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Ferrari’s predecessor of the McLaren F1 you might have never heard of before

Updated: May 3, 2023

Ferrari 365 P Speciale Berlinetta Pininfarina

If you are a petrolhead and you think of a 3-seater supercar, the McLaren F1 will immediatly come to mind. But did you know it was Ferrari who created a 3-seater supercar decades before? At the 1966 Paris Motor Show, Ferrari introduced the 365 P Berlinetta Speciale in the very elegant color “White Gardenia”. The car had three seats with the driving position in the centre and a race-derived 4.4-litre V12 just behind the passenger seats, which were positioned next to the drivers seat, but slightly more to the back.

The concept car designed by Pininfarina shown in Paris (chassis 8971), was so beautiful that Gianni Agnelli (chairman of FIAT) fell in love with it and commisioned a second example (chassis 8815), which was delivered the following year in Turin in a metallic grey. The Paris Motor Show car (chassis 8971) was later bought by US Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti. However, the beautiful exterior design was not the reason why Ferrari and Pininfarina developed their first 3-seater. In fact, at the time the conversion of racing cars’ engine positions started moving from the front to the read-mid position which influenced the manufacturers to also produce road cars with this specification. The 365 P Berlinetta Speciale was one of three Ferrari prototypes Pininfarina created to usher in this revolution of engine positions in the middle of the car.

Although Ferrari didn’t immediatly started using the mid-engine position in production cars after this prototype, the Berlinetta Speciale did influence the future styling of the later to be unveiled Dino-models and eventually in 1973, it was the 365 GT4 BB which became the first road-going, Ferrari-badged production car with a mid-engine. Nowadays we can not imagine Ferrari without mid-engine cars since they have produced numerous incredible models in this specification.

After Luigi Chinetti bought chassis 8971, selling it and buying it back twice, it was auctioned at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach auction in 2014. The rejected, highest bid of nearly 23 million USD shows how special and valuable the Berlinetta Speciale is. Years later the car was still sold to a collector in Texas, USA. The second car (chassis 8815) left Italy in 1975 to a new owner in the USA, afterwards it was painted twice, first to blue metallic and later to red. Later in its life the car found several more new owners, most of them were in the USA too.

So, if you ever be lucky enough to see a McLaren F1 or any mid-engine Ferrari in the near future, then now remember it was the 365 P Berlinetta Speciale which was the founder of the 3-seater, mid-engine supercar specification.

Photo credit: Gooding & Company


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