Auto Eroticism - Spear's Magazine

Auto Eroticism

The Ferrari Daytona is, piston for piston, quite possibly the sexiest car ever made. William Cash takes one for a spin

The liveried doormen of Aspinalls casino in Curzon Street, Mayfair, are not the sort who are easily impressed by any sort of super-car, however fast, flashy or expensive. On an average evening, the club’s jejuned car jockeys (casino-speak for valet-parking attendants) are tossed the keys for Lamborghinis, Astons, Porsches and Ferraris galore. When I pulled up just before lunch, however, in a throaty, lipstick-red 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Berlinetta, it was a different story .

No matter that this rarest and most collectable of Maranello thoroughbreds was a left-hand drive. Never has a car door on Curzon Street been so swiftly opened; never have the triangular parking bollards outside the club been so swiftly removed. Perhaps, for a moment, they thought it was Lord Lucan behind the wheel – whose disappearance in 1974 coincided with the last productionrun in Italy of the legendary Daytona, a favourite of the playboy members of the late John Aspinall’s Clermont Club in Berkeley Square in the early 1970s.

In a world of rappers and gangsters, the word ‘respect’ today has been much abused. But when you are driving through the open countryside around Cliveden, scorching down the M40 and then slumbering around Mayfair in one of the world’s rarest and most beautiful original super-cars – only 1,285 Daytonas were ever made – the word can be used without irony. Hedge-fund managers stop and gawk.

Business blondes in Prada turn their heads with a look that says, ‘Who’s that guy?’ Word of the car’s arrival outside Aspinalls quickly spread upstairs to the gaming rooms. Within a few minutes the car’s pavement fan club included the multi-millionaire duo of London PR king Matthew Freud and Julian Metcalfe, founder of Prêt a Manger who drooled over the car like schoolboys with an adolescent crush.

The only downside to the entire ego-swelling experience of driving a Daytona for the day was that I didn’t actually own it. Worse still was the knowledge – as RM Auctions’ Peter Wallman, who sat in the passenger seat, kept gently reminding me – that I could own the car in a few weeks time as it was being offered, without reserve, at auction.

The rare Ferrari was being sold at Battersea as part of the sale that included the Bernie Ecclestone collection (whose garage sale raised over £15 million ). On the actual sale day, my Daytona went for £137,500 hammer price. Not bad for a car that was originally priced in 1972 at £9,972.

Paying out that sort of money may seem like a lot for a car that has no power steering, comes without so much as a radio, let alone a DVD player or a sat nav system, and whose air conditioning and heating probably doesn’t work, but that is not what classic car collectors worry about too much when they are investing in a piece of legendary automobile history.
 
It did have, I should add, an MOT. ‘You wouldn’t use this car every day,’ says Wallman as we attempt to start the beast in the Sainsbury’s car park, where our test-drive begins. ‘This is a car that you drive for pleasure, that you take out at weekends, or you drive to a special event. It’s not designed for crawling along in rush-hour traffic in London. It’s a car that will become part of your life and every time you take it out you will enjoy yourself in a way that is just not possible with a modern car.’

Talk to any classic car buffs or collectors, and most will admit that the Ferrari Daytona is about as close as Ferrari ever got to making the equivalent of a V12, 4.4-litre magnum of vintage Dom Perignon. In so many ways, it is a genuine classic, and for a whole generation of hedge-fund managers and private-equity barons and investment bankers who grew up in the late 1960s and ’70s, the Ferrari Daytona was the ultimate car that every boy fantasized about one day owning.

I can certainly remember my first sight of one sweeping and roaring away down the school drive at prep school – standing out a mile from the other parents’ Rovers and Volvos. Needless to say, the Daytona belonged to the father of probably the richest boy in the school.

The front-mounted-engine car, with rear wheel drive, was historically significant in that its arrival on the scene at the Paris Auto Show in 1968 came at a testing time for the prancing horses of Ferrari in Maranello. Their designers had been caught off the hoof by the mid-engined Lamborghini Miura, which set thrilling new standards in both design and performance and looked set to make the Ferrari’s heavy, press-steel ‘super-car’ efforts seem dated by comparison.

The Italian company was not going to be trampled on easily, however, by either its arch-rival in Italy or – worse still the American Ford team, who had such success with their raw powered GT 40 – hence the birth of the 365 GTB/4, introduced in 1968, which was destined to collect silverware on the race tracks of Le Mans and Daytona (where the car was named after) as well as to become the ultimate, grand, touring, sports coupe for a generation for whom jet-setting still meant taking your mistress for a week’s drive from the Hotel Eden Roc in Cap D’Antibes to Le Sirenuse in Positano with crooner Matt Monro playing on the car’s eight-track stereo.

Driving the car was not as scary or as difficult as I had thought it would be; in fact, once I got used to the gears (which include a reverse gear where a standard stick shift has first, so you need to be careful not to pile straight into the nearest wall when reversing out), it was like driving a piece of adrenaline-fuelled, testosterone-charged work of pure art.

On the motorway, it was easy to see why the car was rated the number-one super-car of its day, perfect for cruising along the empty autostradas of Italy imagining you were James Bond en route to Monte Carlo; or the crazed French protagonist of that classic 1960’s racing car movie Un Homme et Une Femme, when a playboy-turned-racing driver drives through the night after winning Le Mans to be with his French lover in Paris.

As we flew along the A40 on route to Cliveden, another 1960s society-crowd location – like 44 Berkeley Square, home to the Clermont Club and Annabel’s – whose front driveway would have seen a regular number of parked Daytonas, we were overtaken by a brand new Aston Martin vantage. At which point Wallman scoffed: ‘The Aston is just a gentleman’s club on wheels – there’s something much more emotional about driving twelve litres from Maranello.’

Wallman is referring, of course, to the famous Ferrari factory in Maranello. This one-of-a-kind facility is even situated in Maranello, a town just south of Enzo Ferrari’s birth place of Modena.

In May, RM Auctions will be holding another major auction of classic Ferrari cars at the factory and the auction will give collectors another chance to snap up classic parts of automotive history that work both well as genuine, appreciating investments (that black Maserati for £90,000 that you have been eyeing up in the showroom at the Maserati garage on the Old Brompton Road will lose about 30 per cent of its value in the first year) as well as being the perfect car to drive at weekends. Mistress optional.



 

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