Classic drive: 1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2

Wilhelm Lutjeharms enjoyed this tour de force around the serene locale of Knysna, and writes about his experience for CAR Magazine.

First unveiled at the 1967 Paris Motor Show as a replacement for the stunning Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, the 365 GT is about as accomplished a long-distance tourer as you could wish for.


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Ferrari is in a unique position when it comes to the variety of powertrains it can install in its cars, especially considering the number of cylinders and the position and orientation of the engine and gearbox. However, depending on your age, you are more than likely to have your own set of preferences as to where a Ferrari engine is best positioned. Many of us who love cars – especially Ferraris – are often only interested in the firm’s sportscars, or racing cars. But in truth, it is the daily drivers and more useable cars that kept Ferrari in a positive financial position and allowed Enzo Ferrari to chase his motor racing dreams.

This specific car resides in Knysna, and its owner is a retired corporate leader, but the conventional meaning of the word ‘retired’ is not really applicable to him. Apart from managing his car collection (this being his only Ferrari), his daily schedule includes educating his staff on all aspects of cars, their maintenance and restoration. Being a manager and member of several other clubs and organisations in the area gives him a uniquely in-depth awareness of this car’s history.

1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 fast facts

Having researched the car, the owner explains that it was originally imported into South Africa by the owner of a swimming pool company. This particular 365 GT has a CDA. (Car Distributors and Assemblers) plaque on the air intake cover. Delving further into the car’s background, the owner discovered a fascinating history behind said plaque. Back in the day, it often proved financially savvy for the owner of a car to import it in a completely or partially knocked-down form. In this car’s case it seems to be the latter, with only the wheels and perhaps another part or two left off the car at the time. Then CDA, based in East London at what’s presently the site of the Mercedes-Benz factory, ‘assembled’ the car. With this example being right-hand drive and the speedometer showing miles per hour, the latest owner was in no doubt that the car was originally sold in the UK.

“I grew up with Ford, and we as a family had many cars from the Ford stable. I remember the GT40 Le Mans story very well. We didn’t have a TV, but we saw it in movies and listened to it on the radio. As boys, my brother and I always raced Scalextric cars. He raced with a Ferrari 250 GTO and my car was a Ford GT40. From these early days I respected the 1960s Ferraris as worthy competitors to the GT40. This is the reason I was looking for a 60s Ferrari.”

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Although the car was in very good condition when he bought it, it did require some minor work to bring it up to standard. “Carlo Viglietti, the Ferrari specialist in Cape Town, had the car for a number of months after I bought it. He went through the entire car and sorted out a few issues that had arisen from the car standing idle for a long time. I love it because it represents an era perfectly. After these cars, the Bertone cars were launched featuring a much more angular style.”

This car has electric windows and when you tilt your head up, you notice the neat parallel stitching of the material covering the inside of the roof. Thanks to the combination of wood and metal finishes throughout the cabin, and the Connolly leather seats, the 365 GT’s interior is a study in the quality of a bygone era.

Image: Peet Mocke.

Behind the steering wheel sit beautiful analogue details supplying important information such as the oil pressure and temperature, and coolant temperature. An 8 000r/min rev counter with a 6 600r/min redline takes pride of place on the gracefully sculpted facia. Power steering, leather and the radio were standard equipment on the car. Air conditioning was optional, but is fitted to this particular car.

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Fire up the engine and the soft burble emanating from the quad exhaust pipes is a clear indication of a large-capacity engine sitting up front. You need a determined action to select first gear, but after only a handful of shifts do you start appreciating the solid and mechanical feel associated with the gearbox. At lower engine speeds, the wealth of torque on offer lends the engine a pleasing tractability that is immediately noticeable. This unit is quite happy for you to short shift at 2 000 to 3 000r/min, but after 3 500r/min the sound becomes much more intense, the engine really starting to find its stride as the revs rise. The view ahead is wonderfully framed by an expanse of bonnet stretching out before you, flanked by the two simplistic, non-covered headlamps.

A set of Dunlop tyres (215/70 R15) fitted to the iconic knock-on/off Campagnolo wheels further remind of the car’s age and contribute to a surprisingly comfortable driving ride. Gripping the steering wheel a little firmer as you flex your right foot and carry some speed through corners, there is some expected body roll, but at the same time, the 365 feels stable. Each gearshift is accomplished with ease and you are never left wondering where to move the gear lever, as it slips perfectly into its next slot. The brake pedal has plenty of feel and the anchors do a great job of scrubbing off speed in a controlled manner, although most of the time you plan to use it as little as possible and rather carry some speed wherever you can.

The car might have been restored more than two decades ago, but by the way it looks and drives, it might as well have been two years ago. Although 800 were manufactured only 52 of these were right-hand drive.

Image: Peet Mocke.

Usually with most Ferraris, classic or modern, you feel like you want to tackle the nearest stretch of twisty tarmac, or even head to your local race track. But this wasn’t the case during my drive in this 365. Returning the key to the owner, I felt like I would rather want to pack my bags, pick up my wife and head for the open road, doing three-figure speeds most of the way. Then and now, it’s still what the 365 GT 2+2 was designed for, and it still does better than most new GTs out there.

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