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Ferrari 365 California Part 1: History

The 365 California


Ferrari's 365 California was the last in a line of exclusive luxury models and a replacement for their limited production 500 Superfast. Beginning initially with the 340, 342 and 375 America's, passing through the 410 and 400 Superamerica series' and penultimately onto the 500 Superfast, these were Ferrari's for the most wealthy drivers and the 365 California was to be no different. Buyers for such machinery were scarce though, as Enzo Ferrari said, "we see just a small number of these customers each year, nearly always accompanied by breathtaking women who exercise a magnetic effect on every mechanic in the workshop".
            365 California chassis 8347  
He continued, "with these clients, the discussion of their car-needing much patience-is chiefly concerned with the colour of the body, the shade of the upholstery and the various internal fittings." Indeed, owners were limited to a handful of property magnates, publishers, dictators and other assorted millionaire playboys. Meanwhile, the 365 California's chassis was similar to that used for Ferrari's 330 GT 2+2 and, designated Tipo 598, the few modifications required were limited to strengthened mount points to cope with the larger engine and new body mounting points to support Pininfarina's svelte cabriolet design. Another crossover from the 330 GT 2+2 was the retention of those rear seats, making the California a very rare car, a convertible capable of seating four. Indeed, all examples used this Tipo 598 chassis save for the prototype (08347, as pictured here) which was built onto a Tipo 571 frame (as used on the 330 GT). Meanwhile, the 365 engines were enlarged versions of Colombo's 60° V12, as fitted concurrently to the aforementioned 330 GT 2+2 (Tipo 209). Designated Tipo 217 B, this unit had directly benefited from Ferrari’s experience with their 365 P2 sports prototypes used during 1965, some historians even suggesting that it is this motor (designated Tipo 214), that the 217 B is most closely related to. Regardless, capacity came in at 4390cc thanks to a bore and stroke of 81 x 71mm while an output of 320bhp at 6600rpm was achieved with compression set at 8.8:1 and three Weber 40DCI/4 or DFI/4 carburettors.

Unsurprisingly, the bodywork was designed by Pininfarina who had already built up a long-standing rapport with Ferrari. But while from some angles the 365 California appears simply as the most beautiful car in the world, from others, it is occasionally a little curious in it's features and detailing. Such examples come in the form of front mounted retractable headlights, a rare Pininfarina bow to contemporary fashion that, when raised, utterly destroyed it's purity of line. Another interesting design feature was the air inlet scoop that Pininfarina had successfully used on mid-engine vehicles to channel fresh air into the engine.
   Ferrari's first production four-seater cabriolet  
Incorporated purely for decorative purposes though, this fake duct was an almost exact replica of what would be found on forthcoming Dino's. Also, the 365 California's tail treatment remains the topic of much discussion, it's sharply creased wings a complete break from the rest of Pininfarina's lines although they did fit remarkably well into this extremely interesting and elegant design. The interior was generally trimmed in full Connolly leather with a generous helping of highly polished teak veneer running from the dash down through the central console. Extremely luxurious but in no way overly opulent, the 365 California knew it was a high performance car and not an overweight boulevard cruiser. Introduced during March 1966 at the Geneva Salon, many believe this model initially began life as a show car that could possibly be produced in tiny numbers should the market so desire. Indeed, this would explain the prototype's Tipo 571 chassis. Surprisingly though for such an expensive car, official options were few although cast alloy wheels could be specified as opposed to the standard Borrani wires. But considering the lavish customisation seen on some 410 Superamerica's where customers could specify almost anything they wanted, choices available on 365 California's were spartan by comparison. Genuinely bespoke, custom built motorcars were a dying breed by the end of the 1960’s and only fourteen California's were built. It was a gloriously outdated dinosaur, the last of a grand line that had began with the 340 America back in 1950.

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