Recalling my first classic Ferrari drive in a 330GTC
Pretty much my whole life has been spent around Ferraris and I have written about them extensively but it occurred to me the other day I've never written about the first time I drove one properly on the road so I thought I would address that here.
My first time behind the wheel of a Ferrari was at a Supercar experience day at Thruxton race circuit where I got five laps in a left hand drive Ferrari 355.. It was a fun day but not very informative other than to say the 355 was way better than any car I had driven before despite having an awful driving position. It would be a year later in 2000 when I would get my first proper drive in a prancing horse; a 330GTC.
The car in question was chassis number the 11391 the last right hand drive 330GTC and at the time belonged to my late father who nicknamed it Ruby on account of its Rosso Rubinho paint. Ruby was part of Dad's then growing collection of Ferraris and it also shared garage space with 250SWB 3605GT nicknamed Portman (the first owner was Lord Portman) very much the crown jewel in the collection.
Dad was asked if he would like to exhibit Portman at the 2000 edition of the Ferrari racing days at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes region of Belgium. I can't remember the reasoning for it but Dad decided he wanted to take Ruby as well. Our friend, and Ferrari expert, Mark Shannon plus our long serving mechanic Vince came along for the weekend trip too. Both cars headed off on the Friday however I had a professional exam that day so had to catch a Eurostar train over and rendezvous with everyone in Brussels where they had stopped for the night.
The Saturday saw us heading out fairly early on the motorway out of Brussels towards Spa. I had taken up my customary position in the passenger seat of Portman and was busy map reading to get us where we needed to go (no sat nav's then). The roads were not that exciting however we had joined a small peloton of Ferraris old and new heading to the track which must have made quite a sight to casual onlookers, especially when my Dad tried to use his innovative hand signals to contact Mark and Vince!
Once at the circuit we parked up in the paddock with the rest of the Ferraris and headed to watch the racing, which was a mix of the Ferrari Challenge races for 360's, and the sadly now defunct Shell Historic challenge for classic Ferrari race cars. The latter saw a number of the mighty 512M's from the early 70's blasting around the famous circuit. There were also a number of high speed parades featuring rather more modern F40 and F50's plus the F1 team ran a number of demonstration laps in late model F1 cars.
At the end of day we headed to our next night stop which was in the city of Liege about 40 minutes drive from the circuit. Once in the city we got a bit lost and when we finally found our hotel we discovered that the parking for the hotel was in an underground car park about 1/2 km away but equally difficult to find. Again we probably created a lot of attention as we drove around the centre of the city trying to find the parking especially when we went the wrong way around a mini roundabout.
The next day it was back to circuit and more of the same races in the morning, before we headed for home in the early afternoon and my turn to get behind the wheel of Ruby. Maybe at this point it's time for a quick recap on the 330GTC.
The 330GTC was launched in 1966 and was an attempt by Ferrari to combine the sporting traits of the Berlinetta 275 models with the more touring oriented luxuries of the larger 2+2 models. As such it shared the 2.4m wheelbase chassis and transaxle gearbox arrangement of the 275GTB but used the larger 4.0 litre S.O.H.C V12 from the 330GT 2+2. As always Pininfarina designed the body which was an evolution of the earlier open top 275GTS model. Pininfarina also assembled the GTCs and as a result they came with a higher standard of finish than the Scaglietti built Berlinettas. The model ran through to 1968 when it was further upgraded to become the 4.4 litre 365GTC. Both the 330 and 365GTC are considered some of the best sixties Ferraris to drive.
My dad had owned Ruby for a few years before the trip so it's foibles were fairly well known. At the time it was a largely original car and other than some remedial body work and an interior refresh it had not required much more than routine work during Dad's tenure.
Back to the story and I was somewhat nervous at my first drive. Not only was it my first drive of a Ferrari on the road but also only my second drive of any right hand drive car in continental Europe so I had a lot to think about. The other concern was that the route would take us around part of the notorious Brussels ring road. Anyone who has tried to make it to the airport to catch a flight from Brussels on a Friday afternoon will know that the Brussels Ring Road is a special kind of motoring hell which is probably best avoided if you can, especially when you are a novice in a then thirty four year old Ferrari.
With this in mind we set off with Dad and Mark in Portman and Vince, making for a slightly nervous passenger, with me in Ruby. Fortunately when I got behind the wheel Ruby was thoroughly warm through so I didn't have to worry about skipping 2nd gear when cold which pretty much a standard requirement when driving any old Ferrari.
Once underway it quickly became apparent that rather than being the slightly truculent device I was expecting Ruby was an absolute honey to drive. The gearbox was slick and easy to use while the clutch was not the heavy monster that magazine articles would have you believe (neither is the one on the Daytona for that matter). The steering was relatively light too no doubt helped by the large diameter of the wooden wheel.
The best thing though was the visibility out of the car. I'm not sure I have driven another closed car that provided such good all-round visibility with all four corners of the car clearly visible from the drivers seat. This meant that dealing with being on the wrong side of the car for the road was not a problem. This is helped by the A,B and C pillars being incredibly thin, although probably best not to think about how much support they would provide in a roll over situation.
As we approached Brussels the traffic increased but for once it was not too bad and the 4.0 litre V12, which Ferrari claimed produced 300bhp, was more than able to keep pace. The brakes whilst not as good as those on the Porsche 944 I was driving at the time were up to the job of reigning in the car and were better than you might expect for a car of that era. the chassis was great too with great balance and it coped well when I encountered a motorway slipway where the radius of the turn unexpected tightened! While I might whisper this the GTC probably handles a bit better than my Daytona!
After a couple of hours we pulled into a services for some fuel and at that point my first drive came to an end. I've had many more exciting drives in Ferraris (many of them documented here on Drivetribe) but that was definitely one of the most memorable.
Dad traded Ruby a year or two later as he by now also had a 365GTC and an open top 330GTS in his collection but it is always a car I held with quite a lot of affection. A few years ago I saw it again at a car show. Ruby is now owned by a very wealthy UK Ferrari collector who has elected to make quite a few modifications including a tuned 365 engine and Daytona Competizione style megaphone exhausts. They're not to my taste and to me something of a shame as during Dad’s tenure it was a fairly original car. Of all the cars my Dad owned it is the one I would most like back.
The story comes from a time before digital cameras and I unfortunately don't have many great pictures of Ruby from that trip. Most people focused on the 250SWB for obvious reasons
To read about an earlier adventure in Portman see below
Our most recent Ferrari based road trip is detailed here