2 Cams or 4?
Sports Car Market—October 1998 issue
by Michael Sheehan
The 275 GTB/2 two–cam and 275 GTB/4 four–cam cars are among the most popular and user–friendly front–engined street Berlinettas built by Ferrari. They were also an enormous commercial success for the company, with 785 examples built between 1964 and 1968.
All the 275 GTB variations are beautiful, with a curvaceous form that has remained timeless. The engines range from adequate to “faster than you’d ever want to go” and provide a wonderful sound from idle to red–line.
These cars had Ferrari’s first 5–speed transaxle for the street. They were also the first street Ferraris to offer fully independent suspension, with light steering that has race–car quickness, and handling that is nimble and predictable. Adjustable castor and camber, as well as “toe” front and rear, mean the suspension can be tuned to suit a fast and experienced driver.
The 275 GTBs can be divided into four basic categories, the first being the “shortnoses.” They suffer from a poor driveshaft design that can drive the best mechanics to drink. Their 240–horsepower engines were rated at a highly optimistic 280 horsepower, and their brakes, considered merely adequate in 1965, are truly inadequate by today’s standards. Furthermore, the shortnoses’ steel floor pans are prone to rust.
All of these problems can be overcome by the usual solution of throwing money at a good mechanic. The shortnose design also caused front–end lift, but if you keep it under 100 mph you’ll never notice. As the least expensive 275 GTB in the group, shortnoses are offered for sale in the $150,000 range, which represents a lot of Ferrari for the money.
The serial numbers of the two–cams range from 6521(the 1964 London show car) to 9021, the last one built. Around the middle of the two–cam’s production run, shortnoses were phased out in favor of the second variation 275 GTB, the longnoses. (The last shortnose built was serial number 7827.)
So how much longer is the longnose? It’s only about 3 inches longer than a shortnose, but the difference in price adds up to about $8,000 an inch, bringing the asking price for this car up to the $175,000 range.
Longnose cars offered greater high–speed stability and a fiberglass floor, which largely eliminated the rust problem on these Scaglietti–built cars. Toward the end of the production run of longnoses, the third variation of the 275 GTB was created. Ferrari switched to a driveshaft with constant–velocity joints front and rear and then quickly to a torque–tube driveshaft between the engine and transmission, eliminating the driveline vibration problem and resulting in one of the finest GT Ferraris of all time.
These later longnose two–cams offer no improvements in engine performance, but do have the better power brake boosters fitted like the later four–cam cars, improving their ability to stop when called upon. Asking prices approach $200,000.
Alloy bodies and six carburetors were optional extras on the 275 GTB/2 cars. Add about $10,000 to $15,000 for each of these extras. The alloy body offered far more mystique and panache than actual weight savings, but the six–carb set–up boosted power to about 270 “real” horsepower.
The four–cam cars all featured the longnose body and torque–tube driveshaft, combined with a substantially improved four-cam engine, dry sump, and six carburetors. The net result is an honest 300 horsepower, much less valve–train noise, substantially improved torque, horsepower and driveability, and more stable oil pressure when cornering hard. The 275 GTB/4 cars all featured the improved brake booster, which transformed the brakes from inadequate all the way up to tolerable.
Serial numbers of the 340 four–cams range from 8769 (the prototype) up to 11069, the last car built.
The four–cams are simply the ultimate among the 275s, with about 50 more horsepower than the two–cams, much better driveability, and improved braking. If you can afford the four–cam, buy one. Expect to pay something around $300,000 for a great example, unless your ego needs the satisfaction of waving a bidder’s paddle at Pebble Beach, in which case you can add another 15% to the price.
Moving up in price and desirability, about 15 of the 275 GTB/4s had alloy bodies. Add $100,000 plus for membership in this exclusive club.
Finally, for those with unlimited budgets, the ten 275 GTB/4 NART spyders offer the ultimate in prancing horse, top–down, great–sounding driving. This is the kind of car that says, “My wallet is bigger than your wallet.” If you have $2 million to spend, you can play in this ball game. If that’s not the case, consider one of the cars mentioned earlier in this column as your low–buck, the–NART Spyder’s–in–the–shop, backup.
MICHAEL SHEEHAN has been a Ferrari dealer for 30 years as well as a race car driver and exotic car broker.