You think the McLaren F1 was the first? Just look at this prancing horse…
When the sentence three-seater supercar with a driving position in the center comes to mind, there is one car that pops up straight in our heads. The Mclaren F1. The 90s supercar that revolutionized the game, a V12 supercar that brought state-of-the-art styling and performance to the table, and coined the term hypercar. A main unusual aspect of the ground-breaking Mclaren F1 was its center seating, which gave the race car for the road a massive weight distribution advantage that helped it immensely on and off the circuit. Along with two seats on the side of the prominent middle seat, the Porsche 959 and the Mclaren f1 are still the fastest cars in the world with more than two seats. The eccentric middle seating position was unknown for its day and quite quirky for such a car, however, it became one of the most impressive and distinctive parts of the Mclaren F1. It might seem as it was the only car to have that seating configuration, but it wasn’t the only one.
It is safe to say that most analog cars, especially Ferrari’s are unique masterpieces in their own way, that stand out from the crowd, yet, the Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale is something else. Definitely not your traditional and typical type of car from the 1960s, but that’s what sets the 365 P Berlinetta Speciale apart from every other V12 Ferrari. And in many ways and more, the 365 P changed the car world indirectly in numerous ways and paved the path for all Ferraris in the upcoming years. It kicked off its legacy by being the first road-going mid-engined V12 Ferrari, a layout we all love and recognize today. The prancing horse didn’t just stop there, it was also designed with a distinctive three-abreast seating layout, that you may know was used later on by the Mclaren F1. Besides, the 365 P Berlinetta Speciale still has more to boast about, whether it was its impressive racecar upbringings or how it passed through some of the most famous hands, this Ferrari is like no other.
Luigi Chinelli Jr. behind the wheel of Tre Posti © Lyndon McNeil, Mixte Magazine
Yes, it wears the Ferrari name with pride, but Enzo Ferrari was not proud of this creation at first. The founder of the Maranello-based company liked to keep things traditional, and he did not think a mid-engined V12 road car would work out, Ferrari deemed it too dangerous and didn’t want a part in it. With Enzo out of the question, Pininfarina and Luigi Chinetti Jr. took up the project and went cracking. Luigi Chinetti Jr. was a successful racing driver who convinced Enzo Ferrari to make him the first Ferrari dealer in the United States of America, Chinetti sold and raced countless Ferrari’s, making himself a household name in both the motorsport and automotive world. Chinetti alongside Pinninfarina were looking to create a Ferrari that would not only turn the car world upside down, but change it for the better.
Nicknamed “Tre Posti”, meaning three-seater in Italian, the Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale utilized a donor racing chassis and the three-seat configuration with a central driving position. It was the first purpose-built, uncompromised, V12 mid-engined, road-going Ferrari. Its design that will turn heads everywhere it goes is based on the already mid-engine existing road-going Dino, you can see the front bonnet, nose, and headlight shape resemble the V6 sports car. Its competition chassis was constructed out of aluminum, as the driver is situated in the center with the other seats slightly pushed back. The center-mounted windshield wiper was used from the race cars at the time, and even though most of its technology was racing-derived, it still had the luxurious comforts we all wish to have in our road cars. Leather seats, carpets, a Nardi steering wheel, chrome bumpers, and a long sunroof completed the 356 P Berlinetta Speciale. Sergio Pininfarina was the head of this project, even though the boss himself could not comprise a mid-engine V12 concept, Luigi Chinetti and the Head of Fiat Gianni Agnelli were very interested in this car and were also looking to acquire one as well.
Agnelli was so impressed by the state-of-the-art 365 P Berlinetta Speciale, that he commanded Pininfariana to make him not one, but two, which also extended the model count into only two for the entire world. It is quite evident that such a car, with only two made, would also make it a pocket-emptying car as well. In fact, in 2014, it was set to be sold for a whopping $23.5 million, still, Luigi decided he couldn’t let go of it. The car world could not keep their mouths shut about the “Tre Posti”, I mean, who wouldn’t want to talk about a 380bhp 4.4L race-derived mid-engine V12 Ferrari in the 1960s. We have to remember the era it was in, this was a whole other world. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what it’s like to drive the three-seater long-tailed Ferrari, as they were barely even driven. Although, there is one story from a New York banker that was able to acquire and own one of these rolling art pieces. After buying the interesting Ferrari for $26,000 in 1967, he soon enough realized that it was a hassle to park. Another con of the racing-inspired 365 P Berlinetta Speciale was the no A/C combined with the large sunroof that was the car’s full length, which meant that not only was it stuffy and hot, but all sun rays coming into the car made it worse. Tre Posti was out of the bankers’ garage as he traded it in for a 365GT.
Luigi Chinetti Jr. never saw the Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale as a weird car, he saw it as an utterly amazing mechanical piece of art. Without this car, the Mclaren F1 might have never had a center seating position, without this car Ferrari would have waited a while to accept a mid-engine V12, without this car many things would be different today. This car is low, wide, elongated, and like nothing else, even Enzo himself can admit that the V12 sound that comes out of those quad-exhaust pipes is knee-weakening.
We all forget about the underdogs in the car industry, the cars that truly changed the game but aren’t given the credit and recognition they deserve. While Ferrari did not create any road cars in this type of design specification, the beautiful sloping and priceless Berlinetta Speciale did influence the marque’s future styling and concepts. You can thank the “Tre Posti” for giving us the 365 GT/4 Berlinetta Boxer.