OWNING A FERRARI was never on my radar,” says Tom Welsh of West Chester, Pennsylvania. “To me, they were cars I only read about in magazines.”
That was before Welsh and wife Sylvia spotted this 1972 365 GTC/4 (s/n 15319) at the Franklin Mint Antique Festival in 1996. At the time, part of the weekend’s activities was a Kruse Auction.
“Arriving late in the day with my wife, I couldn’t help but take notice of a red Ferrari sitting in the retention parking lot,” Welsh recalls. “When we walked up to it, I spotted the keys in the ignition. I was interested in seeing what the mythical Ferrari engine looked like but didn’t know how to open the hood, so I figured that at least I could hear what it sounded like. I slid in, turned the key, and it started with that terrific 12-cylinder blast.”
The maneuver drew the attention of an auction worker, who asked if the owner knew Welsh was in the car. At a loss for a reasonable explanation, he replied, “I was thinking of buying it.”
After a quick look under the hood, the Welshes went on their merry way to enjoy the rest of the show. On their departure, they decided to take one last look at the Ferrari. When they did so, they were spotted by the owner—a dealer who had five vehicles that didn’t sell at auction that day. The dealer needed to lighten his load, so he made them an incredibly reasonable offer.
Welsh’s immediate thought was, “This is my opportunity to own and drive a V12 Ferrari.” After a quick consultation with his wife, Tom accepted the offer. The dealer accepted a temporary check and presented a euphoric Welsh with the keys.
THE EUPHORIA OF OWNING A FERRARI was short-lived, however. On their journey home from the show, the 45,000-mile GTC/4’s brakes failed. “I had to use the emergency brake at each stop,” Welsh recalls.
This rather sobering experience sidelined the car as soon as it entered the garage. But Welsh is a hands-on hot rodder at heart, and wrenching on his cars is part of his DNA. He wasted no time pulling the calipers, then quickly had them rebuilt with stainless-steel inserts.
While this repair allowed him to get the car back on the road, it also served up a fresh dose of reality: Ferrari ownership would require a different mechanical skill set. “I’ve always handled the maintenance on my cars,” Welsh explains. “As a result, I began a crash course with books and [later] online help, which included the 365 GTC/4 website (www.365gtc4.com).” As his knowledge grew, he realized the assistance of someone intimately familiar with the Prancing Horse brand would be crucial to keeping the car in fighting shape.
That person turned out to be Charlie Pierson, a longtime Ferrari mechanic who lived near Welsh. Once they began to dig under the hood, Pierson pointed out numerous mechanical and cosmetic issues that needed to be addressed. Visually, the most noticeable problem was the Ferrari’s incomplete air boxes, which required new parts to be fabricated. Less obvious were the missing emissions components. These were not the easiest parts to source, but they were eventually gathered from a number of places and installed—purely for a factory-correct appearance.
As Pierson and Welsh worked their way through the engine bay, it became clear the cylinder heads had seen better days and were begging for a refresh. Since they needed to be completely rebuilt, Pierson suggested it wouldn’t hurt to bump up the engine’s performance a few notches. That goal was achieved by regrinding the cams to hotter P6 spec and rebuilding the Webers with larger jets to handle the reworked cams. With an eye on long-term reliability, the pair replaced the water pump, timing chain, and tensioner pulley, and upgraded the Dynoplex ignition’s internals.
Although the GTC/4 had come with a low purchase price, the Ferrari’s true cost was starting to add up. Even the glorious exhaust sound that had captivated Welsh was in need of some attention. “A complete exhaust system had to be located, and I was lucky to find the last remaining Ansa mufflers available at the time,” he recalls. “I subsequently welded the originals and saved the new set. At the same time, I also had an extra set of resonators constructed from stainless stock along with muffler-bypass pipes.”
Turning to the car’s cosmetics, Welsh removed two black 308 mirrors installed by a previous owner, installed the correct driver’s-side mirror, and had the doors repainted. He also sourced a single Borrani wire wheel, since the car came without a spare, and a full set of magnesium Cromodoras for track use.
THE LARGE, HEAVY GTC/4 isn’t your typical track-day toy, but joining the Ferrari Club of America soon after buying the car exposed Welsh to the racing side of the Ferrari world. He first drove the car on track at Mosport in 1998.
“The handling of the car is quite neutral, with a slight roll,” says Welsh. “It adheres to the track with a good amount of grip due to the larger tires [225/60R-15s versus the stock 205/70R-15s] mounted on the Cromodora wheels.”
Welsh didn’t stop there, though. He credits Chris Current, a successful Sports Car Club of America SRF racer and FCA Chief Judge, for pushing him further by inviting him to crew Current’s race car. Welsh enjoyed the experience, and in 2000, after an event at Virginia International Raceway, he couldn’t resist the temptation any longer and enrolled in racing school. After numerous months honing his driving skills, he received his SCCA license.
In 2004, the Welshes trailered the Ferrari to the FCA National Meet in Monterey, California. Tom had been looking forward to running the GTC/4 at Laguna Seca after having watched numerous historic races at that venue. On his first day there, while doing some preliminary maintenance on the car, he noticed a slight valve tap, but unfortunately didn’t regard it as a problem. On the second day, disaster struck.
“By noon, after five good laps, I was headed up the hill to the Corkscrew when the noisy valve I had noticed earlier came into contact with a piston,” he recalls. “It was not pretty. I had to be towed to the pits.”
The engine damage was terminal, but Welsh decided to turn a bad situation around and end up with a better car. He opted to leave the Ferrari on the West Coast for repairs, and after receiving several recommendations he handed it over to Francorchamps of America, in Costa Mesa.
When the shop cracked open the engine, it was clear the block had taken the brunt of the damage. The sensible course of action was to replace it, so they quickly found a 400 short block and transferred over most of the 365’s top end. The new block increased the engine’s displacement from the stock 4,390 cc to 4,823 cc.
After a complete rebuild, FoA sent the engine to nearby Carobu Engineering for dyno testing. The result was 385 horsepower and 368 ft-lb of torque with air boxes and mufflers in place, a 65-hp increase over the stock U.S.-spec GTC/4. To handle the added power, a Kevlar clutch and new pressure plate were fitted when the engine was reinstalled in the car.
The entire process took almost a year. Upon completion, a private carrier brought the car, and the original block, back to Pennsylvania. Welsh was eager to hit the track and see if the new engine measured up.
“The added torque and power could easily be felt,” he reports. “It gave me the ability to pass cars like late-model Testarossas while on track. One of my goals was to pass a Daytona, which I was able to do at Watkins Glen. This was not possible with the original engine.”
Besides its engine, the GTC/4’s mechanicals remain surprisingly stock for a car used for track days. The only go-fast accommodations are slotted brake rotors with Ferodo pads and two adjustable Koni dampers in the rear that replace the original self-leveling shocks. (The other two rear shocks—the model has four in total—remain stock.)
WELSH’S FERRARI HAS SEEN many track days in the years since, as well as numerous car shows and FCA events. In 2012, with the paint on the doors starting to fade, he decided it was time for a respray. “I contacted Denny’s Corvette Restos in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, since they had previously restored my ’67 Corvette,” he says. “They were able to match the original Rosso Rubino paint on the door panels with the help of a spectrometer analyzer. The end result was a perfect match to the factory paint.”
The Cromodora wheels received a fresh coat of lacquer, then Welsh turned his attention to the car’s interior, which was also showing signs of wear. After interviewing a number of local upholsterers, he settled on Gary Maucher Auto Upholstery in Ivyland, Pennsylvania, which has outfitted many cars that have appeared at the Amelia Island and Pebble Beach concours. Welsh dropped off the Ferrari in September 2013 and visited every few weeks to watch the interior slowly vanish and reappear. The meticulous Maucher carefully sourced new materials from Ferrari’s original suppliers.
When the GTC/4 was finished in early 2014, Welsh picked up where he left off, with more FCA events and more track days. He even recently returned to the scene of the crime with another trip to Laguna Seca. This time, however, Welsh is happy to report the Ferrari behaved impeccably.