When American businessman Bill Harrah was turned down by Enzo Ferrari after requesting the marque to build a four-wheel drive car, he took the matter into his own hands and came up with his own conception.
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Bill Harrah was a very well-known businessman in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. He founded Harrah’s Hotel and Casinos in Reno and Las Vegas as well as the Navada Gaming Control, taking advantage of the rise of gambling throughout the country at the time.
Harrah was also an avid car collector, and was known to have almost 1,500 collected vehicles, which would help fill the National Automobile Museum after Harrah’s death in 1978. Among his collection included an Elvis Presley Cadillac, actor James Dean’s Mercury from the movie ‘Rebel Without A Cause’, and a gold-plated DeLorean.
Looking for a fast, four-wheel drive vehicle to guarantee all-weather transport from his Reno businesses to other properties in Lake Tahoe, he seeked the help of Enzo Ferrari. When Ferrari declined to take on such a project, Harrah decided upon creating his own four-wheel drive Ferrari.
After being declined by Mr. Ferrari, Harrah took a Ferrari 365 GT and came up with the idea to fuse the front end of the car onto that of a 1969 Jeep Wagoneer, thus providing the performance as well as the four-wheel drive practicality.
The vehicle was built by Harrah’s own in-house engineering team, with parts sourced from Ferrari, while using both the 4.4-L V12 as well as the transmission and front end of the Ferrari 365 GT. Harrah himself even cheekily replaced the 365’s prancing horse logo with that of a prancing kangaroo.
The finished product was that of a truly unique, if not strange looking machine, but a quick machine for its time. With a 0-60 mph (0-100 kph) time of 9.4 seconds, and a top speed of 125 mph (201 kph).
After using the initial Jerrari for a number of years as his own personal car, Harrah was becoming frustrated at being instantly recognised wherever he travelled in his unique car. Looking for something more discreet, he took advantage of an accident a member of his sales staff had in a Ferrari 365 GTC/4 and set about building a second Jerrari.
This time, a 1977 model of the Jeep Wagoneer was used, and while the complete body of the Wagoneer was used this time, the poor AMC V8 was replaced with the engine from the crashed GTC/4. The result was a Jeep Wagoneer with a Ferrari V12 engine capable of proving power up to 365 bhp on the road, with a top speed of 140 mph (225 kph).
Other features on the 1977 model included a Ferrari steering wheel, a radar detector, windscreen wipers and a computer system under the front bumper that alerted the driver when ice was beginning to form on the road.
The Jerrari Models Today
Both Jerrari models still exist today. The 1969 model has been through various auction sites and was last seen on eBay in 2008. Bidding exceeded $21,000 for the car, despite the iconic Ferrari engine now being replaced with a small-block Chevrolet V8.
The 1977 model now is on permanent display at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.
Written by Cóilín Higgins.
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