Ferrari 275GTB a spotter's guide
A short guide to the Ferrari 275GTB to impress your mates if you see one at a car show
The 275GTB is one of the most revered Ferraris of all, and is considered a very influential car for its styling. Many more modern Ferraris and even cars from other makes have adopted some of the styling cues such as the long bonnet and teardrop glasshouse design. The new Ferrari Roma has been criticised for looking too much like modern Aston Martins, however to my mind there are stronger links in the Roma back to 275 than the Astons. Actually the Aston designers themselves may have been more influenced by the 275 than Aston's own back catalogue (especially the DB9).
Compared to today's production runs the 275 was only built in small numbers with less than 1,000 being made in total. Even with this small run there were quite a few different derivatives and sub types. So if you are lucky enough to spot one at a car show or meet, I've produced a brief guide below to spot the sub types and allow you to impress your mates with geeky knowledge.
The 275GTB was first introduced in 1964 and primarily replaced the 250GT Lusso as the most sporting of Ferrari's road cars. To some extent it also replaced the 250GTO as the car intended for GT racing (we'll come back to that). The new car had a number of significant improvements over the Lusso, including independent rear suspension, and a 5 speed gearbox now mounted on a transaxle at the rear to improve weight distribution. As the 275 name implies the capacity of the single overhead cam (S.O.H.C.) engine was increased from 3.0 in the 250 to 3.3 litres and as a result quoted horsepower rose to 280hp.
Shortnose frontal view
The inital version is now retrospectively known as the shortnose due to it's large stadium shaped grille. These are also characterised by internally mounted hinges for the boot The shortnose version was produced from 1964 through until late 1965 with a total of 236 being made.
Shortnose rear view
275GTB ' Longnose'
A modified 275GTB (stamped as a 275gtc) showing the long nose of the later cars.
It was quickly discovered that the short nose generated quite a lot of lift as speed, and as a result a revised version with a slightly extended nose and a smaller more ovoid grille was introduced in late 1965. The updated cars featured a new design of alloy wheel and a slightly larger rear window. The boot hinges were also now external. Although not externally identifiable later examples featured an updated driveline with the open propshaft enclosed in a torque tube. 202 long nose examples were built, although a number of the earlier cars received the updated bodywork at some point in their lives.
The six carburettor option
6 carbuettor 275GTB shortnose
On both the short and long nose cars Ferrari offered the option of having six weber carburettors instead of the usual three. This resulted in a little more power, probably giving the car the true 280bhp that was claimed with the three carb cars actually making around 250-260hp. 6 carb cars can be identified by a slight raise of the centre section of the bonnet to allow for some clearance of the larger air cleaner for the carbs. Again some cars have received the 6 carb upgrade retrospectively and may not have the modified bonnet.
A year after the longnose was introduced Ferrari was being challenged by a number of rivals. Lamborghini had arrived on the scene and its 4.0 litre double overhead cam (D.O.H.C.) V12 easily trounced the 275's S.O.H.C. 3.3 litre unit with a claimed 350hp. Meanwhile other upstarts such as Iso were using cheap and reliable American V8's producing big claimed horsepower numbers. The 275 needed more power.
Ferrari's solution was to introduce a D.O.H.C. V12 of it's own in the 275GTB/4. Capacity was unchanged at 3.3. litres but with standard six Weber Carbs along with the 4 cams the new engine produced a quoted 300hp and gave the car a claimed top speed of 166mph. The 275GTB/4 is identified by a narrower but more pronounced bulge in the bonnet compared to the six carb 275GTB. 303 275GTB/4s were made by the time production finished in 1968.
Production was in part shortened because emission regulations were starting to appear, especially in California, and the relative small capacity but highly strung 275 engine was likely to be heavily emasculated by these. Ferrari would move to a much bigger capacity unit in the 4.4 litre 365GTB/4 Daytona that replaced the 275.
The alloy body option
Alloy body 275GTB longnose not the long gutter above the doors
Ferrari had long offered its cars with the option of an alloy body to save weight especially if owners wished to race their cars, and the 275 was no exception . Alloy cars are identified by the rain gutter above the doors extending some 6 cm past the door frame, to cover up an addtional weld line needed on the alloy cars. 72 of these were made (split between the three versions although most are long nose 2 cam cars) and these are highly desirable to collectors today. Curiously it seems some cars were delivered in 1966 with alloy bodies even though customers had not ordered them. During the period Italy was stuck down with industrial unrest and as a result there were shortages of steel which may have lead to a few more alloy cars being built than planned.
275 Competizone Speciale
In 1965 Ferrari built three highly evolved 275s for racing. While looking superficially similar, these cars had very little in common with the road going versions and featured full race specification dry sump 3.3 V12's from the 250LM producing around 330bhp. Although not referred to as such by Ferrari many consider these the 1965 version of the GTO. Only one example SN6885 (seen in the video below) was actually raced and finished 3rd overall at Le Mans in 1965. To date it is the last front engine car to record an overall podium at Le Mans and is considered one of the most valuable Ferraris of all.
275GTB Competizione Clienti
For the customer who wanted to go racing Ferrari built 10 examples of the shortnose with race modifications which are known as Competizone Clienti cars. They featured alloy bodies (without the extended gutter) larger fuel tanks, blueprinted engines (with six carbs naturally) and are visually distinguished from the regular shortnose by the additional vents behind the rear wheels and an external fuel filler cap.
The final competition version was based on the long nose car. These were more highly developed than the earlier Competizione Clenti versions and featured a dry sump engine similar to the Speciale cars. However after what was probably a mistake in the homologation papers they featured a unique three large carburettor setup rather than the six Webers you might expect.
3 carb setup on the 275GTB/C
Externally only the external filler cap and triple laced Borrani wheels distinguished them from the regular long nose cars however they were built with an ultra thin gauge alloy body. 12 275GTB/C's were made and examples won the GT class at Le Mans in both 1966 and 1967.
Curiously three long nose 275s were built with 275GTC stamped on the chassis (see above for picture). There is much conjecture as to whether or not these were a less developed competition version or not and at least one was raced in period.
275GTB/4 N.A.R.T. Spyder
The US was the biggest market for Ferrari's road cars which gave the US importer, Luigi Chinetti, considerable influence at Ferrari. Towards the end of 275GTB/4 he requested a special open top version of the car to cater for the demand for open top cars in California. Originally 25 cars were planned however a high price and the tightening emission regulations curtailling 275 production meant only 10 were completed. The example in the above video sold for over $27 million making it the most expensive non race Ferrari sold at auction.
Which is most desirable
As is pretty clear from above the Competition and N.A.R.T. Spyder versions are the most valuable., and whilst there will be considerable variance in prices depending on individual history you will need to develop a tech start up with a really killer app and then sell it to Facebook to be able to afford one.
Of the more 'regular' cars the 275GTB/4 and alloy cars (especially an alloy bodied 275GTB/4) top the value stakes with a three carb equipped shortnose probably being the most affordable. Even so the cheapest 275 will still command a seven figure dollar sum.
Putting aside values which of the regular versions would I most want? I prefer the looks of the long nose car and while the 275GTB/4 is ultimately the most powerful the difference in performance to the six carb 2 cam cars is not that much in the real world to justify the price premium. I would also go with a steel body as the alloy bodies can prove fragile and I would want to drive one without constantly having to worry about dents from kicked up stones.
One thing is for sure whichever version is your favourite driving one would mark you out as a connoisseur just ask Roger...
I have focused on the 275GTB for this article. There was also the open 275GTS which used the same engine and chassis as the GTB but an entirely different body. I'll maybe focus on this in a separate piece.
All pictures by me (I'm not a photographer sorry)