What does it take to become Gianni Agnelli? No prizes awarded to those who guessed unimaginable wealth, that’s obvious. But next, you’d think of his exceptional taste in women, and we’d be foolish to disagree. Finally, you’re probably picturing his watch, worn over his shirt cuff; Agnelli or “L’Avvocato” as he was commonly known, without a doubt edged the term “sprezzatura” into the Italian vernacular. But arguably, his relationship with Ferrari (as a customer) was his most inimitable trait of all…
There are a number of special Ferrari’s which were transformed from ideas in Agnelli’a mind to real-life cars, however to talk through them all in detail would take days, if not weeks. But one of his cars is so unique that to ignore it altogether would be a crime; the exceptionally rare Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale, nicknamed the “Tre Posti” for its unusual three-seater configuration. (No the McLaren F1 was not the first).
Whilst “L’Avvocato” was never involved in the design of the 365 P, it did enough to catch his eye and for an order to be placed. The car (or cars, only two were ever built) was in fact created by US Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti Sr. and Pininfarina’s Aldo Brovarone, two names which need no introduction when discussing anything Ferrari. Unlike many of the unique cars in Agnelli’s collection, Enzo Ferrari actually refused to build the “Tre Posti” even with a two-seater configuration, for he was a traditionalist and believed that a mid-engined 4.4l V12 car would be too dangerous for the roads. However, Chinetti Sr. was in love with this concept, and hence the car was set to become reality with the help of Pininfarina.
The cars were each built upon the frame of a 365/P2, with chassis 8971 finished in Garenia White paint and completed in September 1966. It doesn’t take a die-hard Ferrari fan to notice the striking similarities between the “Tre Posti” and the famed Dino 206 GT. Due to such resemblance, the 365 P is commonly referred to as both the scaled-up version as well as the predecessor of the original Dino.
Destined to be a show car, chassis 8971 was first presented to the public at the Paris Motor Show in October that same year, before travelling around the world until May 1967 when Luigi Chinetti acquired the car. Remember, the car was never officially signed off by Ferrari, and so the “Tre Posti” was invoiced for the 365/P2 racing chassis with modifications, and by Pininfarina for the bodywork. The price at the time was reported as $21,160. Around that same time, Lamborghini unveiled its own mid-engined V12 supercar in the form of the Miura – it wasn’t until 1973 that Ferrari finally followed suit, with the release of the 365GT4 Berlinetta Boxer. Years later, Chinetti’s son, Luigi Jr. would go on to say “had Ferrari built it (the “Tre Posti”), nobody would have ever given a second thought to the Miura”.
Chinetti Sr. went on to sell the car twice. First to a New York investment banker for $26,000 in 1967 who could never love the 380bhp car the way Chinetti had. In fact, his complaints were aplenty, ranging from it being too difficult to park to the large sunroof and lack of A/C meaning the car would heat to unbearable temperatures in the sun. Soon enough he buckled, and returned to Chinetti, trading the “Tre Posti” for a 365GT 2+2 – with air conditioning. The car was sold a second time, for a brief stint with John D.Rockefeller’s granddaughter, although little information is known about its ownership with the family. The car finally returned to Chinetti in 1969, remaining in the family ever since. In 2014 chassis 8971 went under the hammer at Gooding & Co., and despite receiving a high bid of $23,500,000, the car failed to meet its reserve price, staying in the hands of the Chinetti’s.
The other Berlinetta Speciale – chassis 8815 – was commissioned by “L’Avvocato” himself, after seeing Chinetti’s at the Paris Motor Show. The car was delivered in metallic grey, with a painted black line along its side. The two cars were actually very different; Agnelli’s was fitted with a rear spoiler, and underwent two colour changes throughout its life, first to metallic blue followed by a more traditional red. Agnelli’s car was also fitted with a hydraulic clutch to help with changing gear – his left leg sustained a serious injury following a post-party car accident – nevertheless he put 10,000km on the Berlinetta Speciale, proving he didn’t believe in keeping garage queens.
This car – unlike the first – has remained within a private collection all of its life, however it’s currently two years in to an extremely thorough restoration in the hands of Autoficcina Bonini, Cremonini Classic, Brandoli, and Kidston SA. To provide the most accurate restoration, the team is consulting closely with original Pininfarina design head Leonardo Fioravanti. We can only dream of seeing this mythical car back on the roads again, identical to when Agnelli first took delivery back in 1966…