(Very) Long Term test update 14: Battling the Elements

Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona
The Daytona at St Michaels Manor [Photo: Gentleman Drivers Club]

A Sunday morning breakfast and a desire for cake results in the Daytona getting a soaking.

It's difficult to express in words why the Daytona is, to my mind, such a great car. In quantifiable terms it's old, the handling is no match for modern cars and it lacks creature comforts that are taken for granted in even the most basic of modern motor vehicles - like central locking, for example.

In the latest edition of Evo magazine, Chris Harris has inadvertently provided an answer to this question. In his long-term review of the Mercedes SLS that he currently has custody of, he refers to the ingredients of a truly great road car being mechanical interest, noise, presence and character.  When you apply this to the Daytona, a four-cam V12 engine fed by 6 twin choke carburettors and mated to a transaxle gearbox is certainly mechanically interesting, and it certainly makes an awesome noise. When it comes to presence the Daytona is not large by modern standards, but the shape is certainly imposing and skirts a fine line between elegance and brutality.

Character? Well, I'm not going to say the Daytona makes me feel like a 'driving god' - quite the opposite actually - but every journey in the car does make you think your life is more exciting than being an accountant living in the Home Counties of Britain. Maybe it's the Daytona's reputation as a car for the jet-set, but in reality it's just because the car is bloody good to fun to drive!

One other aspect that defines its character is its age, and some of the resultant quirks that come with it.  I was reminded of this on Sunday when my wife and I took the Daytona to the Gentleman Drivers Club breakfast meeting at St Michael's Manor Hotel in St. Albans.  The weather forecasts had been threatening all week, but as we woke up on Sunday the sun was shining and it looked like a good day to give the red machine a run out.

The skies were getting steadily greyer as the morning wore on but the rain stayed away. After the event, fellow Drive Cult contributor Martin Spain and his wife invited us back to their house for tea and a slice of home-made chocolate cake. Looking at the skies we probably should have declined and returned the Daytona to its warm and dry garage, but I find it impossible to turn down cake (and very nice it was, too).

Heading home post-cake and on the horror that is the M25, the heavens opened with was some of the heaviest rain I have experienced while out on the road in the UK.  Rivers of water were running across the carriageway and there was huge amounts of spray.  Long-time readers will recall my issues with the Daytona's windscreen wipers, particularly on my wedding day , but this time they decided to work, and more surprisingly, on both speed settings too. What didn't work as well was their synchronisation, as the driver's side wiper was cutting over the A pillar and hanging over the side of the car at the furthest point of its sweep.

Despite the rain, it was still warm and I was running the A/C along with the headlights since visibility was very poor. I looked down at the dashboard and to my horror the ammeter was showing a very large discharge on the battery.  Thinking of the scene in Apollo 13 when Gary Sinese's character Ken Mattingly is trying to work out how to power up the capsule using only a certain number of amps, I considered which of the systems I didn't need. Obviously the A/C was the first to go and this was clearly the biggest drain on the power as the needle on the ammeter swung sharply over to the right when I switched it off, but it was still showing a discharge. Visibility had improved slightly so I was able to switch the lights off and at that point the ammeter needle swung to the right, indicating the battery was being charged.

As I write this, it all sounds a bit trivial in retrospect but at the time it was very worrying since I didn't exactly relish the thought of a breakdown in the pouring rain on the M25 in a bright red Ferrari in the middle of heavy traffic! Despite the electrical issues, the engine never missed a beat despite sitting in heavy traffic in even heavier rain.  The temperature needle barely moved - which was probably fortunate since the cooling fans take a lot of electrical power! - and as the rain eased so did the traffic. Grip in the wet is not fantastic but thanks to the relatively narrow and tall tyres, the Daytona is probably less susceptible to aquaplanning than modern supercars with their wide low profile rubber.

There is an old (but true) adage that you shouldn't put a classic car away wet and in this instance, the car received a thorough towelling down and the dehumidifiers were turned on in the garage to make sure the car was completely dry.

As a general rule I try and avoid driving the Daytona in bad weather, since it rather detracts from the fun I referred to earlier. With our rather variable UK weather this can be difficult, but it does mean you really appreciate the good weather days even more.

In other news, the oil is looking rather old and black; it was last changed about eighteen months and around 2,000 miles ago, so it's going to be changed this week. The original service intervals for the Daytona were oil changes every 3-6,000 miles depending on the type of oil used.

A full report on the Gentleman Drivers Club event will follow in due course.

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