Top Italian Cars in Britain

Part two of a series in which Motor Sport interviews some of the owners

Patsy Burt’s hill-climbing and sprinting, activities are sufficiently well known not to need recalling here. She feels that her Ferrari 330GT is the next best thing in general handling to her racing car. The car, which was collected from the factory in 1965, has now done about 30,000 miles, mainly on longer hauls on the Continent. “It provides an ideal excuse for going from restaurant to restaurant,” she maintains. For general shopping and business she now has a Mercedes-Benz 280SL, but having once owned a Ferrari, she would never be without one.

Miss Burt’s previous cars had all had a sporting flavour, such as Aston Martins, Jensens Triumphs, a twin-cam Fiat sports car and, just before the Ferrari, an Alfa Romeo 2600 Coupé. She thought that she may have been swayed in her decision to buy because of the Ferrari reputation. It was a matter of a choice between a Mercedes Benz 300SE Coupé and the Ferrari, and the Italian car scored mainly because of its racing car-like handling. The engine and all running gear have been faultless, the electrics so-so and the brakes not so good. Having stood idle for a period, on initial application they tend to lock on. Ron Smith, a director of Patsy’s PMB Garage in Bookham, Surrey, worked out the cost in tyres; he reckoned about 25s. per week, if the driver was careful.

Ideally, Miss Burt would like the Ferrari with a Mercedes-Benz-type of automatic transmission—a statement that might upset other Ferrari enthusiasts. She thought it well worth the money if the owner is interested in driving properly. If the driving angle is good, one would put up with the minor irritations; on the way back from Italy with the new car, 14 faults developed, including a leaking boot and windscreen wipers that would not switch off. But it is a car that makes one drive properly. The Mercedes, she thought, would get the driver out of any trouble on the road with little effort, but if the Ferrari gets a little out of line on a corner, it tends to let the driver know.

The car has been serviced regularly by PMB, although odd jobs have been done by Maranello Concessionaires. Patsy thought that the 70-m.p.h. limit was a waste of Ferrari’s talents of building motor cars. When the Ferrari is travelling at 70 it is about half-way up its power range and certainly a great deal more stable than a bread-and-butter car at the same speed. But on the Continent the Ferrari really comes into its own. In this country, Miss Burt said, it’s all stop-start, stop-start, but there they understand speed.

Tommy Weber is a trendy young man who lives in a terraced house in Pimlico; he wears a flowered shirt and his hair long. For transport he uses a Mercedes-Benz 600 but has previously owned a couple of Ferraris and a Maserati. He has also driven other such cars, including the Lamborghini, which he likes very much, and is a real enthusiast for these particular sporting machines. Why, then, does he not now own one? Quite simple—the Maserati was written off by a friend(!) last year and the Mercedes came up for offer at a fair price. However, he thinks it inevitable that he will get another Italian car sooner or later.

Such cars as Maseratis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, Mr. Weber feels, have been designed “down,” whereas so many similar products have been designed “up.” The high-performance Italian car is a happy compromise between the practical and ultimate in desirability. “You only have to go to the Italian motor shows to see just what they can do.”

Mr. Weber was honest enough to admit there was a bit of snobbery in owning an Italian car. He likes the idea of a young man driving an expensive car, and said: “It’s a bit flash. Chicks just like nice cars because they all have their Minis and Mini-Coopers. You can’t get the same feeling with a Jaguar or an Aston Martin. Perhaps its a ease of ‘a prophet in his own country’. No, I’m not trying to be extrovert—these and Mercedes-Benz simply are the best cars.” The nearest British car to an Italian one, he thought, was a Lotus. He liked the look of the Ferrari-engined Fiat Dino but thought a Lotus could probably be just as good.

However, he has had his fair share of troubles with his Maserati and Ferraris. When these cars came from the factory they had to be screwed together again. There is simply not enough attention to detail, and it is just these things that go wrong. He had a gross amount of troubles with the electrics on his Maserati. Mr. Weber thought that most owners tend to drive their cars like Minis or Volkswagens and perhaps get a bit tired of mechanical bothers that inevitably develop. Good servicing can eliminate this, for the fact is that these cars are like racing machinery and need constant attention. All of his cars have been bought through Taylor and Crawley, who have always done all the servicing. Mr. Weber has found them expensive, but the most reliable people he knows.

He said that he does not drive quickly on the road because he is not trying to prove anything. When not concentrating hard, one does not need to worry about the car whenever a hazard develops, for the steering

and brakes are so good.

Alex Moulton, Chairman and Managing Director of Moulton Developments, the firm responsible for the Hydrolastic suspension on B.M.C. cars, drove a Ferrari 250GT 2 + 2 between 1961 and 1963. But when the car was out of action with a broken rear axle towards the end of 1963, Mr. Moulton found himself needing a car for a business trip. He borrowed a Bentley S3 from a local garage and since that time has not been without one. As a change, we decided to ask the opinion of one lured away from top Italian cars.

Mr. Moulton drove a series of Lancias, enjoying an Aurelia GT for 70,000 miles. He bought the Ferrari because of its reputation of being the ultimate Italian GT car; he was also intrigued by the V12-cylinder engine. Before taking delivery of the dark blue car—registration no. AM 62—Sergio Farina took personal care in certain interior trim specifications.

The Ferrari gave a great deal of pleasure, in particular on two foreign trips. There was also no 70-m.p.h. speed limit then. Mr. Moulton found the gear-change superb and the directional stability good, while at full speed with the side windows open, it gave the impression of being an open sports car without having any draughts. On the debit side, he thought that the car needed a bigger engine, which this model subsequently had, and it was a little too noisy. However, he was very glad of the experience of owning a Ferrari with its thoroughbred qualities. Nowadays, he gets his motoring thrills at lower speeds, being a keen motorcyclist and the owner of B.M.W. and Honda products.

The Bentley, having done 70,000 miles, suits Mr. Moulton’s needs better. He said: “These days I prefer not to hear the exhaust.” He would certainly not buy another Ferrari, although he would be interested in looking over the transverse rear-engined Dino 206 that was shown at the Turin Show last November.—R. F.