Ferrari 365 California, the Cavallino churns out the reference model for the Spider-luxury category

Born as the heir to the 500 Superfast, the Ferrari 365 California is presented at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show. The elegance of the model designed by Pininfarina, which manages to design an elegant and refined car body, stands out immediately, and is not it is a coincidence that this model represents one of the best open-top cars built in full respect of the Italian style.

Combined with very advanced mechanics, characterized by a 4.4-liter V12, the 365 California becomes the reference model of the high-performance luxury-spider category. An elite-level car, and not just because only fourteen prototypes are produced; also considering the high price, the luxury of being able to buy this model belongs to a lucky and small circle of customers.

The 365 California represents the conclusion of the limited and exclusive production of Ferrari models of the sixties.

Chassis number 08347 becomes the basis of the series and is built on a chassis type 571, which had already been used for the 330 GT 2+2. The series production, on the other hand, begins with the chassis number 09127, using a chassis with the internal reference number 598. As with the production of the 500 Superfast, the chassis are sent to Pininfarina, who coached them and finished them in the his Grugliasco company; the cars are subsequently returned to Ferrari, with the aim of installing the mechanical part of the car.

The 365 California, in essence, is visually very similar to the 500 Superfast model, except for some details that are not particularly relevant, such as the front optical groups covered in Plexiglas, the retractable fog lights on the nose, the lack of air vents on the side panels, the presence of a central bulge on the bonnet and the rib on the sides of the body.

The differences of primary importance are evident starting from the pillars, and continue towards the rear of the car. In the upper part of the doors there is an arrow-shaped recess, which extends into the initial part of the rear fender, and is divided into two parts by a chromed metal strip, which incorporates the handle for opening.

This type of detail had already been presented by Pininfarina himself on the prototype of the Dino a year earlier, at the 1965 Paris Motor Show, then becoming, for over twenty years, a peculiarity of the 206/246 and 308/328 series models.

The rear fender curves slightly upwards near the wheel housing, then descends following the flat line of the luggage hood, and ending in a distinctive truncated tail, with rather tense features, which completely deviates from the style adopted for the front of the car, characterized instead by sinuous lines.

As on the 500 Superfast, the 365 California is equipped with taillights made exclusively for this model: having to follow the line of the tail, their design is rather angled, and they are equipped with three round lights surrounded by reflective material. However, this project will not be fully respected, and indeed will differ from car to car, in the type of color adopted for the reflective material, and even in some examples the three circular lights will be different from each other.

Again as already seen on the 500 Superfast, there are four wraparound semi-bumpers, one for each corner of the body, but also in this case there are exceptions, such as the example on chassis no. 08631, equipped with a unique rear bumper; when in 1970 the prototype is sent to Ferrari for a renewal, it will be necessary to modify the rear lights as well.

The presence of Borrani spoked wheels will be confirmed on these cars, even if by now most of the series-produced Ferraris use light alloy rims, which have in fact become the standard equipment of the Prancing Horse cars.

The leather-covered passenger compartment offers the comfort and elegance typical of a 2+2, while the large doors ensure easy and convenient access to the rear. The dashboard is made with a flat panel in veneered teak wood, which descends with two wide curves in the central area, forming the front part of the structure located in the center of the car.

Everything then continues through the front seats and reaches the rear area, the one behind, forming a comfortable arm rest between the rear seats.

The speedometer and the tachometer are two instruments separated from each other, but both stand out for their large size, placed right in front of the driver, while in the center of the dashboard there are three smaller instruments, which provide essential information for driving. car management, such as oil temperature, water temperature and lubricant pressure.

Below them is a useful space for positioning the radio, flanked by the fuel level indicator and an ammeter. The electric windows are controlled by two double-way buttons placed on the sides of the cigarette lighter on the center console, behind the gear lever and the ashtray, while there is no control that allows the luggage compartment lid to be opened from the outside, as well as it is not possible to open the flap from the outside to access the fuel tank cap: these operations can however be carried out using the two chromed levers, located in the rear part of the passenger compartment.

The car bodies are mounted on a chassis with a 2650 mm wheelbase, which has an internal reference number 598, and receives the odd numbering typical of road cars, without the addition of any suffix. These are built on an assembly line very similar to that of the contemporary 330 GT 2+2, and as on the latter, the front suspension features independent wheels, a rigid rear axle with leaf springs and hydraulic shock absorbers, as well as four Disc brakes with separate control circuit for the front and rear axles. The model also provides the aid of power steering, an option that Ferrari already introduced on the latest series of the 330 GT 2+2 line.

The engine is a 4.4 liter V12 with single overhead camshaft per cylinder bank, with internal reference number 217B, total displacement of 4390 cubic centimeters, bore and stroke 81 by 71 millimeters. The spark plugs are housed in the outer part of the V formed by the cylinders, while a battery of three double-barrel Weber 40 DFI/four carburettors takes care of the fuel supply.

There is also a double coil, while the ignition distributors are located in the rear of the drive unit. The declared power is 320 horses.

The engine is combined with a gearbox with five synchronized speeds plus reverse, the motion was transferred to the rear rigid axle via a transmission shaft. This twelve-cylinder was born taking a cue from the project conceived by Gioachino Colombo with a short engine block, to be later updated and refined, thus becoming the engine equipped on the 365 GTC/S and 365 GT 2+2 models.


Spider, two seats

Length 4900 mm

Width 1780 mm

Height 1330 mm

Wheelbase 2650 mm

Front track 1405 mm

Rear track 1397 mm

Weight 1320 kg when empty


Front, longitudinal, 12V 60 °

Bore and stroke 81x71 mm

Unit displacement 365.86 cm³

Total displacement 4390.35 cm³

Compression ratio 8.8:1

Maximum power 235 kW (320 hp) at 6600 rpm

Specific power 73 hp/liter

Single shaft distribution, two valves per cylinder

Fueled by three Weber 40 DFI/five carburettors

Mono ignition, with two distributors

Wet sump

Single plate clutch


Tubular steel

Independent front suspension, wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, stabilizer bar

Rear suspension with rigid axle, struts, longitudinal semi-elliptical leaf springs, coaxial coil springs with telescopic shock absorbers

Disk brakes

Five-speed gearbox + RM

Ball-bearing steering with power steering

Tank capacity of 100 liters

Front tires 205x15

Rear tires 205x15


Top speed 245 km/h Simone Pietro Zazza