Along came a (Daytona) Spyder

Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona
Ferrari 365GTS/4 Daytona Spyder (Conversion)

Checking out the Daytona's open-top sister.

When it comes to the Ferrari Daytona, I've written a good many words about them on this site and in other places, and I've obviously driven mine over many miles over the last few years. However, up until a few weeks ago my car was the only Daytona I'd ever driven, so it was reasonable to ask whether my car is typical of the breed or not? Just to add to the interest, the second Daytona I drove was a Spyder (as you might guess from reading previous entries on the Daytona).

The Ferrari 365GTS/4, to give the Daytona Spyder its official designation, became a symbol of jet-set glamour from the moment it was launched and is now one of the most coverted Ferraris of all. This iconic status was no doubt helped by its appearances in movies such as The Gumball Rally, A Star is Born and The Swiss Conspiracy.  In the Eighties, Sonny Crockett complimented his espadrilles and Armani suits with a Daytona Spyder in early episodes of Miami Vice, though this car was actually a Corvette-based replica.

Ferrari only produced 122 Spyders including one prototype, most of which were sold in the States. Only seven cars were produced in right-hand drive. Being so rare and desirable, the Daytona Spyder has always been a very expensive car and today they can command prices of over £800,000. In the late Seventies and early Eighties the disparity in values between a Daytona Berlinetta and Spyder meant it was viable for some companies to convert Berlinettas into Spyders, and it's estimated that approximately 100 cars were opened up.

The car seen here, chassis 16735,  is one of the converted cars and  started life as a right-hand drive 1973 Berlinetta, just like mine. In 1980 the car was converted to the Spyder configuration by UK company Autokraft. When Scaglietti built the bodies for the factory Spyders, they went to considerable effort to strengthen the body, principally by replacing the fibreglass rear bulkhead  and wheel arches with steel equivalents and fitting thicker sills and A pillars. It's fair to say there was a lot of variation in how the various shops carried out the conversion process, with some applying the same strengthening process as Scaglietti while others only changed the cosmetic aspects, and Autokraft seems to have been in the latter camp.

However for 16735 a subsequent owner commissioned DK Engineering to carry out a thorough restoration in 1989. This included adding the strengthening of the factory cars, and as a as a result the car is now 99% accurate.  Since then the car was kept in a private collection and covered around 12,000 miles (out of a total of 40,000) before being acquired by my Dad last summer. Since acquisition Dad has added a new mohair hood.

There are many who prefer the looks of the Spyder over the Berlinetta, and the efforts of Pininfarina and Scaglietti ensured that the transformation from a closed coupe to an open car was neatly carried out. That said, in my opinion the Spyder loses some of the visual drama of the closed car, especially at the rear. Unlike many convertibles based on closed cars, the hood tucks away out of sight and there is still reasonable boot space. Externally there is nothing to distinguish this converted car from a factory one, although inside the telltale giveaway is the rear window de-mist switch on the dash, which is not seen on the factory cars.

It was a strange feeling of getting behind the wheel of a different Daytona for the first time. In many ways, everything was familiar but somehow different. The dashboard is the same as my own car but the driving position felt different, the seat was mounted higher than my own car and my hair was brushing against the roof. Later, jumping into my own car confirmed that the seat is fixed higher in the Sypder, and though the effect might be amplified by fresher foam in the seat base, it's likely a previous owner has had the seat raised.  At some point in its life the dashboard has been changed from the original mousehair to leather. I thought that this might produce a lot of reflection onto the screen, but for this trip at least it didn't seem to be a problem.

The Spyder features the correct three-spoke Momo steering wheel for a late model Daytona, unlike mine which has a replica steering wheel at the moment. The story of why this is the case, which involves one of the world's biggest rock stars, is worthy of a separate blog in its own right! Anyway, the Momo was great to hold and I definitely need to get the correct wheel back on my car.

With the roof up the cabin is a lot darker than the Berlinetta, and the smaller glasshouse means there is less over-the-shoulder visibility when changing lanes.  The car is surprisingly refined and not much louder than the Berlinetta. There is a little wind noise, though, as air laps around the spot where the windows meet the hood. However, obviously the Spyder's raison d'être is how it drives with the top down, and here it does rather well, though getting the hood down is not as straightforward as it might seem! In order for the hood to clear the head rests, the seats have to be pulled to their most forward position, then two catches on the header rail release the hood to be lowered. 

The sloped screen of the Daytona combined with raised windows makes the Spyder a far less breezy cockpit with the top down than the older Ferrari 330GTS. Being al fresco, you are also much closer to the sound of the magnificent Tipo 251 4.4 V12. When I drove the car, it was in need of a little tuning; the engine was ticking over at around 1200rpm when hot and there was some hesitation at slow speeds. At motorway speeds the hesitation disappeared and the car feels every bit as quick as the Berlinetta. The Spyder feels impressively stiff despite being converted from a coupe and only the worst of the potholes on UK roads produced any scuttle shake.

The Daytona is notorious for its heavy steering and you may recall mine has had the ZF power steering unit usually found in a Ferrari 400 fitted. Taking a different approach, Dad has fitted EZ electric power steering in the Spyder and I was keen to see how the two systems compared. The EZ system provides variable assistance will the level dropping away as speeds increased. At very low speeds there's a slightly odd sensation through the wheel, and the assistance feels more artificial compared with my own car, but as speeds increase you can feel the assistance drop away. There is a noticeable dead spot at the centre but it's probably no worse than my own car and this is a fairly common feature on the steering of Italian cars anyway.  The EZ system is mounted on the steering column in the footwell and does intrude slightly. It would be a problem if you were driving in large shoes but it's not a problem in driving shoes. I need to spend more time with the EZ system in the Spyder and possibly drive it back to back with my car to form a definitive conclusion, but for now I slightly prefer the ZF system in my car. The big benefit of the EZ system is that it's much easier to fit (and remove) than the ZF unit, and is the simplest solution to those looking to reduce the low speed steering weight of the Daytona.

Two aspects that surprised me about the drive in the Spyder was that the clutch felt a lot lighter than the one on my car and the brake pedal felt softer but more progressive than on my own car. The latter is easily explained as my car has DOT 5 silicon brake fluid which does result in the brake pedal behaving a little like an on/off switch. The former may simply be a case of adjustment and age, as the clutch on my car hasn't been changed for some time.

The car was fully warm when I got to drive it and the gearbox had enough temperature to allow smooth, if unhurried shifts.  When Dad acquired the car it was on fairly old and hard Michelin XWX tyres. These have since been replaced with Vredestein Sprint Classic tyres in the standard  215/15/50 size. The Sprint Classic is a new tyre specifically marketed for classic cars and it suits the Daytona well. Grip was more than ample, though I wasn't pushing hard, and they generate noticeably less road noise than the Pirelli P4000s on my own car.

The market for converted Daytonas is highly variable depending on the quality of the conversion. The best conversions (and I would count this car one as one of those) carry a slight price premium over the equivalent coupe, while examples converted by less well-known shops or those that haven't had the required strengthening put in place tend to be valued below coupes. Buying one requires a lot of homework and a thorough inspection and Dad had looked at a number of conversions over the years before settling on this one.   

Having now driven the Spyder, it has confirmed that my own car is typical of the breed. though there are some subtle differences as you would expect of two cars built within a month of each other but which have led very different lives since then. As I've said before, I'm not particularly a convertible person and I will always prefer my Berlinetta, but I can see the appeal of the the Daytona in open form. It feels as quick as the Berlinetta, the handling doesn't really suffer from being the conversion process and with the top down you get closer to the baritone wail of the V12, which for many would be reason enough to buy one!