ONE MAN’S BARN FIND - A FERRARI 365 GTC/4
Volume 44 Issue 08
Apr 13, 2019
It sounds like such a cliché to say “Yeah, this is some movie producer’s car that I found in the Hollywood Hills.” But it’s true. It happened about thirty years ago. The car was in fact owned by a producer but I found the car at an auto shop back in the 1980s because I was a frequent visitor to the shop of Al Axelrod in West Hollywood.
It sounds like such a cliché to say “Yeah, this is some movie producer’s car that I found in the Hollywood Hills.”
But it’s true. It happened about thirty years ago.
The car was in fact owned by a producer but I found the car at an auto shop back in the 1980s because I was a frequent visitor to the shop of Al Axelrod in West Hollywood.
One day I saw a dark green Ferrari there, one with cloth upholstery (tartan no less!) and it had spider webs on it. I asked “Whose car is this—it doesn’t get much use.”
The Gentleman’s Ferrari
First a little background on the Ferrari GTC/4: Introduced at the 1971 Geneva Salon it was intended to be a sort of businessman’s express, a counter to the rough and ready Daytona.
It had twelve cylinders and six Webers like the Daytona but was tamer, with around 310 hp and was wet sump, not dry sump like the Daytona.
It looked like a two seater to most people and I don’t think I ever put two people in the small rear seats. I know an adult could sit in it if they took both seats, but used as such was very uncomfortable.
The GTC/4 was easier to drive than the Daytona because it had power steering.
The gearbox is connected to the engine so it doesn’t have that problem the Daytona has with the gears grinding before they are warmed up.
It is thought most of the 365 GTC/4s made were sold to the American market, and production ended around October 1972, when the replacement 365 GT4 2+2 unveiled at the Paris Salon. It had proper seats in back for adults, basically a redesigned and even more sober, longer wheelbase version of the 365 GTC/4.
The movie producer
Now back to Axelrod. He said it was a customer’s car, the guy was a movie producer who about once a year would send it down from the Hollywood Hills but when the bills got above $1,000, he would yank it back and it wouldn’t be seen for another year.
He said he was trying to buy the car but the man wanted $25,000. I shrugged and forgot about it. Truth be told, I didn’t want to “steal” the car out from under Axelrod by asking the owner’s name.
Meanwhile I sold my 308 GTS at a price about 25% less than what I’d bought it back in 1979 and waited for the opportunity to buy a V-12.
A few months later I am in Santa Monica, and pass a used car lot and there’s the same GTC/4 in the same green livery. So I stop in and note there are two clean ones in the showroom for $50,000 each. But out here in the lot the 365 GTC/4 that was worn at the heels was only $25,000. The salesman, named coincidentally Wally, left me for a minute and I opened the glove compartment; there was the owner’s registration. I made a note of the owner’s address and went home to write him a letter saying I wanted to buy the car and added that they were treating his car badly at the lot by displaying it outside while they had two polished up ones inside for twice the price. He yanked it from the lot.
Then I called him. He asked “How much do you want to pay?” and I said “$16,000” and he said what I expected: “But I want $25,000” and I responded with my much rehearsed answer, something like “hey, I’d love to pay that much but in truth I don’t have that much, so let’s split the difference,” which according to my calculations was $19,000.
He accepts and I hire a flatbed and go up to the Hollywood Hills. He’s got this big manor house with a view all the way to Long Beach and a carport that has about 10 slots, each with a car. His pretty blonde wife says “Oh, you are here for the monster,” and I say “yes”, and she, of course, can’t find the key. I hook a chain to it from the tow truck and start dragging it out of its carport space.
At one point the car is carving a dark green groove into the side of the peach-colored house which is in turn laying a peach-colored streak on the car. But no matter, we’re talking a V-12, four cam, six carb Ferrari for 19 Gs here…then the maid runs out with the key, I unlock the steering lock and veer it away from the house.
I get the car down to the flatlands to Bruno Borri’s shop on La Brea, leave it and three days later he calls me and says “It no has compression on two cylinders.” I figure that’s why Ferrari chose 12 cylinders, what’s the loss of one or two if you still win the race, right?. But they keep trying and two days later they have it fixed and I go pick it up.
I painted it Rosso Corsa like every newbie used Ferrari buyer, get license plates that say PROVA MO, and drove it for the next three years, even up to Monterey, spending very little on it.
Even when I did spend, I was Sympatico with this shop, and there was never an invoice or even a list of what was done. I would just take it in to make it better, though marginally.
I think it never really ran on 12 cylinders because late in my ownership I took the distributor cap off and saw some metal contacts were melted so maybe it had been running on ten at best. But what the hay, I had experiences like driving through the Malibu tunnel at 7,500 rpm in second gear and then backing off to hear the exhaust through the open windows. Priceless!
The Ferrari moves on
I lost the car in a divorce when my wife accepted it for a paper value of three times what I had paid for it. I let it go even though I was sure she couldn’t drive it, it requiring more clutch effort than she could muster.
I can still find it on occasion by typing in the serial number and see it pop up. It’s comforting to know that it’s out there, soldiering on through life without me.
Lesson learned? Buy your favorite exotic car mechanic a donut and coffee now and then, because you never know what you’ll find at the back of their shop…a car like I found. The movie producer admitted to me “I found it in Cannes when I was at the film festival. I should have left it there…”