Driven: ferrari 330GTS

Checking out a rare open V12 Ferrari

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Open top V12 Ferraris always sit very near the top of the tree in collectability terms. This is in part due to all of them being very rare even in Ferrari terms. For example Ferrari only made 122 examples of the 365GTS/4 rather better known as the Daytona Spyder, while the iconic and now very valuable 250 California was produced in a series of 104 examples (roughly evenly split into the Long and Short Wheelbase versions). Rather less well known but equally rare with 100 made is the car featured here: the 330GTS.

The 330GTS was launched at the Paris Motor show in 1966, as an open version of the 330GTC which had been introduced six months earlier and replaced the 275 GTS in the range. The car was powered by the four litre V12 from the 330GT 2+2 which was more suited to the touring nature of the GTS than the peaky 3.3 litre unit in the 275. The 4.0 litre V12 produced the same 300bhp as the four cam 275 but at a more accessible 6600 rpm. The car was produced from 1966 through to 1968 when it was updated with a larger 4.4 litre V12 to become the 365GTS (these cars can be identified by the side vents being removed and replaced by vents on the bonnet). The 365 was produced for a further eighteen months, but by then the design was considered passé alongside the new 365GTB/4 Daytona and a mere 20 cars found buyers before production ceased to make way for the Daytona Spyder.

Styling-wise the 330GTS is clearly a development of the 275GTS. The most notable styling change is a revised front end with an extended nose design reminiscent of the flagship Ferrari 500 Superfast. To modern eyes the design lacks virtually all of the styling cues that have become synonymous with the Ferrari brand. The alloy wheels (Borrani wire wheels were an option) are a simple pepper pot design and not the five spoke stars that were introduced with the Daytona. Perhaps the biggest omission though, is the lack of the round tail lamps that had become a staple of the Ferrari berlinettas since the 250 Lusso. This does not detract from what is a very pretty car, but what is rather more of an issue is its design similarity to a number of other cars of the era. As ever, Ferrari turned to Pininfarina to style this convertible, but they were also very much the go-to company for a number of other firms who wanted a convertible at that time. As a result the 330GTS does seem to share more than a passing resemblance to the much cheaper Fiat 124 Spider and even the Alfa Romeo Duetto (later Spider), both Pininfarina designs of the era. I'm sure when the 330 was new this wasn't ideal for owners looking to stand out.

Approaching the car today, the first impression is how small it seems. Like all Ferrari two seaters of the sixties it sits on a 2.4m wheelbase, but the track seems to be very narrow compared with cars of today. Walking around the car you might be surprised that a 4.0 V12 engine and a transaxle gearbox can be squeezed into something so small. The compromise can be found when climbing into the cockpit. The seats are quite close together and while there is plenty of legroom for the driver, the footwell for the passenger is quite shallow and can be a little cramped on a longer journey. Despite the seemingly small dimensions there is still a reasonably-sized boot for touring, and although space behind the seats is mainly reserved for the roof there is still some space for luggage. The roof is a simple manual affair with a plastic rear screen, but is fairly straightforward to raise and lower. When down the roof sits unobtrusively in the recess behind the seats.
During this period Ferrari were using wood veneers on their dashboards and it doesn't feel quite in keeping with what you would expect from a Ferrari. The steering wheel is a very period item, large and wooden. The overall effect is that this car feels from a much earlier era than my Daytona even though the designs were only introduced two years apart.

Note to self clean the footwells before taking a picture!

Note to self clean the footwells before taking a picture!

Time to get behind the wheel. The seating position is very upright compared to the later cars but it is probably in keeping with the touring nature of the car, although it causes another issue that I will come onto later. The seats themselves are supportive around the waist but lack shoulder and neck support, nor do they have head rests. The car also comes from an era before inertia reel seat belts, and the belts fitted are a little restrictive.

The car was already warm when I drove it, but even so I was surprised at how easy the gearbox was to use; the gears snick home with precision, the throws are shorter than the Daytona, and the clutch is a lot lighter too. The fact that this particular car was left-hand drive probably helps here, as the gear selector is positioned for left hand drive and right hand drive cars have to use a more angled gear stick. Incidentally, right hand drive 330GTS' are incredibly rare and there are probably less than five in existence.

The steering on the example I drove was a little vague around the straight ahead but otherwise as good as you would expect for a 42-year old car, and seemingly common with other Ferraris of the same era. Apply more lock and the steering weights up nicely, and on the familiar roads down to Goodwood the car felt very nicely balanced, with the narrow track making it very easy to place on the country roads. Visibility with the roof down is excellent, as you would expect, and sitting on the 'wrong' side of the car does not pose any undue problems. Even with the roof up the rear window is large and the narrow A pillars mean there are minimal blind spots. The car is quite noisy with the roof up, mainly a combination of wind noise from the hood and a boomy exhaust - this example had a non-original stainless steel exhaust fitted. The GTS is surprisingly stiff for a convertible over forty years old although there is the inevitable scuttle shake over bumps, but not enough to detract from the driving experience.

Despite the car's intended nature as a grand touring car with no track pretensions, the Ferrari racing DNA shines through. Perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise, since the chassis is basically the same as the 275GTB - a car that won the GT class at Le Mans three times consecutively and is considered a follow-on to the 250GTO. I would not be surprised that an average driver would find the 330GTS just as quick as the supposedly faster 275 berlinettas though mainly due to a wider power band from the bigger 4.0 litre engine. The two cam wet sump engine has a mellow smooth sound, clearly no lumpy race cams here! It has a good spread of torque, ideal for cruising the Riviera but equally handy for maintaining pace on English country lanes. Overall the performance feels brisk rather than modern supercar quick. Ferrari claimed a top speed of around 150mph, but that's probably a little optimistic. As with all carburettor-fed V12 Ferraris, it is best not to ask about fuel consumption.

If there is one big issue with the 330GTS, it's that everything about the driving experience equally applies to the hardtop 330GTC. To justify the considerable price premium, it has to work as a convertible, and this is where the car falls down a little. The windscreen is very upright and this creates quite a lot of turbulence in the cockpit, not helped by the side windows which don't come down far enough along the side of the car, so further turbulence laps into the cockpit from the trailing edges of the glass. Additionally, the low sides of the car and seats that end below the shoulders mean that a larger part of your body is not snuggled down inside the cockpit for protection. Being blown around in such a fashion seems rather at odds with the touring nature of the car; and it rather ruins the whole style aspect of owning a convertible if the occupants arrive at their destination looking like they need to sack their hairdresser. This can partially cured by fitting a modern wind deflector behind the seats but this ruins the looks and ambience of the car. Of all the convertibles that I have driven or ridden in with the roof down, the GTS is easily the worst for in-cockpit turbulence.

The 330GTS - along with almost every other classic Ferrari - has appreciated considerably in the last few years, and you can expect to pay around £1.5m for the best examples, although with only 100 made they don't come up for sale very often. The later and considerably rarer 365GTS is likely to be at least another £500,000 or more on top of that. The price of admission will still get you invites to some of the most prestigious concours events, and since it is a less obvious choice of classic Ferrari than dare I say it, a Daytona or 275GTB, it will mark you out as a connoisseur.

If, like me, you prefer to drive your classics rather than keep them in the garage, you can get yourself behind the wheel of the best 330GTC (or the later but similarly-styled 365GTC) for less than half the amount that a 330GTS will set you back. It will do everything that a 330GTS will do except get you sunburnt, and with the stiffer hardtop body the handling is better, too. You can then spend the change on something like a Mercedes Pagoda SL or even the Fiat 124 Spider that I mentioned earlier, for those times when you want to get the wind in your hair. That would be how I would choose to spend my (fantasy) cash, but if you dream of open top motoring accompanied by a carb-fed Ferrari V12 soundtrack, the 330GTS is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

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