I could walk through the list of tasteful personalizations, but it’s better to hear it from the man who made them happen. Starting at the beginning, Alex tells me about the provenance of his prancing horse.
“It originally belonged to Greg Garrison, the producer of the Dean Martin Show. He made a number of his shows and stand-up specials. He was a really close friend of Dean’s, and also a notable Ferrari collector with some special cars, like his Daytona, which sold in an hour at Sotheby’s.
“This one here changed hands a couple of times after Greg and before it got to me, and it’s got a really funky history actually. At some point the car made its way to New Zealand of all places, to a fellow named Rod Tempero who was specializing in doing high-end GTO and GTB replicas. He’s quite well known in that world, and apparently he does some excellent work, during the course of which he took the engine from this car and used it in a GTO or a GTB replica he was building at the time.”
With the original engine set to spend its days in a different bay, the 365 that it came from was effectively turned into a rolling body. Alex picks up the story from here.
“As the history goes, the guy who’d commissioned the replica that received the engine asked Rod, ‘You know, it’s a bit of a shame to have that car sitting there, because it’s otherwise very complete, very original, in very good shape. Can we do something with it?’ And so Rod installed a Jaguar V12 in it with a new gearbox, and then it more or less served as the daily driver for the guy who’d commissioned the replica.”
Alex goes on to tell me how the Jag-powered Ferrari came back to its maker: “After the replica was finished, the owner gave the 365 back to Rod sometime in the early 2000s, who set about restoring it. It wasn’t back to full factory spec though, as he’d changed the paint from its original color to a more typical red. About a decade later it ends up in London, which is where I found it.”
Alex has had a long and full history of driving classic cars—a number of MGs during his university years, followed by pretty much every Porsche 911 model in existence, among others—but he says his approach to vintage vehicles, whether they be Land Rovers from the ‘90s or Ferraris from the ‘60s, has changed somewhat over the years.
“I’ve always had different cars, kept it mixed, but the one thing I’ve learned throughout the twenty-some years I’ve had cars like these, is that original cars can be also quite frustrating. I started with keeping and chasing originality, but in today’s thick traffic they overheat, and if you want to go truly fast they’re usually underpowered. They don’t have modern levels of comfort either, of course. So over the years I’ve developed a new philosophy toward my cars, which is that I like them to look original and to feel original, but they don’t have to be one hundred percent factory—I want a car that’s really functional, that I can really enjoy, that I can use. I don’t buy them to sit in a garage to be taken care of and not used. I want to have fun with them.
It’s definitely easier to adopt this attitude when the car is already free of its original powertrain, and considering one of Alex’s recent favorites was his Jaguar XK150, the British heart in his 365 didn’t bother him a bit. Pausing on the XK will help set the stage for the Ferrari’s modifications that would follow.
“WIth the XK150, I’d done quite a few things to improve the places I felt it might be lacking. It had a Radford-built 4.5L XK engine set up for competition paired with a Getrag five-speed and slowed by big discs, but it also had air-conditioning and electric power steering, among other things. It was still a Jaguar with the original engine, but it was really optimized with everything that’s available today. I think it was all done in a spirit that kept it feeling like a period car, it didn’t felt like a Coombs Jaguar but like an original one with some added comfort and sharper handling.”
Alex’s ideal cars have a ‘60s look and feel to them, but they are built to outperform their stock counterparts while offering more comfort and usability to boot. It might not be a purist’s way of doing things, but I’m all for it; we can do with our cars what we like, after all. Now, let’s get back to the Ferrari in front of us.
“I couldn’t sleep one night in Paris after a fourteen-hour work day, so of course I was browsing the Internet looking at cars, visiting my usual sites, you know, doing a little digital window shopping when I thought, ‘I’ve never had a big Ferrari GT, let’s see what’s available.’
“I was mostly looking at 250 2+2s, 330 2+2s, and then I stumbled on this car, sitting at a dealer in London. I could see that it wasn’t the original engine, but it still had a V12… I was really intrigued by the modifications. I said to myself, ‘Well, somebody else already did this to the car, so basically I have license to go even further and really make it my own, I don’t have to worry about messing up an original car.’
“This car was already messed up, so to speak, but was really well done too; it still had a V12, it was done by a specialist, it looked to be in really nice shape, so, you know, ‘Let’s see.’”
The dealer that was selling the car happened to know Alex from Instagram already, and he was a fan of his Jaguar XK150, which is how Alex let go of that car in partial trade for the Ferrari. When he acquired the 365GT the exterior was still quite original, as were its guts. The original color was sprayed over a while ago (it was originally an aubergine-type shade, which was changed to red along the way. Alex tells me that, overall, thecar was in okay shape—not pristine, but not bad. He isn’t a fan of red cars, so the color swatch shopping began relatively soon after the purchase.
“I looked at many different colors, usually I like blues, but I was really intrigued by some of Ferrari’s grays. So I chose this particular Ferrari gray, and I took it to the bodyshop where they would give it a full-on, bare metal respray, get rid of all the old layers underneath.
“So one day when I went to check on it at the bodyshop, I saw it without the bumpers, and I was talking to the guy, saying, ‘Damn, that car looks really, really sexy without the bumpers.’ The front bumper especially, always looked to me like something you wouldn’t call a ‘complete success.’ They were just too big for the car, the proportions weren’t right. I think it had to do with the American legislation which changed in ’68, so they needed to be thicker than on the previous model, than on the 330. The other thing which I though which was never really perfect on the 365GT were the rear lights, those three round lights in a row with a squared-off chrome surround.
As it turns out, the third light is actually just a reflector, so only the first two of the back lights are really operational. We saw that when we took them off, and I said, ‘What if we take off the square chrome surround, and we take off the reflectors, and we only put those two working lights back on?’ It completely changed the character of the car.”
After closing the holes for the bumpers, paring down on the lighting setup, Alex kept going on the exterior modifications. A set of GTB side indicators followed (mounted on the front of Alex’s 365GT) to continue the discrete lighting setup from the rear. It’s a very sexy looking car, and unless you know your Ferraris it’s a bit tricky to place; the car itself isn’t common by any means, and this one is unique among them.
“It’s funny because I’ve had so many people stop me, and they say, ‘What is it? It almost looks like a GTB, but it’s not a GTB. It’s not a 250, it’s not a 330…’ That’s what I like. I didn’t want to do a GTB copy. I wanted to subtract certain pieces from the factory look, make it as pure as it could be.
“This year, the most recent step came when I added the plexi headlight covers, and those are original plexi-covers, I think they were optional back then. But they didn’t have any surrounds, and it was really hard to find clamps that fit those. So again, I took a little bit of inspiration from the 275 GTB and said ‘Let’s do these chrome surrounds,’ which had to be made bespoke. They took ages, and unfortunately cost quite a lot, but I’m happy with them.”
The interior was in need of some restoration to match the new paint, and it provided another avenue for modifications. The original seats were vinyl, which Alex isn’t too keen on, so he knew that first and foremost that the new interior would have to be made in genuine Ferrari leather, and since the car’s color had changed on the outside, it was only right to pick a good complement for the interior. “I wanted to choose a color that goes even better with this brownish-gray, which is cognac. So I redid the front seats and the back seats in cognac, and the carpets to go with it. But back then I didn’t do the dash, didn’t do the tunnel in the middle, until the next round of its restoration where we attacked the engine, when I adopted a ‘screw it’ attitude to it. At this point I wasn’t against adding things that weren’t originally fitted to the car. For instance, I wanted to have air-conditioning, which existed back then as an option, but the 365 didn’t have it when I bought it.
“So we put air-con in there, and for that we had to actually take out the entire dashboard. Fortunately we could use the original panels that were already prepped for the Ferrari air-con, but the dashboard had to come out anyway so I said ‘screw it’ again. I wanted to make it really luxurious, I really wanted to make it mine. So we decided to cover the dashboard in leather as well, which looked really nice, but then made it such that the tunnel didn’t look right, so that too got a leather wrap.
“Soon enough it became a situation of ‘Well, if everything’s covered in leather now, we might as well do the hatch dashboard in the rear, and also the A-pillars.’ So we basically covered every square inch in leather that could be covered in leather; you still see the original shapes, but it feels so much more luxurious, and so much more than the plastic dashboard and cover, which even back then I think didn’t look that great in these cars.”
Asking Alex if he has further plans to modify it, he’s quick to explain that—surprise—he does have a few things in mind, like paring down the rear end to having just one brake light on either side. “To me, the rear from the GTB is just the prettiest rear of any Ferrari. I’ve already sourced two original GTB lights in the States, from California, and they are being shipped over as we speak. So I think I’m going to convert to those GTB brake lights.”
“But, aesthetically I think the car is pretty perfect now. The biggest changes came when we tackled the engine at the end of last year and into this year. The problem with the Jaguar engine when I got it was it’s size. It’s a 5.3 instead of a 4.4, and it tended to overheat. The car already had the scoop on the hood, but it was still getting a little too warm on occasion. It had six double Weber carbs fitted, but they were so hard to adjust, so by the time you had adjusted carb number six, carb number one was already acting up again.
“I said to myself, ‘Well. do I put a small-block Chevy in there? Do I try to find another Ferrari engine?’ I actually did a lot of research, but original Colombo engines are very, very hard to find. And even if I found it, it’s not the original engine anyway, so it would never be a matching-numbers car.
Alex turned to his garage in Monaco, whose work he’s quick to praise: Garage des Moneghetti, and its young owner and master mechanic Jérôme de Salvador. “They are really young, and absolutely incredible, and they’re working on a lot of original Ferraris in there for owners here. They asked me, ‘Why don’t we take the V12 it has and play around with it some more before swapping,” and they suggested to convert it to fuel injection. That wasn’t really on my radar, but I said, ‘Why not? Let’s give it a shot. If you think you can do it.’”
So the rebuilt the motor from scratch. In the process, they converted it to use a fuel injection system with a custom-made setup, and to retain a bit more of a Ferrari look to the revamped engine bay they also added the trumpet intakes along the top. There are several hundred hours in this engine work at this point, and Alex tells me he went roughly four times over his budget. With insulation added and the cooling system further tuned, the car runs just fine in hot summer weather now, and he says it’s almost possible to daily drive it, should you care to.
“You can cruise with it in modern traffic. But you can really push it too—it really goes quite well for such a heavy car.”
He says with all the money he’s put into the car he could have definitely purchased a matching-numbers example, and if he’d known that at the start he probably wouldn’t have embarked on this odyssey. There’s no changing time though, and he even has some more plans for it.
“I’m not totally done yet, because I really, really want to make it perfect. While financially it was more than I’d planned for, on the other hand I have a truly unique car now.So from that point of view, I definitely got what I wanted. I’m going to keep it for a long time, and if I get another high-end car, I’m going to use this as a more or less as the daily driver. My wife can drive it without any issues, and you know, she likes classic cars, but she doesn’t like the headaches that come with so many of them, but this car isn’t like those. It’s pretty perfect.”