The Designer’s Car: Battista Pininfarina’s Ferrari 275 GTB
The Designer’s Car: Battista Pininfarina’s Ferrari 275 GTB
In the market for a Ferrari 275 GTB? You certainly have good taste: These sleek-nosed, Kamm-tailed grand tourers from the mid-Sixties were dubbed by Road & Track “the most satisfying sports car in the world” back then.
But you’d also better have $2 million to $3.5 million handy for a fine-running example.
Unless, of course, you’d like the 1965 275 GTB built for — and by — the grandfather of Italian car design, Battista Pininfarina. Then you’ll need about $8 million.
Why? Because this Ferrari embodies two factors that jack up the price of any collector car. The first is known as provenance — a history of famous ownership. And except for Enzo himself, it’s hard to find an owner more storied in Ferrari history than Battista Pininfarina.
The second is that it’s a one-off — a car whose features set it apart from all the other models like it. And Pininfarina himself took care of that.
And all that, in a word, is what makes this 275 GTB Speciale.
But first, you need to know about a name change and two prideful men. Battista Farina was born in 1893 and, being the youngest son in the family, earned the nickname Pinin. He became so well known as Battista Pinin Farina that in 1961 he legally blended his nickname and last name into Pininfarina. (His nephew, Giuseppe Farina, was the first Formula 1 champion.)
Early on, Enzo Ferrari used a number of carrozzerie to body his cars. He came to prefer Pinin Farina, but was too proud to travel to Turin to talk with him. Meanwhile, the designer, who called Ferrari “as tightly closed as a walnut, disdaining the bonds the world proffered,” was too stubborn for a trip to Maranello.
Pininfarina later wrote, “We were like fishes in a pond, each minding his own business.” But in 1951 they split the difference, meeting for lunch in Tortona, Italy. And the man who was then still Pinin Farina became Ferrari’s body designer, a stretch that continued after his death in 1966, when his son, Sergio, and son-in-law, Renzo Carli, took over.
One day, Pininfarina received a pair of chassis with a 3.3-liter V-12 and new rear-mounted transmission (or transaxle). One became the “mule” for the development of the 275 GTB. The other, chassis no. 06437, became the Speciale.
There would be several variants on the 275 GTB theme. Its V-12 went from a single camshaft per head and 280 horsepower, to twin cams and 300 horsepower. There were bodies with short and long noses, and the competition version, the 275 GTB/C. Luigi Chinetti’s run of 10 convertible 275 GTBs — called NART spyders — are now worth around $25 million each.
While Carrozzeria Scaglietti built the bodies for almost all those 275 GTBs, Pininfarina did so for just one: the Speciale. The best way to compare it to all the others: the same, only different.
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Built with a steel body, it has the early short-nose design but with distinctions. David Brynan, the Ferrari expert for Gooding and Company, which sold the car for $8,085,000 at its Scottsdale, Arizona, auction in January, 2018 explains: “If you were to park the Pininfarina car next to the standard short-nose 275, there are sections of the car that are so wildly different in proportion and detail. It doesn’t really translate in photos, but when you see them parked next to each other, you see that they’re very different cars.” Body panels are not interchangeable between the Speciale and production 275 GTBs.
So why such a stunning price premium over a standard 275 GTB? As Brynan put it, if you equate 275 GTBs to art, the Battista Pininfarina car is “the original painting versus a print” — with the prints being Scaglietti’s GTBs.
What were Pininfarina’s brushstrokes that produced his masterpiece? In this case, start with Acqua Verde Metallizzato — which sounds like an Italian aperitif, but is the Ferrari’s exterior color.
Unique features include the use of Campagnolo aluminum wheels versus the classic Borrani wire wheels, a hood bulge for the Weber carburetors, an inset Ferrari badge, and a vent window on the passenger’s side, but not the driver’s (as the master didn’t like them).
Inside are brown leather seats, a polished wood dash and a pair of Heuer watches mounted in the center console.
The Speciale was shown at auto shows in Paris, Frankfurt, Turin, and Brussels from 1964 to 1966 and then owned by two Italians. Don Vincent Gaxiola brought it to the U.S. in 1970 and owned it for two decades before selling it to Craig McFarland in Carmel, California.
In 1992, Mike Sheehan of European Auto Sales in Costa Mesa, California, was the next buyer (for $214,000) and points out that it needed, “the mother of all restorations…another tired car from the Sixties.” By then wearing a color called China Red, it was stripped down and restored (right down to the original color) by Sheehan, who says that the V-12 dynoed at 268 horsepower at 6,500 rpm.
At that point owned by Brandon Wang, the restored Pininfarina 275 GTB was shown at the 1992 Pebble Beach Concours, where it finished second in class. The next owner was Michael Mak in Hong Kong and, after the recent Gooding auction, the Speciale is now tucked away quietly in a U.S. garage.
If you need any consolation for not having the winning bid, consider this: Sheehan — who says he has driven, restored, and brokered thousands of Ferraris — described the Speciale this way: “It has a very pretty color…it’s just not, in modern terms, a pleasant car to drive.”
John Lamm worked for Road & Track for 37 years and is equally happy behind a keyboard or a camera. He has written ten automotive books and has been honored with the International Motor Press Association’s Ken Purdy award and the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor award for writing. He is on the organizing committee for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and has been a judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for two decades.