The ultimate expression of Ferrari’s fabulous line of V12 sports cars, the 365 GTB/4 “Daytona” was the world’s fastest production car at the time of its launch. Capable of over 170 mph, it is surely destined to remain a front-ranking supercar for the foreseeable future.

Although there had been no official open-top version of its predecessor, the favorable reception of Luigi Chinetti’s 275 GTB-based NART Spyder no doubt influenced Ferrari’s decision to produce a convertible Daytona. Again the work of Pininfarina, the latter was first seen at the Paris Salon in 1969, with deliveries commencing in 1971.

Just 1,279 Berlinetta models and 122 Spyders had been made when production ceased in 1973. The small number of Spyders left many would-be customers disappointed, a situation that led, inevitably, to a number of coupés being converted to Spyders.

In 1978, right-hand-drive chassis 15951 was converted from a closed GT to open GTS configuration by Richard Straman Coachworks in Newport, CA. Straman was well known for his exceptional quality of work and use of Ferrari factory parts, and 15951 was completed to the most exacting standard.

In 2008, the Daytona was imported to the U.K., still with fewer than than 6,000 miles showing. In 2011 it had an overhaul at marque specialists DK Engineering, followed by a detailing by Foskers Ferrari Specialists.

Virtually indistinguishable from a genuine factory Spyder, 15951 represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire a well-maintained and little-used soft-top Daytona at a fraction of the cost of an original.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spyder Conversion
Number Produced:1,279 coupes, 122 original Spyders, around 100 conversions
Original List Price:Conversion ran $20,000 to nearly $50,000, depending on options and period.
Tune Up Cost:$3,500
Chassis Number Location:On frame above right front spring mount
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America

This car, Lot 160, sold for $320,929, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Collectors Motor Cars Sale at Goodwood, U.K., on September 15, 2012.

When you make your bucket list, save a line for this: Take a late-night trip on a warm summer night in a Daytona Spyder with the top down. Start about midnight after the traffic has thinned and distractions are at a minimum. Take a highway, because driving a Daytona in town is more work than fun, and then spend the next couple of hours driving to nowhere, absorbing the sounds and feel of the best open Grand Touring Ferraris ever built. It will be a highlight of your life.

Chances are, buying one of the factory-built Daytona Spyders just isn’t in your future. Only 122 of them were built, and they sell for a multiple of the Daytona coupe’s value. If you could afford one, you probably would be reluctant to add a couple hundred miles to the odometer, and even if that didn’t stop you, insurance companies take a dim view of midnight drives in million-dollar cars. Most people who want a Daytona Spyder are stopped by one or more of these problems. About 100 people found a different solution — they cut the top off a coupe and made it into a Spyder.

Cut Daytonas — or conversions, as they are called — came on the scene in the late 1970s. Daytona Spyders had jumped from an average of around $34,000 in 1976 to around $70,000 in 1978 and were still climbing. Good Daytona coupes, on the other hand, were around $30,000 in 1978. A converted Daytona was worth more than a coupe — but much less than an original Spyder.

I’m sure you’d get an argument on who did the first Daytona Spyder conversion, but it’s a safe bet the idea came from a guy with a rolled coupe. At the time, the estimate to convert a coupe to a Spyder was around $20,000. The paint and body work time involved in repairing a rolled car would be about the same as converting it to a Spyder, so he made it a Spyder. If he was lucky, he might have made some money on the deal. The economics were the same for most any coupe needing paint or body repair. If you had a rough Daytona coupe in the late 1970s and early 1980s, converting it to a Spyder was the thing to do.

Later is usually better

There were many dubious conversions with obvious tells and flexi-flyer chassis, but at the top shops, quality and price evolved with time. As conversions became more popular, owners and shops became more sophisticated.

A rear-window defogger switch left in the dash was common in an early conversion but disappeared in later cars. Early cars and cheap conversions (hopefully) have an odd brace here or there to stiffen the chassis. The top-quality conversions mimic original Spyders with proper bracing, factory-style steel inner fender panels and steel rear bulkheads replacing the coupe’s fiberglass pieces. Each upgrade added to the price, which got up to near $50,000 for a top job, effectively killing the conversion business.

In the Ferrari world, the social opinion of Spyder conversions is ambivalence. They are not eligible for judging at most Ferrari concours, but that is more a technical issue rather than a shun of the cars. The only one who really seems to have an opinion about conversions is Ferrari. They once famously muscled an auction house to stop the auction of a conversion, but Ferrari seems less interested in that kind of activity these days.

A conversion done in 1978 would be one of the first cars done. Straman did excellent work, but this car would not be his best work. The story on how and why Daytona 15951 made it to Straman’s would be fascinating.

Correctness isn’t a big issue on conversions, but I’ve never seen a bumper bar like the one on this front bumper and I hope to never see one again. The side mirrors are totally incorrect, as are the front side marker lights and the carpet binding.

This car had a recent $5,000 detailing, yet the wire wheels are seriously rusted. The knockoffs have been so poorly rechromed that the Prancing Horse is nearly indistinguishable. These are small issues, but they do not inspire confidence.

A conversion added value to a Daytona coupe in the 1970s and 1980s. If a good coupe was $35,000, a conversion might be worth $45,000 or more. Today, a conversion will sell for just about the same price as a coupe.

Daytonas lagging behind — for now

Daytona coupes have fallen behind in the recent appreciation run of many Ferrari models. Why?

Many of the Ferrari buyers have already owned a Daytona and are looking at other options. Daytonas are great cars, with excellent reliability and reasonable service cost. It is only a matter of time before new buyers move into the market and Daytonas move up again. Daytona conversions will move in tandem and sell about the same price as an average coupe.

The $300,000–$450,000 estimate for 15951 was a telling sign. Bonhams recognized reality but wanted to leave room for magic.

The sale was near the bottom of the estimate and well behind average Daytona coupe sales. There are few nights in the U.K. for top-down driving, which may have been a factor. The seller dropped the ball by not detailing the wheels and removing the front bumper bar.

The buyer should be able to finish the job and maybe make some money. I’d say this one was well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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