Lucky Son Continues Dad’s Daytona Stewardship
Many of us inherited our enthusiasm for cars from our fathers, a lucky handful may have even been handed down one of dad’s prized old machines as a reward for reaching one of life’s milestones—chances are, though, it wasn’t a Ferrari.
Petrolicious friend and frequent commenter Matthew Lange lives and works in southeast England, where he ekes out the occasional fair-weather drive in his beautiful 365 GTB/4, a car with an interesting family history, of which he graciously shared with us below.
Q: So I understand the Daytona was a 30th birthday present from your father—can you tell us more about that?
A:Well it was my dad’s first Ferrari; he bought it when it was one year old in 1974. It was always my favorite, and when he used to ask me which I would want for myself one day, I’d never hesitate to answer “the Daytona”. The one caveat was that I pass it on to my children one day. We don’t have any yet, but we’re working on it.
Q: What other Ferraris did your dad have?
A: He’s had nearly 30, from a 250 Lusso, which he didn’t much care for and got rid of quite quickly, to a 250 SWB, two- and four-cam 275s, a few 365 GTC/4s and so on. He currently owns a Daytona Spyder that was converted from a coupe, and a 550 Maranello as well.
He paid about £7,500 for this car, which was about half of what it was worth when new about a year earlier (this was during the height of the fuel crisis and they were giving them away). He was also entertaining the idea of buying a DB4 Zagato for similar money, but ultimately went with the Daytona—that’d have been quite a return for investment.
Q: What’s the Daytona like to drive?
A: The first time I drove the car, it scared the shit out of me! I was coming from a Porsche 944 S2, which in real-world driving is probably a faster car, but the Daytona with its skinny tires, huge power and very long bonnet was quite intimidating at first. Once I built up a bit of familiarity with it, though, I found it’s actually quite docile and friendly, easily handling traffic.
Q: How often do you drive the it?
A: Weather permitting, about two to three times a month. It only gets about 11 US MPG, though, so that’s a limiting factor—we pay quite a bit more for fuel here than what it costs in the US, after all. It never gets hot, possibly because of the dry sump setup. It sounds great, of course, better than the earlier twin-cam V12s, which were great-sounding cars on their own, but the extra cams give the sound an added layer of complexity—they just sing. The steering will kick like a mule if you hit a pothole. After a long drive you’ll get out of the car, drenched in sweat, and just look back at it in awe. It’s an absorbing, analog experience.
Q: What’s your favorite (or least favorite) quirk or idiosyncrasy that you’ve come to be familiar with as an owner?
A: I’d have to say I don’t like the way it handles wet weather, or rather it doesn’t like wet weather at all. I like to joke that the guy given the task of designing the wipers spent most of his time and budget chasing women and then slapped together a system very quickly at the last moment—it’s really awful, with the two wipers banging together quite hard in the center of their travel and barely touching the glass for much of their travel, they are pretty ineffective.
A lot of rain also makes its way into the engine bay, where it plays havoc with the electrics, making it hard to start or causing misfires—it’s clearly a fair-weather Italian toy and not a machine designed with wet English weather in mind.
Long rides end up with you smelling of petrol, which I don’t really care for all that much as my wife really dislikes it, but otherwise it’s all lovely.
Q: I understand you’ve fitted a power steering rack to make it more driveable, as standard cars were said to be quite truck-like. Are there any other concessions to modernity or reliability fitted to the car?
A: I wouldn’t say they’re truck-like, but the steering is definitely heavy as fitted from the factory with an unassisted rack. The power setup greatly increases its driveability, though. The clutch isn’t very heavy, but when I get into my daily drive Alfa MiTo I feel like I’m pushing the clutch through the firewall—it’s all relative, but it’s nothing like say a Lamborghini Countach as far as heaviness of controls go. My dad’s Spyder has an electrically assisted setup, but mine’s a ZF unit from a wrecked Ferrari 400. I’ve also fitted a faster-spinning, modern starter motor and a stainless exhaust to replace the original mild steel unit. I’m still running the original 7.5-inch-wide rear tires as opposed to the 9-inch-wide most owners have switched to. It came with both Borani wires and Cromodoras, but I leave the latter fitted, as I prefer their style.
Q: What kind of condition is the Daytona in?
A: Mechanically it’s very good, with only a slight oil leak that will eventually necessitate an engine-out repair. Cosmetically the paint is pretty good, with only a few micro-blisters and a bit of peeling around the bonnet betraying its age, while inside it’s a bit tattier but nothing inordinate for a 40-year-old car. I go back and forth on whether to have it repainted in its original Dino blue or the red it wears now (the color in which my dad had it resprayed shortly after buying it). It’s a beautiful shade of blue, but most of its history has been as a red car, and all of my memories are of it being red as well, so I’m not quite sure which way to go.
Q: How reliable has it been over the years?
A: Very, actually. It’s probably the most reliable Ferrari my dad’s owned, much of which is owed to our mechanic who has 30 years or more experience working on these cars and is probably one of, if not the best Ferrari mechanic in England, maybe the world.
A funny story is that back in the day it was being serviced by a different Ferrari specialist whose clients included Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger—one day both my dad’s and Mick’s Daytonas were in the shop and they somehow ended up with the steering wheels being swapped! To this day I’m driving around with Mick Jagger’s former steering wheel in my hands.
Q: What’s your ideal drive in your car?
A: My ideal passenger is my wife, and we’d take it on the Route Napoléan, an amazing stretch of tarmac that stretches from Grenolbe to Cannes—it’s smooth, wide and long and really suited to the Daytona’s way of doing things.
Q: What’s the furthest you’ve driven it?
A: A few times I’ve driven to the Le Mans Classic, which is about a 1,000 mile, three- to four-day round trip. Recently I drove it a similar distance to Reims for a photo shoot with Octane magazine, which was great fun—fortunately they paid for petrol as it’s exorbitantly expensive to drive for such long distances.
Q: How do people react to the Daytona?
A: For the most part quite positively, it’s perhaps seen as more of a classic and less flash than a new 458 or similar which are primarily driven by celebrities and footballers, so it gets much less of a rude reaction for the most part. People are very friendly generally and have all sorts of questions about it.
Q: What else would you like to try someday, Italian, exotic or not?
A: Well my dad’s currently restoring an Iso Grifo, which I’m very excited to try—it should be done soon. The Ghibli you recently wrote about is another car I’ve always wanted to try, too. Lambo Isleros are another. I’d love a go in a Hemi-powered Mopar of some sort, but those are probably even rarer than a Daytona here in England. Small cars are great because you can drive them flat out without going too fast—an original Fiat 500 and a BMW 2002 are two that quickly come to mind. Really, I love all old cars, and would like to try anything interesting.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add I haven’t touched on?
A: I keep a blog of my ownership eperience with the Daytona at DriveCult—I don’t mean to be flash or to self-promote, I just think your readers may find it interesting. Similarly I wrote an article comparing the Daytona to the 365 GTC/4 and another about when I used the Daytona as my wedding car.
Photography by Jonathan Shears