GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ferrari GTO shifting mechanism

There are some whose interest in the Ferrari GTO stems from its financial value in today's world where exotic cars are portfolio items rather than objects of fun and adventure. Years ago, I ran into a fellow GTO owner in a New York-style piano bar/restaurant in Santa Monica (they even had their own version of Bobby Short) and we traded reminiscences and anecdotes focusing on our GTOs. He wanted to talk about finances--what he paid, restoration costs, what he received when he sold, its (then) current value, etc., etc.--and I wanted to talk about driving the car at full-chat on the way to 'Vegas.

As I look back on the exchange, it dawned on me that I never saw him drive his GTO; it was always in pieces undergoing restoration. When the long process was complete, he sold the car. His interest and attachment to the GTO were no less genuine than mine; the car simply provided us with a different sort of satisfaction. I wonder if he ever spends a moment savoring the gearshift action on his GTO...

What most people remember about their time behind the wheel or as a passenger in a Ferrari is the sound of the engine and the GTO--with its lack of insulation and unfiltered velocity stacks on the six, 2 bbl Weber carburetors--provides plenty of thrilling sounds to make the experience unforgettable. The thrill of speed and acceleration is greatly enhanced by these sounds and the fact that the engine is nervous and high-revving provides sensations that a Maserati, Aston-Martin or Shelby Cobra could not match. Driving the car is pure, relentless pleasure.

Though not commonly discussed, the gear change mechanism is one of the car's subtle, aesthetic components and provides a definitive aspect, of driving a GTO. Looked at one way, the DNA of the GTO brand as a mechanical design is manifest in the shifting mechanism. It is simple and straight-forward using a thin chrome lever emanating from a slotted, chrome gate and topped by a round, turned-aluminum knob. No effort whatsoever is required in moving the lever through the gate and the lightly spring-loaded action ensures that only the slightest hint from the driver to the shifter is required to send it into the next slot, which the lever seems to seek out on its own whether shifting up or down. In comparison, changing gears in a Corvette of the same period felt as though one were operating heavy equipment.

Every aspect of the GTO’s functioning seemed to have built into it an ease of operation that was designed to make any driver look like an expert and this fact, as much as the financial worth of the car as an investment, is what defines for me the essence of this extraordinary race car from Ferrari. The GTO was made to ensure success.

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