Giovanni Michelotti had early on in his career been the designer of Vignale, setting trends before Pininfarina came on the scene. Strongly defined uncluttered forms initially characterised his style, a sobriety of body that was later lost in an attempt to counter the onslaught of Pininfarina as Vignale waned terminally. Giovanni then struck out on his own and in 1951 formed Studio Technico Carrozzeria Michelotti. While most of his work centred on everyday road car fare, he did create at least six spyders, one of them shown here. Michelotti later built two other spyders in 1980 with a more angular slab sided design.
15965 began its life as a standard 1972 European production Daytona, albeit one with the more powerful type A engine and air conditioning. In late 1974 Michelotti rebodied it in aluminium for NART to use at Le Mans. It would appear that this whole project was backed by their customer, American Dan Ward from Los Angeles to whom the Ferrari was pre-sold. The taut, elegant yet muscular shape is certainly a return to Michelotti's initial design principles. The Targa top is removable allowing open or closed top motoring, while the electrically operated rear window can come down to allow complete airflow in a manner reminiscent of the 1960s rear aerofoil open prototypes.
Unusually the car, while intended for a limited racing programme, was ultimately meant for road use making it rather unique in its hybrid destiny. Thus it is better suited for public roads than a spartan full blown Daytona Group 4, having for example more insulation than the latter as it has not been stripped as much, yet has less than a production 365GTB/4. It was first shown soon after completion at the 1975 Geneva Salon in white with a red band highlighting the lower part of the body. Respected writer, Marc Sonnery, recalls visiting the show at the wise age of 11 and staring at length at the car's striking lines which were a further development of those seen one year prior in another one-off, the spyder NART built by the firm for popular film star Steve McQueen. One could say that while the 275 GTS 4 NART spyder enjoyed by McQueen (not to be confused with the aforementioned Michelotti Spyder just mentioned) and nine other owners was the exclusive privilege of a happy few, the production nature of the Daytona spyder of which more than 120 were made resurrected the need for an exclusive or even one-off design, a need satisfied by our subject car.
There was no April test day at Le Mans that year so three months after Geneva the car was prepared for Les Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans. It was entered in the 24 hour classic by Luigi Chinetti's NART team. NART also brought three other Ferraris: a standard Competition Daytona (Group 4), a heavily modified 308 GT4 and a near standard 365GT/4 BB in the type's first appearance in the Sarthe. Never had a Ferrari team entered such a varied cross section of models. Our subject car no doubt had a full competition specification engine prepared by NART for this race, with high lift camshafts, racing headers, a raised compression ratio and a special racing side mounted exhaust.
Entered in the GTX class, the Michelotti Daytona qualified with a time of 4.31.8 in the hands of journalist Jean Pierre Malcher who was to share the car with Patrick Langlois.
Some accounts state that it was faster in top speed than the participating Competition Daytona Group 4s thanks to its more aerodynamic shape. Alas when NART stopped its efforts early on the second and last day of practise and qualifying, it had the unwelcome surprise of seeing its Dino bumped by another car. Furious, Chinetti protested but to no avail. The NART patriarch then reorganised his driver pairings. In fact some books such as Antoine Prunet's The Ferrari Legend: The Road Cars list the drivers for the Michelotti bodied machine as Facetti/Bucknum and these may well be the substitute names that NART attempted to get accepted shortly before the start. Things then went from bad to worse as the organisers rejected the driver reassignments. This was the last straw and an irate Chinetti withdrew his three remaining cars at 2.32pm, 88 minutes before the start.
In the confusion while the organisers hastily granted racing rights to three competitors who had previously failed to make the cut, a Porsche 911 entered by Ecuadorians which was even further down the DNQ list somehow snuck onto the grid and took the start; it actually got away with three laps before it was black flagged and remains the only illicit car on track during the 24 hour's history!
The NART contingent then returned to New York and 15965 was delivered to Ward in Los Angeles. Three years later it was entered by Otto Zipper for the 1978 Daytona 24 hours for drivers Devendorf/Kline/Keyser. Bruno Borri of the Los Angeles area had serviced the motor. Michael Keyser had seen the car at Le Mans 1975 when he himself participated in a Chevrolet Monza. Again the race participation was not to be for the seemingly jinxed 15965 since the Ferrari was withdrawn after a protest (by eventual overall race winner Peter Gregg, driver of a Porsche Turbo) on the grounds of its non-standard body. Note that on the Florida combined banking roadcourse it practised with the pop up headlights replaced by Perspex covers and with race number 66. It was white during that race, but soon after was offered by the VIP Toy store in Los Angeles, listed as red/tan as it has been ever since.
15965 then became the property of reclusive Texas oilman John Mecom who commissioned a no expense spared conversion of the car to street use. At one stage Mecom had briefly flirted with the idea of buying the Ferrari factory in the sixties. Nothing came of these grand plans and later Mecom decided to sell several cars including this one. Patrick Ryan acquired it at a Scottsdale Arizona auction in January of 1987.
Pat Ryan, while having used the car off and on (having over forty cars) recalls two particularly memorable occasions with the car. The first took place in Lake Lanier, Georgia in 1989 during the Ferrari Club of America national meet where he brought the car to participate in the celebratory NART reunion, which was attended by NART founder and former Ferrari importer and Le Mans winner Luigi Chinetti. During that event a panoramic commemorative group photo was made of the group of NART Ferraris and individuals. Interestingly Mr. Chinetti chose to stand next to this very car for the photo. After this Luigi explained the details of the infamous Le Mans incident to the owner.
After the factory's confirmation that they accept the car as a Daytona Competition, the car was returned to the 24h of Daytona configuration, preparing the engine to Group 4 Series 3, 470bhp, suspensions, brakes, and getting the car down to 1,340 Kgs.
2002 Le Mans Classic
2002 Tutte le Ferrari a Misano, Ferrari Maserati Historic Challenge
2003 Spa Ferrari Days, Ferrari Maserati Historic Challenge
2007 Tour Auto
2007 Monterey Historic Races, Laguna Seca,
2008 Ferrari Maserati Historic Challenge, Mugello, race 1
2008 Ferrari Maserati Historic Challenge, Mugello, race 2
2008 Le Mans Classic: Michel Abellan/ Sebastien Boulet/ Vanina Ickx
Current colour scheme as it ran at Le Mans Classic 2008 and in period 1975 LM qualification