Model history: Keen to regain the ground lost to the Shelby Cobra in the GT category, Ferrari set about developing a competition version of the new 275 GTB launched at the 1964 Paris Motor Show. The first road-going Ferrari equipped with independent rear suspension and a transaxle gearbox, the 275 GTB was a considerable step forward compared to the ageing 250 GT chassis previously used. Accordingly, the competition derivative readied for the 1965 season looked set to be a formidable machine but, unfortunately, Ferrari's GT plans were thwarted by homologation issues for a second year running.
In fairness, Ferrari had given the sport's governing, the FIA, ample reason to inspect their latest racer very closely. A year earlier, the Italian manufacturer had tried to convince the FIA that their new mid-engined 250 LM was just and update version of the 250 GTO, in order to circumvent the 100-example production minimum. Understandably, homologation was refused and Ferrari hastily updated the existing cars with 250 LM inspired bodies. When preparing the 275 GTB, the engineers once again carefully explored the regulations to the fullest. However, when the FIA inspected the first example, they found one discrepancy; the car did not comply with the minimum weight regulations.
Ferrari were happy to raise the weight from the 870 kg it tipped the scales at during inspection to the 1,100 kg of the road car but the FIA would have nothing of it and declared that the new 275 GTB could only race in the prototype category. In response, Enzo Ferrari published a press release stating that his team would abandon GT racing altogether, effectively handing the World Championship to the Shelby Cobras. This caused quite a media uproar, which in turn forced Ferrari and the FIA to reach a compromise. Remarkably, the two parties eventually settled on a homologation weight of 980 kg well into the 1965 season.
When taking a closer look at the racer itself, it is actually surprising that the FIA inspectors only found the car to be underweight. Although based on the 275 GTB, it was built as a racing car from the ground up. The chassis was constructed from smaller diameter, round tubes, which lowered the weight while maintaining the rigidity. The double wishbone suspension and gearbox mounted in unit with the differential (transaxle) were carried over from the road. Power came from a specifically tuned version of the road car's 3.3 litre V12. Using competition components and six Weber carburettors, it was very close to the specification of the 250 LM engine and produced around 300 bhp.
It is believed that Ferrari originally readied four chassis, presumably one for each major privateer teams. Due to the homologation issues production was delayed and once completed, no two were exactly the same. They shared the 275 GTB centre section, while the front design combined cues of the 275 GTB and the earlier 250 GTO. The tail also revealed the racer's origins but featured a more pronounced cut-off, 'Kamm' design. Dramatic gills were cut in the side panels both fore and aft of the cockpit to dissipate heat. While similar in design to the road car, the new racer was actually notably smaller and has often been described as a 7/8 scale model of the 275 GTB.
Of the four cars built, only one was eventually raced. Perhaps in reference to the homologation problems, Ferrari simply referred to the car as a 275 GTB. Today the model is commonly referred to as the 275 GTB Competizione Speciale to distinguish it from later racing derivatives. As a prototype, Ferrari fielded the car in the Targa Florio and the Nürburgring 1000 km, where it proved blisteringly quick compared to the 'other' GT cars. Once homologated, it was sold to Ecurie Francorchamps, who fielded it in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the hands Willy Mairesse and Jean Blaton, it finished a very impressive third overall (behind two 250 LMs) and first in the GT class.
The Le Mans class-winning car was subsequently fielded by the North American Racing Team (NART) in the fall of 1965. It won the Nassau Tourist Trophy outright and in the Nassau Governer's Trophy, it scored another class victory. Sadly, this was the end of the racing career of this formidable machine. With the World Championship switching to sports cars for 1966, Ferrari had lost the incentive to develop a replacement. The Italian manufacturer did build another two series of much more mildly modified 275 GTBs but the four cars readied for 1965 can be considered the last of an illustrious line. Effectively a '65 GTO', the Competizione Speciale was only allowed to shine briefly but still remains as one of the great Ferrari GT racers.
Presumably the first of the four 275 GTB Competizione Speciale built, this was likely the example inspected by the FIA. Following Ferrari's decision to withdraw from GT racing, it was sold to an Italian client. Before he took delivery it was painted a dark metallic grey. He never used the car in anger although it was used for track days. In the early 1970s a new owner cut three 250 GTO-inspired, D-shaped holes in the nose to improve cooling. During the 1990s, the rare machine was meticulously restored. It is seen here at two rare outings in 2005, during the Cavallino Classic and Monterey Historic Races.
Chassis 06885 is the only one of the four cars to have a contemporary racing history. Following two outings with the works team in the prototype class, it was sold to Ecurie Francorchamps. They only raced the car once but to a class win and third overall at Le Mans. In the final months of 1965, it was campaigned by NART with considerable success. It was subsequently acquired by Harley Cluxton, who eventually sold it to the current owner in 1985. Restored to its Ecurie Francorchamps colours, it has been a regular in recent years during the Cavallino Classic where it is also pictured here.