The early 70s in the Ferrari world were not only spent waging a battle of the prototypes - first against Ford, then against Matra - but also heralded the arrival of one of their most popular and most remarkable GT models: the 364 GTB/4, which soon made itself at home in the Le Mans top 10.
The seventies marked a major turning point in the Italian carmaker’s history at the French race. Ferrari moved away from prototypes in late 1973, instead setting its sights on reclaiming the Formula 1 world title which had remained elusive since John Surtees’ victory in 1964. However, the 365 GTB/4 outshone its predecessors, the 512 and 312 PB[LN1], on the 24-Hours podium.
Road version - The 365 GTB/4 was dubbed the “Daytona”, in allusion to Ferrari’s triple-whammy victory over Ford at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1967, although Ferrari never officially endorsed the nickname. Presented at the Salon de Paris in 1968 with a 4.4 litre V12 engine, its shape is an intriguing yet instantly recognisable blend of mean and massive meets streamlined sleek. This paradox earned the speedster an eminent place in the Ferrari front-engine hall of fame as a deserving heir to the 250 GT of the sixties. Its front end was remodelled in 1971, with retractable headlights replacing the previous generation’s static ones. There was also a cabriolet version, in the form of the 365 GTS/4.
The 365 GTB/4 at Le Mans - Although the constructor never officially entered the “Daytona” for the 24 Hours, Ferrari importers Jacques Swaters (Francorchamps team, Belgium), Charles Pozzi (Ferrari France) and, of course, Luigi Chinetti, Ferrari’s right-hand man in the States with the North American Racing Team (NART), took it upon themselves to enter the car. NART ran the 365 GTB/4 to its first top 5 finish in 1971, with Luigi Chinetti Jr and Bob Grossman. In 1972, five of them followed each other home, sweeping fifth to ninth places. From then on, the 365 GTB/4 was a regular fixture in the top 10, finishing sixth and ninth in 1973 and fifth and sixth in 1974, claiming three consecutive class triumphs over those three years. It came in twelfth and thirteenth at its final 24 Hours race in 1975.
Legacy - The 365 GTB/4 was produced up until 1973. Its front-engined successor at the 24 Hours of Le Mans came on the scene three decades later, the 550 Maranello, whose road version came out in 1996. Entered into the race by the French-Swiss gentleman driver Frédéric Dor, it landed a superb class win in 2003, driven by Peter Kox, Tomas Enge and Jamie Davies, who came tenth overall.
Photo (Louis Monnier/ACO): The Ferrari 364 GTB/4 “Daytona” was displayed in Chantilly on 4th September 2016 at the Arts & Elégance show, in an exhibition on Charles Pozzi (1909-2001), a French importer of the Italian manufacturer.