High bid of $22,500,000 at 2014 Gooding & Company : Pebble Beach Concours. (did not sell)
While some of Ferrari's most iconic of automobiles may be front-engined exotics, it is by no means a stretch to think Ferrari and mid-engine supercars. But where and when did it all begin? This particular chassis is the answer. The advantages of mid-engined car designs were becoming apparent by the end of the 1950s with Cooper's tiny grand prix cars. Enzo, more concerned with the power of an engine than where it sat in a car would be slow to go along with the growing trend. This would change with the Scuderia's 156 F1 car that would win both Formula One World Championships in 1961.Ferrari didn't just build a mid-engine Formula One car. They would also develop a new sportscar with a mid-engine layout—the 246SP. This car would be nearly as successful as the Formula One car winning the Targa Florio and the Nurburgring 1000 Kilometers. Another example, the 250 P, would add victories in the Sebring 12 Hours and the 24 Hours of Le Mans to the tally of success.
Still, it wouldn't be until after sustained success that Enzo would even entertain the thought of building a mid-engine production sportscar. However, though Enzo recognized the potential success of such a car being made available to the public he would not be in favor of a 12-cylinder example simply because he thought them too dangerous for the common man.
Enter Luigi Chinetti. Chinetti was one of the few that had Enzo's ear. Winner of Le Mans in 1932 and 1934, this Milanese gentleman was cut from Enzo's mould. Driving a 166 MM Barchetta in the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans, he would give Scuderia Ferrari its first 'big' race win, and thereby would be a key component in establishing the legend of what is Ferrari. Coming to the United States before the outbreak of the Second World War, he would become Ferrari's fly on the wall across the Atlantic Ocean. Gifted with an ability to discern design and models of automobiles that would speak to the diverse American audience, Luigi would often coax Enzo into approving specially-built designs meant to attract New York industrialists or Hollywood's elite.While there was Chinetti's influence, Ferrari also had the carrozzeria Pininfarina whispering in his other ear. By the early 1960s, the design firm would be beginning for the Maranello outfit to create a chassis for a line of automobile designs that would be dubbed the 'Dino'. The push would work and, by 1965, Pininfarina would be unveiling a radical design atop a 206 Dino P chassis. It was the Berlinetta Speciale and it laid the groundwork for the familiar Dino 206 and 246 that would enter production just a couple of years later. However, the design would also serve as the foundation for another, very special, one-off creation that would make its debut the following year. Pininfarina would keep with its radical new design as a foundation but would need to make some important changes to its design. The reason for this was simple. The new car would be called the 365 P Berlinetta Speciale and what would make it special would be its elongated rear end. The reason for the extracted back-end would be the 4.4-liter V-12 engine that would occupy the space. Producing 380 hearth-thumping horses and enveloped in a simple, clean Pininfarina design with its squatting rear end, the one-off Berlinetta Speciale would be an angry looking car, even when sitting still.But there was more than just the twelve-cylinder engine that would make chassis 8971 truly rare, even within the Ferrari stable. Glancing at the car it is easy to spot an intriguing and unusual feature. The give-away is the center position of the steering wheel. That's right, 'Tre Posti' references seating for three.
Completed with a luxurious interior and Gardenia White, 8971 was to be the first of many 'Tre Posti' 365s. The car would make its debut at the Paris Auto Salon in September of 1966 and would be a hit with the crowd as they would be gob-smacked by Pininfarina's design, including such innovative 'extras' as a transparent roof section and, of course, the center driving position. The car would share things in common with Ferrari's Formula One cars and would be one of the first supercars to really blend all of the technology from the track into a road going car. Chassis 8971 would be the result of the brilliance of Sergio Pininfarina and Aldo Brovarone and was so well received that it would lead to a second car, chassis 8815.
From the moment it made its debut in Paris in 1966, 8971 would be the talk of any show. It would be the hit of the Paris Auto Salon and it would continue to arouse imaginations as it traveled from the Earls Court Motor Show in London to the Brussels Motor Show, Geneva and then, finally, the Imported Automobile & Sports Car Show held in Los Angeles. The car had been on the road for a year and had been a success wherever it went. Undoubtedly, there would be many who would covet after the car, longing for it to come into his or her possession. Being the very foundation of what would become the supercar, 8971 would not end up in the hands of just anyone. Fittingly, it would end up at Chinetti Motors in 1967. From the very first moment he became aware of the project, and Pinanfarina's commitment to produce such a car, Luigi just had to have it for himself. Chinetti would have a 500 Superfast valued at around $8,000. The Tre Posti would be valued at $26,000. Not surprisingly, the car would never be far from the Chinetti family once Luigi purchased it. Besides a year in which it would be the property of Jan de Vroom, the car would not be apart from the family and would be as close to a family member as a car could ever get. A true piece of collector automobiledom is perhaps best demonstrated by its longevity with its owners. In this case, not only is this the Ferrari perhaps to end all Ferraris when it comes to exclusivity and importance within the supercar history, but it has had really just two owners since from when it was completed. Add to this the fact one of those two owners is the Chinetti family and this is a Ferrari beyond all reckoning, and therefore, a fulfillment of everything Chinetti and Pininfarina believed.By Jeremy McMullenLooking for car & motorbike parts? Check here!