The Ferrari 365 California was the last in a long line of Ferraris that catered to the wealthiest clientele desiring an ultraexclusive car. Unlike the Ferrari 250 Spyder California -- the previous model named for one of Ferrari’s major markets -- the 365 California was a large, luxurious grand tourer intended for street use only.
The Ferrari 365 made its debut at the Geneva Show in March 1966 as successor to the Ferrari 500 Superfast. Its 104.3-inch (2650mm) tubular chassis was nearly identical to that used by the Ferrari 500 Superfast and the 330 GT 2+2. Underpinnings were the same, with independent front suspension and, at the rear, a rigid axle and leaf springs supplemented by coil springs and Koni shocks.
V-12 was derived from the one in the Ferrari 365P racecars that competed in 1965 and
1966. It used the competition engine’s basic dimensions (81mm bore, 71mm
stroke) to produce a tractable 320 horsepower at 6600 rpm. The engine mated
with a five-speed gearbox as found on the Ferrari 330 2+2 and 500 Superfast.
The 1966 Ferrari 365 California was an ultraluxurious car.
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American designer Tom Tjaarda had been with Pininfarina for four years when he was charged with creating the exclusive Ferrari 365 California’s looks.
“It was strange because I did it at home during the summertime,” he remembered. “They had an urgent need so I came back in September with sketches ... The difficult part was making it look like a Ferrari, but different.”
Tjaarda recalled working long and hard with design director Francesco Martinengo to break up the long bodyside by using the door handle and scoop from Ferrari 1965’s Dino prototype. There were hidden fog lights on the front, and a tail indentation created only after much trial and error.
Just 14 of these flagship convertibles would be built in less than two years, each trimmed to client specification. Tjaarda himself didn’t see the car until summer 1967 because he left Pininfarina for another opportunity.“The first one I saw was in Santa Margherita on the Italian coast with some rich-looking guy driving it; everyone was turning their heads. That really surprised me because we had a running joke at Pininfarina -- we thought it would be a show car only.”
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