The Daytona Becomes My Wedding Car

Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona
The Daytona outside Foxhills Hotel, the location of the wedding reception

But would it get me to the ceremony on time?

I got married on Friday. By the standards of many weddings, it was a small affair with only family and a few close friends in attendance, since because my new wife is American, we are planning a much bigger celebration in the United States later in the year. One thing that was essential for the UK leg, though, was that I wanted to drive to the wedding in the Daytona and transport my new wife to and from the reception in it.

Now, as I have mentioned many times before in previous blogs, the Daytona does not really like British winters very much, so there was some concern that the car would not be up for a January outing at all. In the run-up to the day, extra heaters were put round the car to make sure that the vital fluids were kept at a reasonable temperature. As a last resort, Dad’s Ferrari California was available if for any reason the Daytona was not ready to go. As nice as the California is, this would have been a huge disappointment, since it cannot replace a car that has been in the family for thirty-six years.

The additional heating obviously had a positive effect, since after some eight priming pumps of the throttle the Daytona fired up first go, something it hardly ever does! The day felt like it was going to be a good one. After five minutes of warming up, I headed out with my Dad for a pre-wedding breakfast at the Starbucks on the A3, with the Daytona running fine.

After a short breakfast and coffee, we took the Daytona for a run up the A3 (I know many grooms have a round of golf before their wedding, but I would much prefer to take a classic Ferrari for a drive!), and it was then that a little issue arose.

As I slowed down to come off the A3 at Esher I depressed the clutch to drop out of fifth gear, and discovered that the effort to get the lever out of fifth was at least double the normal amount required. It was very disconcerting and not something that has ever happened before in the Daytona. However, I have had a very similar experience in my old Porsche 944, a car that shares the Daytona’s transaxle gearbox layout. The lower gears seemed fine, except for fourth, which, while requiring less force than fifth, still required something of a shove to engage. Very disconcerting indeed.

Coming back off the A3 in the other direction, and the same issue occurred. I was freaked out as to what was going on, since weddings are expensive enough without having to factor in a Daytona gearbox rebuild! Back at the house, we inspected the underside of the car but there were no telltale signs of a gearbox oil leak.

On any other day I would have put the Daytona away at this point, and waited until my mechanic could have a proper look at it. However, this was my wedding day and I needed the car to be on show. Dad, who knows the car even better than I do - it was his everyday car for the first three years of his twenty-nine years of ownership - figured it would be all okay, since at no point had the gears been completely unselectable. The registry office was only a couple of miles away, via relatively slow roads that could easily be travelled using only the lower three gears which were all selecting fine, so I decided I would go for it and after packing my overnight bag into the car and changing into my suit, I headed off to the registry office.

I don’t think the traffic in Guildford was any worse than on a normal Friday, but when trying to get to a wedding on time with a classic old Ferrari which may or may not have a serious gearbox issue, it seemed horrendous! My apologies if you were one of the drivers I was shouting at, but after what seemed like an hour but was in fact only about fifteen minutes, I got to the registry office, where a few early guests were able to calm me down.

The ceremony went without a hitch, my now-wife Danielle arrived on time and looked utterly beautiful in her wedding dress (which, doing things properly, I had not seen before). After the ceremony, photographs and customary confetti train we got into the Daytona, and headed off to the reception. This wouldn’t normally be worth much of a mention except that wedding dresses probably aren’t designed to be worn in a Ferrari Daytona, or any other sportscar for that matter! I suspect that Danielle was not actually that comfortable in the car - it was also her first ride in it! -but she never complained.

The journey to the reception was a little longer on slightly faster roads, so I ventured into fourth a couple of times, which seemed to be freeing up, possibly as more temperature got into the gearbox. I stayed away from fifth for the duration of the journey, though.

As part of the wedding preparations I had pre-organised what Danielle described as ‘rockstar’ parking outside the front of the Hotel hosting the reception. After a few photographs with the car (a few of which are posted in the gallery), the party headed in for a wonderful lunch and the customary speeches.  Danielle and I stayed the night at the hotel which also meant the Daytona had to spend the night there too; possibly the first time the car has been subject to an overnight frost in some thirty years!

The frost was replaced by an early morning shower which meant the car was thoroughly wet when I came to start it up. Despite this, it fired up okay albeit on the third try, which is kind of normal. I nudged the stalk to activate the wipers to clear the screen and nothing happened. Damn. Old car electrics - don’t you just love them? I fiddled with the stalk to see if it was just the contact but no there was no life at all. Danielle (unprompted, so I have definitely married the right woman) jumped out of the car and cleared the screen of water with a cloth. Thanks honey!

Before we could set off we had one other problem to contend with, but this was a little more unique to the occasion. Danielle had arrived wearing her wedding dress obviously, but now the next day she was wearing more suitable clothing for riding in the Daytona. This left the problem of packing the dress in the car. I already had my overnight bag and suit carrier in the boot, and her overnight bag (which had arrived in her wedding car) was on the parcel shelf behind the seats. This didn’t leave a lot of space for the wedding dress, and while we could probably have crammed it into the boot, most things put in there end up smelling of the car with a distinct petrol tinge, which for some reason didn’t appeal to Danielle. The saviour of the hour was the best man who had also stayed the night at the hotel with his family. He agreed to drop the dress back at the house on their way home - thanks Andy!

The journey back to the house was straightforward. The ambient temperatures had risen from the night before and after a couple of difficult shifts, fourth and fifth freed up and shifted normally. On my return from the trip I was even comfortable enough to take my new stepfather-in-law for a spin round the block, although I was glad it wasn’t raining since the wipers were still dead!

In the end, despite fraying my nerves a little, the Daytona did its job on the day and, as always, looked beautiful doing so. The suspicion for the gearbox issues is that the gear oil was not fully warmed up, especially around the offset fourth and fifth. A similar issue with my 944 also happened on a cold day and only affected fifth which is the only offset gear in the conventional H-pattern shift on that car. If anyone else has had similar issues with transaxle transmissions then please get in touch. When my mechanic returns from his current overseas trip, a more thorough diagnosis of both the gearbox and the faulty wipers with take place. I’ll let you know the results.

In other Daytona news, the oft-discussed but as yet not implemented modification of electronic ignition may be fitted before the summer, mainly to improve the starting of the car, but also to possibly gain an extra mile per gallon if possible. That would certainly not go amiss at current fuel prices!