A Jerrari in a Race with a Helicopter

Bill Harrah loved to drive fast cars. He’d figured out how to travel between his Reno and South Lake Tahoe locations easily and quickly with the original 1969 Jerrari he created. After all, this combination of a Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 with a Jeep Wagoneer posted a top speed of 125 mph in a Road & Track magazine performance test and offered him everything he needed to handle mountains and turns, let alone flat roads.

Jerrari formerly belonging to William F. Harrah, at the National Automobile Museum, Reno Nevada

Six years after creating the original Jerrari, the personal security and safety of Mr. Harrah became extremely important. The original Jerrari was extremely recognizable, so Harrah challenged his Harrah’s Automobile Collection (H.A.C.) engineering team again. He wanted a second Jerrari that possessed the quality and performance of the first but was less noticeable.

The 1977 Jerrari looked like a stock Jeep Wagoneer on the outside. Unless the car pulled up alongside and the Ferrari rumble could be heard, you wouldn’t notice any difference.

However, under the skin were a few interesting modifications.

Awesome Ferrari has an Accident and a Legend is Born

Harrah located a classic Ferrari 365 GTC/4 in San Francisco and purchased it for his collection. The overly ambitious salesman transporting the car to the dealership in Reno, wrecked it. After dealing with the salesman, Harrah decided to shoehorn the Ferrari engine from the damaged car into his Jeep. The Ferrari mill is a DOHC V-12 engine that is physically much longer than the Jeep 360 cubic inch AMC V-8 engine. The added length did not allow for a traditional radiator-plus-fan arrangement, so dual radiators were mounted on each side of the engine under the large hood of the Wagoneer. Oil coolers from a helicopter were used to route cool air from under the bumper.

The drivetrain sent 365 horsepower through a five-speed transmission that came with the Ferrari engine. The H.A.C. engineers built an adapter to mate the transmission to the stock Quadra-Trac transfer case to retain the four-wheel drive feature.

With the goal of keeping the car looking like a stock Jeep Wagoneer, the only body modification was lengthening the front sheet metal 2 ½ inches to allow the engine and offset radiators to fit.

Additionally, the other exterior modifications were wipers on the headlights and an ice alert system under the bumper to let the driver know of frozen roads. Plus, from the rear of the car, four ANSA exhaust tips from the original Ferrari expelled gas fumes out the tailpipe.

The package was completed with custom emblems and personalized Jerrari license plates.

Inside, the interior boasted a Ferrari steering wheel sitting in front of a custom cluster of VDO brand instrument gauges. An aftermarket radar detector on the A-pillar and power mirrors were the only other additions.

An Unaware Salesman Makes a Big Mistake

According to one of the engineer’s at H.A.C., an unsuspecting helicopter salesman came to Reno with a sure-fire solution to Bill Harrah’s desire to get to South Lake Tahoe more quickly.

“Let’s make a deal,” Harrah said.

“You fly your helicopter, and I’ll drive my old Jeep. If you get to Tahoe before me, I’ll buy your helicopter.”

Top speed of the 1977 Jerrari was reported to be 140 mph, and it could do 150 mph on downhill stretches. The unsuspecting helicopter salesman didn’t know that!

Harrah loved to make bets like this, and the one he’d made with Brian and Richard.

Brian Burnett and Bill Harrah seemed to be cut from the same cloth when it came to putting Ferrari engines in other cars. The next post tells the story of the Deucari and how it won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award.

Can you figure out what two cars were combined to make the Deucari without checking on Google?

Send us your guess in the comment section below. You could win a free copy of our upcoming book on Ferrari of Los Gatos.

Photo:  Wikipedia User: Jaydec

By commenting you agree to abide by our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 thoughts on “A Jerrari in a Race with a Helicopter