The Most GTB: Battista Pininfarina’s Personal Ferrari 275GTB Is Spectacular, and for Sale ""

By | January 10, 2018

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Pininfarina Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale

With some measure of convoluted thought, the automobile pictured above could be the single most important example of a pure roadgoing Ferrari of the 1960s. That’s a bold statement for a car that, at first blush, looks like a 275GTB. It’s also a machine that may have flown under the radar of less hard-core fans of the storied Italian marque. So what is it? Well, it’s a Ferrari 275GTB. A Speciale to be exact, a one-of-one automobile built by Pininfarina for its founder, Battista “Pinin” Farina.

Battista Pininfarina and Enzo Ferrari

Pinin and Il Commendatore: Battista Pininfarina and Enzo Ferrari.

The Italian design house, of course, has long been associated with Ferrari. Pininfarina’s first work for the company was a Ferrari 212 Inter. In those days, Enzo’s creations wore bodies from a number of carrozzerie, including Vignale, Touring, and Ghia. The story goes that in 1951, Ferrari and Farina (Battista didn’t legally combine his nickname and his given surname until 1961) met on neutral ground at a restaurant in Tortona, halfway between Turin and Modena, because neither man wanted to be seen as the supplicant, hat in hand, asking for work. That meeting led to a string of Pininfarina-designed Ferraris that continued on until the F12berlinetta left production last year.

Ferrari’s 250 series consisted of a broad spectrum of cars—from the blistering homologation-special 250GTO and the mid-engined 250LM to the relaxed and luxurious 250GT/E and Series I/II Pininfarina cabriolets. The 275 series, in contrast, was strictly limited to two-seaters, all built with a common visual language, save for Pininfarina’s 200-unit run of 275GTS roadsters, which carried a design similar to that of its replacement in the line, the 330GTS. Launched with an SOHC 3.3-liter variant of Ferrari’s stalwart Colombo V-12, the engine was updated with dual overhead cams for the 300-hp 275GTB/4 of 1966. Luigi Chinetti, the prancing horse’s storied North American importer, requested from Ferrari and coachbuilder Scaglietti an open version of the GTB/4, known as the NART Spyder. Limited to 10 units due to poor sales, the NART Spyder nevertheless stands as one of today’s most expensive Ferraris, with values hovering north of $25 million.

Pininfarina Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale

So what of this thing? It has an SOHC motor and the early short-nose bodywork, which wasn’t as aerodynamically stable as that of the later long-nose cars. It’s not a convertible, nor is it a track weapon like the monstrously valuable GTB/C Speciale, and its body was formed from common steel rather than the aluminum that pricier GTBs tend to wear. To that, we answer, “Yeah, whatever, brospeeder, just take a hard look at the sucker.”

Like numerous Ferraris of the mid-20th century, the 275GTB was designed by Pininfarina in Turin, while the bodies were constructed down the road from the Ferrari plant, at Scaglietti. The rule of thumb went that Scaglietti built the racier bodies while Pininfarina built the more luxury-oriented ones. This car, however, was different. Ferrari delivered two of the new transaxle-equipped 275 chassis to the design house. One was to be used as a prototype, and one was built as old Battista’s personal vehicle and show car. It bowed at Pininfarina’s St. Moritz winter press conference in 1965 and went on display to the huddled Teutonic masses at the Frankfurt auto show later that year.

Pininfarina Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale

The 275GTB Speciale at the ’65 Frankfurt auto show.

At first glance, anybody who’d seen a 275GTB in a magazine or a newspaper might well have stopped and marveled at this Ferrari and been thrilled at the chance to finally see one in the metal. It is, after all, one of Pininfarina’s best-loved designs, and is widely considered one of the most beautiful cars ever to roll out of Maranello’s gates. But to look at it with a more than casual eye is to fall into a car nerd’s trance. Most notable, of course, is the rear diffuser. Sure, plenty of modern sports cars feature the devices, but this was 1965. It rides on Campagnolo aluminum wheels rather than the Borrani wires common to other Ferraris of the era. Only the passenger side features a vent window, as Battista thought they ruined the line of the car. The passenger, apparently, could trade looking good for comfort. The hood features a unique bulge to clear the six Weber carbs, while the Ferrari badge sits in a recessed indentation. The headlamp covers are mounted via brackets rather than by the production car’s chrome rings. According to Gooding & Company’s David Gooding, no single body panel on the Speciale is interchangeable with your standard-issue steel short-nose 275GTB. Even the turn signals are different.

Pininfarina Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale

The interior is a minor masterwork of mid-century Italian modernity, featuring scrumptious brown leather seats, a polished wood-veneer dash panel, black-face Veglia gauges, polished air-vent covers in the footwells and sail panels, and—perhaps of note to horological junkies—Heuer’s Rally-Master setup, which consists of a Master Time clock and a Monte Carlo stopwatch mounted together on a backing plate.

In January 1966, once the car had served its purpose as a promotional vehicle, Pininfarina sold it. Four months later, Battista Pininfarina was dead at the age of 72. The car arrived in San Francisco in 1970, and owner Don Vincent Gaxiola wound up hanging on to it for 20 years. In 1992, Southern California Ferrari broker Michael Sheehan purchased the Speciale and then turned around and sold it to collector Brandon Wang, who commissioned Sheehan to handle the restoration. At some point, presumably during Gaxiola’s ownership, the car had been repainted dark red. Sheehan restored it to its original, brilliant Acqua Verde Metallizzato, and the car went on to win a string of first- and second-place trophies at concours up and down the West Coast, including a second in class at Pebble Beach in 1992. In 1993, Wang sold the car to a very private Ferrari collector who had no interest in showing the car. Off the radar for 25 years, the car was nevertheless remembered fondly by enthusiasts, including Gooding. “I’ve been chasing this car for a long time,” he said. “Just chipping away at the owner. Something came up where I could sense he was in a moment where he’d be open to selling it.”

Gooding, it should be noted, is full-on geeked about handling the sale of this car. When he proclaims, “I would rather have this car than a NART Spyder,” it sounds like the farthest thing from a sales tactic. Truth be told, we’d have it over one of Chinetti’s droptops ourselves. It is, after all, the 275GTB the head of the 275GTB’s design house built for himself. In that regard, it might be the most 275GTB one could possibly pack into one automobile, short of ginning up some infernal contraption with an SOHC 3.3-liter Colombo in the front and a DOHC unit in the rear. But that wouldn’t be a 275GTB. That’d just be gloriously stupid.

Digging into the car and contemplating its vitals, we wondered why Gooding & Company was only projecting a $8,000,000–$10,000,000 sale price when the 275GTB Speciale crosses the auction block in Scottsdale later this month. It’s more rare than a one-of-three swiss-cheesed, shrunken, tinfoil-bodied GTB/C Speciale race car. It makes the NART Spyder’s production total look like a Camaro’s, while the run of 22 regular GTB/Cs seems positively Beetle-esque in comparison. So why the forecasted [comparably] screaming deal? “I get why a GTB/C is worth more, because it’s a competition car,” noted Gooding. “I’ve sold multiple NART Spyders; I’ve sold GTB/Cs. Do I think it’s going to sell for more than we sold the GTB/C for at Pebble Beach? No. If somebody did [buy it for the $14.5 million the GTB/C went for], would I think it was ridiculous? No.”

We can’t say we’d disagree.

1965-Ferrari-275-GTB-Speciale-Reel

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