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Daytona Part Deux

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Last week, we explored one of the most iconic Ferrari's ever to grace the small screen. This week, I wanted to discuss some of the more memorable Daytona's, including the real-life inspiration for The Cannonball Run and Gumball Rally.

The Ferrari 365 earned its Daytona moniker after winning the top three spots at the legendary 1969 Florida 24-hr endurance race. Despite having a reputation for handling like a box truck at speeds below 20 mph, all of those criticisms vanish once the car takes off, and it becomes the definition of a true grand tour. Supposedly, the notoriously heavy steering was actually intentional, since the 365 was designed purely for GT driving at high speeds. This also explains why it was such a coveted vehicle for a cross-country race like the Cannonball Run.

Cannonball Run, or The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash (try saying that five times fast), was an unofficial and unsanctioned road race from New York City to Redondo Beach, California. The brainchild was long time Car and Driver editor-in-chief Brock Yates and the first run was in May, 1971. It wasn't so much an actual road race as it was a high-speed road tour meant to celebrate the United States Highway System and to flaunt the encroaching nationwide trend towards strict speed limits. The ultimate goal was to drive as fast as possible from sea to shining sea, but even this was rather tongue-in-cheek given Yates’ choice of Dodge Sportsman van for the tour.

The real competition came into play in the second iteration in November, 1971, in which 1967 Le Mans-winner Dan Gurney co-drove with Yates in a 1971 Ferrari Daytona Spider and came in first place with an overall time of 35 hours and 54 minutes, with an average speed of 80 mph. Gurney is famously quoted as saying, “At no time did we exceed 175 mph,” which was a clear nod to the 365’s 174 mph top-speed. Yates’ experience in the second race was the inspiration for Dean Martin and Sammie Davis Jr. driving the Ferrari 308 GTS.

Although some might argue that the 365 GTS/B “Daytona” is not the most beautiful Ferrari to ever come out of Pininfarina, it is definitely one of the most capable and most memorable. Its legacy is hard to argue, and it’s for these reasons that pristine models - especially the 121 true, non-modified Spiders ever made - go for ridiculous prices at auction.

-Trey Fennell

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