In-Motion Classic: 1967 Ferrari 330 GT – Lightning Strikes Twice (EDIT: Well, Thrice)

When Sundays actually are sunny in Tokyo, the true classics will occasionally venture out. I knew this from experience already. But knowing is one thing – seeing the most gorgeous ‘60s Ferrari rolling down my street is another. And it happened twice this month, too.

The first glimpse I caught of this red dreamboat was three weeks ago, from my balcony. I didn’t manage to photograph it until it was up to where I was standing – still, a decent profile shot – but I did see it was the two-headlamp version. The best-looking Ferrari of the ’60s, in other words.

The “family Ferrari” was launched in January 1964 at the Brussels Motor Show. It took over from the 330 America, which was essentially a 250 GT 2+2 with a bigger engine, but generously added 5cm of wheelbase to provide rear passengers with legs somewhere to put them. PininFarina built the car’s new Tom Tjaarda-penned body, unfortunately marred by googly quad headlamps, which were thought to be popular in the US – the car’s main target market. It is often referred to as “330 GT 2+2,” but Ferrari themselves (at least at the time), called it 330 GT, so I’ll stick to Enzo’s orthography.

Under the hood, the triple-carbureted Tipo 209 4-litre OHC “Colombo” V12 produced 300hp, propelling the 1.5 kiloton four-seater to 245kph (150mph). The initial transmission was a 4-speed with overdrive and all that power was sent to a rather primitive leaf-sprung live axle – not exactly cutting edge by the mid-‘60s.

The interior was a fine blend of Italian style and high quality. Early cars did not have the varnished wood that our CC has, though – another reason to favour the Series II, which took over in mid-1965.

I’m not sure who authored the facelift, but the second series 330 GT was really a great improvement. Ferrari also gave the car a 5-speed gearbox and more modern alloy rims to replace the Borrani wire wheels, among other smaller improvements. The 330 GT was made until mid-1967, when it morphed into the 365 GT, which kept the 265cm wheelbase, but had a different body, independent rear suspension and a 4.4 litre engine.

Taken together, the two series of the 330 GT sold extremely well: 625 Series I and 455 Series II coupés were sold, plus four special-bodied chassis, one of which was a rather outlandish shooting brake. It was the first Ferrari to top 1000 unit made, though there are only nine in Japan. And I had just seen one on the street.

Then, last Sunday, I saw it again. Only this time, I was on the sidewalk and not perched four stories above it. I couldn’t believe my luck! The other lucky stroke in catching this sublime automobile is its rarity and collectability, which enabled me to find out a bit more about this particular car.

According to the 330 GT registry, this is car # 9403, originally sold in Italy – probably in early 1967. The car was then shipped over to New Jersey at some point, where it was painted white and then red (its original colour is not known). It changed hands and states several times on the East Coast, crossing over to California in 1992 and British Columbia a year later. It sailed off to Japan in 1994. The current owner bought it in 2000 and fitted it with wire wheels. It’s a fully optioned car, with electric windows, air conditioning, power steering and a Becker radio. Plus it has a cool license plate.

The 330 GT’s Lorenesque rear end is perhaps its best feature. PininFarina liked it so much they grafted it on the Peugeot 204. And with that, the Ferrari drove off with a relatively discreet rumble, leaving yours truly weak-kneed and open-mouthed on the sidewalk. Within five minutes, three other interesting cars caught my eye, which will be featured in my upcoming monthly round-up. Needless to say, none were as outstanding as this one, but then that’s setting the bar pretty high. Twice.

[Edit: Last minute addition, Sunday 24 May 2020]

Or so it seemed. I was on my way home from running an errand this afternoon and lo and behold, I saw a now familiar shape coming towards me.

The Ferrari was following more or less the same route as the previous week, but I was standing on the other side of the street.

Which turned out to be a good thing, as I hadn’t really gotten a proper profile shot of the beast. What a stunningly beautiful car this is.

It was cloudier this Sunday, but still very nice out – great day to take a drive in the old Ferrari, if you happen to own one. Three times in one month. That’s a personal record, as far as classic Italian V12 coupés are concerned. I’m starting to really like this city.