Going Topless

I knew it was going to be a long day when our esteemed Editor called to request that I write a short, witty and insightful article reviewing front-engined V12 Ferrari convertibles under $100,000. I explained that since the starting price for any front-engined V12 open car was just over $100,000, an article on the under-$100k models would be short indeed. So let’s look at the open V12s in the $100–$200k range instead.

Lowest on the Ferrari food chain, for a multitude of reasons, is the 250 PF Series II cabriolet (an SII ‘modificato’ is the subject of this month’s Ferrari Mini-Profile). While these cars are eligible for events such as the Colorado Grand and California Mille, are user-friendly and not unattractive, their styling can best be described as conservative, and their performance more so. What was state-of-the-art braking and handling in 1960 is today, at best, adequate. An average PF Cab will cost $100,000 while a great car will cost $150,000, and the owner of the latter will have spent $100,000+ in restoration to make the average ($100,000) car into a great ($150,000) car. You’re always ahead to buy someone else’s financial mistake, and getting a ready-to-go car. However, under no circumstances should you buy an unfinished restoration—at best, you’ll spend the rest of your life chasing down missing parts.

The 275 GTS is a substantial step up from the PF SII Cab. With fully independent suspension, a five-speed transaxle, and a slightly larger motor, the performance, handling and brakes are much improved over the 250 PF cabriolet series II. Unfortunately this car suffers from Fiat 124 spyder look-a-like styling, and is just new enough to keep you out of most major events. Available for approximately $150,000, this is a practical and userfriendly (for a thirty-five year old car) Ferrari spyder.

The 330 GTS is a major advance from the 275 GTS with improved brakes, a torque tube and transaxle unit that eliminates driveline vibration. Four liters of V12 tuned for mid-range performance give it more than adequate torque, and a Corvette-like performance ease. In 1998 these cars were available for under $150,000, but not this year. Expect to pay as much as $200,000 for a good car, and they’re worth it.

Last but certainly not least is a Daytona spyder conversion, with great examples available in the $125,000–$135,000 range. A properly cut car will provide exactly the same thrills as a factory-built convertible but at a savings of nearly $200,000. The Daytona has always been this author’s favorite Ferrari, with striking good looks, massive power, tremendous torque, and an engine sound and exhaust note to die for. If that wasn’t enough, a well-tuned Daytona will deliver 60 miles an hour in first gear, 85 in second, 115 in third, 150 in fourth, and there’s one gear left for those who are truly fearless and/or foolish.

Any of these four Ferraris can be driven on a regular basis, offering performance which will elicit responses ranging from the “Look dear, our Series II cabriolet has been accepted into the Colorado Grand” to “Oh my God, now I understand how Brock Yates and Dan Gurney won the Cannonball!”