and you have to be careful where you park it. Having said all, let me say that I do not regret having done it for a moment! It was a beautiful example of the car builder’s art, and the warm feeling of actually owning a Ferrari is worth a lot of anguish.

In the last three years I have owned two 911E Porsches,—a better engineered and more reliable car than a Ferrari, in my opinion—but lacking the looks and that difficult-to-define “something” that the Modena car undoubtedly has.

Before contented Ferrari owners reach for their pens to refute all I have said, let me reiterate that I have related personal opinions based on my own experiences. Furthermore, having studied Denis Jenkinson’s first-class report on the Dino, added to a first-hand glowing report from a friend who has owned one I now dream about owning the beautiful 246GT. A hair of the dog…?

J. L. M. Cotter