The prancing horse
A recent big birthday (also by a competing brand) and the announcement about Ferrari’s Engine of the Year awards have inspired us to come up with our list of favourite red Italian cars…
Growing up in Namibia in the 1980’s and early 1990’s wasn’t very exciting for a petrol-head like yours truly. Exotic and high performance cars were so few and far between that any sighting would get our schoolyard chatting for days on end. After a Porsche or two, it took years before I spotted my first Ferrari in Namibia…
Obviously the vast distances, harsh climates and complete lack of dealer support kept any dreams of racy Italian supercars at bay. In a country where the white bakkie rules and function always trumps form, only the really wealthy were brave enough to import a low and fast automobile made in Maranello.
One story springs to mind about a wealthy businessman who also fulfilled a prominent role in the capital; around 1970. According to a reliable source, he owned a metallic blue Ferrari 365 GTB, better known as the V12 Daytona 2+2 coupé, which he would occasionally use to fetch Sunday breakfast rolls in Otjiwarongo.
The Daytona is one of our favourite Ferraris not just because of this Namibian connection, but we also think that its elegant lines (and interior) show great proportions and superb 1960’s style. Power came from a 4,390cc 60-degree V12 engine which sucked Windhoek air through no fewer than six double-barrel carburetors!
A derivative of the “Colombo V12” – so named after its designer – this motor featured DOHC (twin cams) on each cylinder bank driving two valves per cylinder. This short-stroke engine (81mm bore by 71mm stroke) had a 9.3 to 1 compression ratio which enabled it to scream to 7,500rpm… and about 260kW (354hp).
Maximum torque was 430Nm through the rear wheels and a rear-mounted five-speed manual gearbox. Flat out, the Daytona could do 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds and reach a frightening 280km/h! As was customary for Ferraris at this time, its model code was derived from the displacement of each cylinder: 365cc.
The beautiful light blue Daytona which howled through our capital back then was unfortunately sold after just a few years. Our source lets out a nasal sigh while telling us that he declined to buy it and bought a brand-new Mercedes instead. The Merc has kept its value to this day; the Ferrari is now worth millions.
Why? Despite its pedigree, fewer than 1,500 Daytonas were made; including Spider (convertible) versions. Unveiled at the 1968 Paris Motor Show, it was the last Ferrari to be produced according to company founder Enzo Ferrari’s specifications, and the last model released before the company sold shares to Fiat.
On top of that, the Daytona has proper racing heritage. It won its class of the 24-hour Le Mans race in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
“Testa” means head and “rossa” is red in Italian, the country where Ferraris originate from. The reason that this flat 1980’s monster got that name is that the two cylinder heads of its Formula-1-derived Boxer (flat) 12-cylinder engine are painted red. The 4.9L engine has four valves per cylinder, dry sump lubrication and maximum outputs of 287kW (390hp) or 490Nm.
Some people think of the Testarossa as too brash – its 80’s wedge shape even went through a slump in value but that has most certainly been reversed as values of this mid-engined Maranello exotic are climbing steadily. Production numbers were relatively high by Ferrari standards (7,177) but are now in demand with collectors who grew up around the 1980’s.
Those big side vents in the doors not only look cool (and hide the door handles) they also keep that gigantic engine cool by channeling air into the car’s side-mounted radiators. The louvres around the rear of the car served a less important purpose yet their unique style was carried over to the smaller 348 GTB of the early 1990’s.
We can’t report on any Namibian sightings of Testarossas except the odd scale model and plenty of sightings in video games or bedroom posters. Performance figures for this Ferrari flagship are 0-100km/h in just over five seconds, the quarter mile in 13.5 and a standing kilometer in just 23.8 seconds. Top speed? 290km/h.
The Testarossa was first shown at the 1984 Paris Motor Show.
Known as the 308 GTB or GTS, everyone knows this at the “Magnum P.I.” Ferrari. That would’ve also been its most frequent appearance in Namibia – on our old 1980’s TV screens – although a Walvis Bay resident once told us that there was a 308 living between wealthy garages at the coast and our capital city around the turn of the millennium.
Although not the pioneer, this model featured a layout which would become a Ferrari best-seller to this day – mid-mounted V8 engine with rear-wheel drive. Following in the 308’s footsteps were (besides the 208, GTS and 288 GTO) the 328, 348, 360 Modena, 430 Scuderia, 458 Italia and their current 488.
One of the 308’s most famous children is the 288 GTO, instantly recognizable by its double front spot-lights, wider wheels and arches, as well as the bigger gearbox hanging out from under its rear apron. Only 272 units were built and used the same 2.9L twin-turbo V8 engine that would eventually power the legendary F40 supercar.
The 308 enjoyed a double-launch at the 1975 Paris and London motor shows; and the series stayed in production for ten years, selling over 6,000 units in that time.
550 Maranello & 456 GT
It’s impossible to mention the Daytona and skip its spiritual successor of the 1990’s, the 550 Maranello. Where F40, Testarossa, 348 and others had mid-mounted engines, this grand tourer was designed in line with “big” Ferrari traditions – front-mounted V12 engine, rear-wheel drive and a decent boot/trunk for crossing countries.
Although it was preceded by the more graceful 456 GT, a 2+2 Coupé launched around 1992, the 550 had half the amount of seats and more power when it appeared in the mid-nineties. Its 5,474cc 65-degree fuel-injected V12 had DOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake length and 88 bore by 75mm stroke.
This meant it produced power peaks of 357kW (485hp) at 7,000rpm or 568Nm around 5,000rpm, all delivered to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox and limited slip differential. 0-100km/h was dealt with in 4.4 seconds while top speed was an astonishing 320km/h! The 550 also had a three-way traction control system and ABS-assisted brakes.
Ferrari produced just over 3,000 units of the 550 Maranello before the similar-looking 575M replaced it in 2001. For the record, the more spacious and elegant 456 was made from 1992 to 2003 and its V12 engine produced 325kW (442hp) through a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox.
With a top speed of just over 300km/h, the 456 was the world’s fastest four-seater car at the time.
Ferraris in Namibia
Did you know that the prancing horses have officially visited Namibia twice with their customer-focussed road show? Besides parades with beautiful machinery, existing and potential owners could also experience the breeding of these exotic performance cars around our humble Tony Rust race truck near Windhoek.
We also take great delight in viewing snapshots of red Italian exotics around our beautiful country – especially by car spotters on social media. If you have such images to show, we would be thrilled to share them on our website and social media pages. And if you have a good Ferrari story to tell, let’s hear it!
The most recent one we heard was of a northern businessman who bought a Ferrari in the Cape and drove it all the way home – except that his passenger got out at Grünau (in the far south) because the speed was too much! As much as we love Ferraris and spirited driving, we implore our reader not to copy this.
Please drive in a cautious and considerate manner!