Saving a Ferrari 365 GTC from a botched restoration

Photography by Zachary Mayne

The Ferrari brand is most often associated with fast, purebred sports cars. The Modenese manufacturer has made an art form out of distilling on-track success into street-legal machines that provide big thrills, from the 1962 250 GTO to the brand-new 458 Italia. 

But the company also has plenty of experience producing luxury Gran Turismos, powerful but accommodating cars that are more at home cruising highways and flowing secondary roads than they are at posting fast laps on a race track. Today that model is the California, but back in 1968 and 1969, a wealthy buyer looking for a luxurious, exclusive and high-performance motoring experience needn’t look further than the 320-horsepower 365 GTC.

As the replacement for the popular 330 GTC, the 365 used the same body, chassis and suspension as its predecessor, with a few minor exceptions. The 330 featured prominent side intakes on the front fenders, but these were moved to the back of the engine lid on the 365.

By far the biggest difference between the two models, however, is lurking beneath the hood: Ferrari gave the 365 a larger, more powerful engine. Its Tipo 245C V12 powerplant displaces 4390cc as opposed to the 330’s 3967cc. Horsepower is up: 320 versus an even 300. Torque is also up, with the 365 boasting 268 ft.-lbs., 27 more than its older sibling.

The 365 is able to scoot to 60 mph in a scant 6.3 seconds according to period road tests. It can also hit just more than 150 mph if the road is long enough. Those were certainly impressive numbers in the late 1960s.

Another key difference between the 330 and the 365 concerns their rarity. By normal production-car standards, the 330 is quite scarce: Only around 600 were produced. The 365 production figures, however, make the 330 seem downright commonplace: Only 168 examples left the factory in 1968 and 1969, making it a rare bird indeed. 

On the Hunt

It was the 365’s combination of exclusivity, power and sublime styling that drew in Florida resident Gary McManama. “I was actually looking for a 330 GTC, and I had driven a Daytona,” he recalls. He was also aware of the 330’s replacement, though: “There were fewer of them and they were faster, so I decided to get a 365 instead.”

In 2005, after a search that lasted several years, Gary spotted what looked like a nice 1969 Ferrari 365 GTC for sale in the Ferrari Market Letter. The car was being sold by a dealer in Philadelphia, so he made a phone call to inquire. “By the time I called, it had already sold,” he says. So the search continued. 

Two or three weeks went by, and he spotted another ad for a 365—this one located in Fort Lauderdale. Turns out it was the same car: The Fort Lauderdale dealer was simply looking to flip it. 

“The price had been marked up considerably,” Gary admits. He still couldn’t resist taking a closer look at it. The Ferrari needed some work, but it was a good driver. “The mufflers were rusted and the interior had some tears in it, but it had mostly original paint,” he says. It was just what he had been looking for, so the car was soon parked in his Tallahassee garage.

Righting the Wrongs

Gary’s Ferrari 365, serial No. 12169, was originally sold to a buyer in Lovati, Italy. By 1972 it had been exported to the U.S., where it was then sold through an ad placed in Autoweek. It went through several more owners and a couple of dealers before Gary acquired it in 2005. 

After driving and enjoying the car for a period, Gary decided to have the engine rebuilt. He sent off the 365 to a well-known restoration shop. “They had the car for 10 or 11 months when I finally got it back,” he says. “One of the things they were supposed to do was restore the steering wheel. When I got in the car for the first time after I got it back from them, I noticed it actually had the wrong wheel.” 

The 365’s stunning bodywork was stripped to bare metal before being coated in multiple layers of paint.

The incorrect steering wheel was just the beginning of the problems. The supposedly rebuilt engine smoked from the chrome exhaust tips, the transaxle whined loudly under deceleration, and the windshield washer didn’t work. The list went on.

“I checked the compression myself, and the compression in the cylinders ranged from 125 to 150 pounds,” he adds, shaking his head in dismay at the memory. Repeated conversations with the shop led to a small refund, but ultimately Gary was left to find another restorer. 

Luck was on his side, though, when he discovered Carobu Engineering. Technically based in Costa Mesa, California, the shop’s physical location is in Estancia, New Mexico, at the end of a long dirt road. That’s not exactly the place you’d expect to find a building full of Ferraris and Ferrari engines, but anyone fortunate enough to take a trip to the shop is met with an impressive sight, including an engine dyno housed in a separate room. Carobu specializes in rebuilding everything from 308 V8s to vintage Formula 1 V12s as well as older Maseratis and Lamborghinis. 

“Gary first approached us in January 2010,” says Tate Casey, who owns Carobu with Ferrari technician Bert Wehr. “He wanted us to look at his engine because it just wasn’t running right.” 

When the car arrived at Carobu’s shop, not only was the engine smoking badly, but the compression and leak-down were not within spec. The engine couldn’t match its claimed 320-horsepower figure, so Gary gave the go-ahead to rebuild it.

Rather than simply rebuild the engine to stock specs, Gary and the Carobu crew decided to extract a little more performance from the Ferrari’s V12. The stock crank and rods were retained, but the hardware that holds the rods to the crank are from ARP. 

New small-end bushings also were installed; 82mm JE/Razzo Rosso pistons resulted in a sportier 10.3:1 compression ratio and an engine displacement of 4.5 liters. “The cylinder heads were ported on the intake side, and the intake manifold was port-matched,” adds Casey. “The valves were replaced with the correct hardened stem type that are compatible with the standard adjusters.” 

The V12 engine has been rebuilt for more power and torque, resulting in better overall performance.

To provide more consistent and reliable spark, the distributors were converted to use electronic triggers rather the antiquated points setup. The rest of the 365’s Tipo 245C engine remains as it was when it left the factory. Fuel is delivered via a trio of 40 DFI Weber down-draft carburetors, while the headers and exhaust remain stock as well. 

“The biggest improvements come from raising the compression ratio, porting the heads and matching the manifolds,” says Casey. An aluminum flywheel was also installed, which freed up a little extra power and allows the engine to rev a little quicker. When the engine was tested on the dyno, it made a solid 325 horsepower at 6700 rpm and 313 ft.-lbs. at 4100 rpm.

Good Grooming

At that point, the Ferrari returned to Gary in Florida. The engine was just the thing the aging Gran Turismo needed. “It was a significant difference,” he says. “The engine rebuild really increased the torque.” 

The interior of the 365 was extensively restored with reupholstered seats, new carpeting and painstakingly installed trim.

The 365 was now mechanically rejuvenated, but the Ferrari’s interior and exterior were looking a little worse for wear. Soon enough, the car was on a transporter and being shipped back to Carobu’s shop for a full cosmetic restoration.

“He wanted the paintwork done and the suspension restored, since it rode like an old truck,” says Casey. “We ended up basically restoring the rest of the car. The interior was stripped out, and all of the trim and glass was removed along with the suspension.”

Along the way, the team discovered that under the paint, the Ferrari had been exceptionally preserved. “The body was virtually rust-free,” says Casey. “This is basically unheard of with these early Enzo-era cars. Even the doors were good. It was amazing.” 

A few areas of the nose had been repaired from minor traffic dings, but overall the bodywork and paint were factory original. Sea-Nic restoration in Albuquerque sprayed on multiple coats of Argento Silver, the car’s original shade, and then more coats of clear. Then the whole thing was carefully wet-sanded and buffed.

By far the tallest hurdle was the Ferrari’s painstaking reassembly. “All restorations are difficult,” admits Casey, “especially on old, Italian exotic cars.” 

While the mechanical work went smoothly, the cosmetic work hit a few snags. Installing a new windshield was especially time-consuming. “The aftermarket replacement glass is always too big,” says Casey. The glass had to be carefully ground down to allow it to fit in the body’s windshield opening. The shop also went through a few different seals before getting one to finally fit. 

And the difficulties continued. The shop had to try two different air-conditioning compressors to get the a/c to work correctly, and the wood trim was notoriously difficult to restore. Nine months later, though, the Ferrari had a new lease on life.

Elite Elegance

While it’s certainly not the most exotic or aggressive-looking model in the company’s history, in person the 365 is almost indescribably sophisticated and refined in its appearance. It starts with the classic egg-crate grille and long hood, and culminates with the whisper-thin C-pillars and svelte styling at the back of the car.

The sophistication continues in the Ferrari’s leather-clad interior. Originally, this particular 365 featured a blue leather interior, but Gary had new carpets installed and the leather redone in tan by Lesch Designs in Tallahassee, Florida. The seats are soft and accommodating, though largely lacking in side bolstering. There is a light and airy feel to the cabin thanks to the thin roof pillars. 

For Gary, the vintage Ferrari driving experience doesn’t get much better than the one provided by his GTC. “I always wanted a classic V12 Ferrari. I love driving it,” he says of the 365, which gets regular workouts. “I drive it around 3000 miles a year, mostly weekend driving.” 

The Ferrari has also been surprisingly durable: “It has never let me down, and I’ve put about 20,000 kilometers on it since I bought it.” Nearly 45 years after its release, the 365 continues to accomplish its original mission: delivering fast, beautiful and reliable motoring.

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husky450cr
husky450cr New Reader
10/25/22 12:28 p.m.

From time to time, I've wondered what happened to two Ferrari's...so I thought I'd post here as a start.   If anyone has any information they are able to share, I'd appreciate it...for lack of sounding sappy, it would be nice to know the cars are loved and doing well.

Anyway, my dad was a successful business owner and loved cars.  Pursing, owning and selling automobiles was truly his passion.  I asked him a few months before he died how many cars he owned, he thought a few minutes and replied "Around 400".  And he passed at the age of 55 years.

In the late 1960's he owned two Ferrari's...one was a 330GTC and I was too young to remember the other model.  However, what made both cars unique is my dad painted one a pastel green...and the other a pastel yellow. 

Sacrilege, probably.  But that was my dad, he liked to make things his own. 

We lived in Massachusetts at the time.  Although my Dad's dealership of choice was in Atlanta, owned by a guy named Walter.  I want to say his last name was Ewing, but I was a kid at the time so it could have sounded like "Ewing" to a ten year old or I could be entirely wrong.

Anyway, has anyone come across either of these cars in thier travels...?

 

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