This episode of Similar Magic features a prancing horse car, the Ferrari 400.
By Robin Visser
The 400 is part of the Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 series, 400, 400i and 412. From 1972 to 1989 the car was produced, about 17 years, in other words. That's a long time in car land and a record for Ferrari. The 365 GT4 2+2, 400, 400i and 412 have virtually the same appearance. Motor-wise, of course, they are somewhat different, as evidenced by the different type designations. At Ferrari, the custom was to incorporate the displacement of one cylinder in the type designation. In this case, this also shows the continued development of the engine, but more on that later.
The Ferrari 400 shares a similarity with the Citroën SM. Both were very undervalued for a long time. Until about a decade ago, you could buy one for a turd and three marbles. By Ferrari standards it is still not a value topper, but its value is on the rise. Just like the SM, by the way, but just a little better. Surely the Ferrari brand appeals more to the imagination of wealthy collectors. Besides, Ferraris are much rarer than Citroëns. The market segment was and is also different. In short, no doubt the Ferrari 400 will leave the Citroën SM far behind in terms of value.
The undervaluation, incidentally, prompted a Facebook "meeting" with Cock, the owner of the Ferrari 400 from this episode of Similar Magic, a few years ago. Cock asked in the "Who still drives an old car?" group for suggestions on how to buy a car that was still undervalued, but would probably appreciate in value. Cock is a car restorer by trade and wanted to buy a car with it that could make a nice jump with his own labor. I of course suggested the Citroën SM, but Cock was not keen on the odd-fire engine. I still suggested that the inherent irregular ignition could be overcome with modern engine management. Cock was not to be swayed.
Increase in value
Later, during our get-together for the double test, he said he had considered a Lancia Integrale, an Alfa Romeo Montreal and a Lamborghini Espada. But a friend of his wanted to sell his Ferrari 400, and that, of course, also more than met the criterion of "underrated. Not that I have any regrets, but Cock would have seen it better in terms of appreciation. The Ferrari has become worth about 15 percent more than a comparable SM. Thereby, it seems there is hardly any supply in the restoration segment of the market. By the way, it is just as well that Cock saw better in terms of value development. In the here and now, the weather is good for a story.
On my way to the 2022 Concours d'Elégance at Soestdijk, a dark red 400 joined the queue at the same time as me. During our meeting for the double test, I learned that the color in question was Prugna. Rare as they are, especially in this relatively even rarer color, this had to be Cock. After parking, we made our first live acquaintance. Toward the end of the event, I lingered in the parking lot for a while, in part to try to snare Cock for Similar Magic. It wasn't to be, but fortunately Facebook offered a solution with a message via Messenger. So you see: social media and live contact, they can also reinforce each other.
The design of the coach, like most of the brand's cars, came from the Pininfarina studio. The then young designer Leonardo Fioravanti stood at the cradle of the model. He received his training as a mechanical engineer at the Politecnico di Milano. His major was body design and aerodynamics. In 1964, Fioravanti joined Pininfarina at the age of 26. He would work for the company for 24 years. He climbed to design director there and he collaborated on the design of all Ferrari cars from 1966 to 1986. So that includes the beautiful Dino 206 GT, 365 Daytona and 308/328/288 GTO. Also in the list is the Testarossa, for many a childhood dream that adorned the wall as a poster in the boy's room.
In 1987 Leonardo Fioravanti established his own design office in Moncalieri near Turin. From 1988 to 1991, Fioravanti worked for the Fiat Group, initially as deputy general manager of Ferrari and later as director of the Fiat and Alfa Romeo Centro Stile. From 1991, he devoted himself entirely to his own company that produced many concept cars.
The design of the 400 broke with a trend at Ferrari. The curves of the earlier Ferraris had to give way to sleek lines. This became the trend in the 1970s, as evidenced also, for example, by the designs of Giorgietto Giugiaro that went through a similar evolution. Furthermore, the fastback premise was abandoned and the trunk made its appearance. Unlike many other cars with bodies by Pininfarina, the Ferrari 400 was not finished there. The bodywork was manufactured there and completely finished. The finished bodies went to Maranelllo for assembly. A special feature of the bodywork was that the floor was fiberglass.
The interior of the 400 seats four adults. Unlike the SM, the rear seats are true armchairs. But like the SM, legroom is limited. The interior finish is luxurious, with rich use of wood and leather. Even the headliner is leather. Between the front seats is a wide rising center console with a prominent place for the gearshift or automatic selector lever. At the top of the center console are three small gauges.
The instrument cluster behind the steering wheel features two large gauges, the odometer and tachometer, and two more small gauges, one for oil pressure and one for water temperature. The ascending center console ends at four clocks, from left to right the time clock, the fuel gauge, the oil thermometer and the ammeter. The steering wheel is originally a three-spoke leather-clad sports steering wheel, but Cock, as a straightforward Nardi dealer, has fitted a Nardi steering wheel and it looks super good.
The chassis of the Ferrari 400 was based on that of the 365 GTC/4 (successor to the Daytona). It was lengthened 20 centimeters and the rear track width was widened 2 centimeters. Nevertheless, the bodywork is 20 centimeters shorter than that of the Daytona. The car is built with a tubular frame on which the body panels are mounted. A special feature of the tubes is that they are oval. This achieves higher rigidity in the bending direction that the body inherently has due to gravity or to the forces released by driving. Independent suspension all around and leveling on the rear axle combined with power steering provide the necessary comfort and handling.
It had ventilated disc brakes with a diameter of 302 mm at the front and 297 mm at the rear, again allowing this smooth 2,000-pound 12-pitter to brake fairly quickly. The 400's suspension was geared toward both comfort and sportiness. The suspension was independent with triangle wishbones, coil springs, Koni shock absorbers and front and rear stabilizer bars. The power-assisted steering was of the worm and roller type. The tires are the size 215/70 VR 16 or 240/55 VR 415.
The Ferrari 400 was powered by the Ferrari Colombo engine. That was a water-cooled 60-degree V12 engine designed by Gioacchino Colombo and his assistants Giuseppe Busso and Luigi Bazzi. The design took Formula One rules into account. The engine has a long history. In ever-evolving form, the engine was used in various Ferraris between 1947 and 1988. The Colombo-V12 also had a successor, the Lampredi-V12. The Colombo engine outlived the Lampredi. Of course, as chief of engine development at Ferrari, Aurelio Lampredi did share responsibility for its further development. Aurelio Lampredi, by the way, has previously come by in this column as the designer of the Fiat-V6 from the 130.
The centers of the bores of the Colombo engine were placed 90 millimeters apart with an eye to the future. This is generous and this allowed another increase in engine capacity. Development of the Colombo engine continued long after Colombo was replaced by Aurelio Lampredi as engine designer. Although the Lampredi-V12 was quite valuable to the company, it was Colombo's engine that propelled Ferrari to the forefront of high-performance cars in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the different types, the V12 engine produced 310 to 340 horsepower. That was not a step up each time. With the transition from the 365 Daytona to the 365 GT4 2+2, horsepower still increased from 310 to 340. With the transition to the 400, although the volume grew from 4.4 liters to 4.8 liters, the power remained 340 horsepower. In terms of power, however, the transition from the 400 with carburetors to the 400i with Bosch K Jetronic injection was notable. In fact, with it, power went down to 310 horsepower. The engine had to be able to meet the increasingly stringent American emissions standards, which came at the expense of power. With the 412, the engine volume increased further to 4.9 liters and power returned to 340 hp.
Controversial among Ferrari purists was that starting with the 400, the car became available with an automatic in addition to a five-speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission would not be Ferrari style. The gearbox came from General Motors. The market dictated and most Ferrari's 400, 400i and 412i were equipped with an automatic transmission. The manual version is slightly faster, reaching about 245 km/h. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h takes about 7 seconds.
Production ceased in 1989 with no immediate successor launched. The concept 2+2 with V12 engine up front returned in 1992 with the 456. Today, the Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2, 400, 400i and 412 are becoming more and more popular. Of course, this is only natural with a beautifully lined car coming from Ferrari. Added to the low production total of 2907, this means that the value will continue to rise for some time to come.
Stretching your legs
Cock lives and works under the smoke of the Botlek area on the island of Voorne-Putten. On Sundays you can safely shoot off a cannon there and thus let cars stretch their legs. The roads are mostly straight with some slight curves, fine conditions for a GT. Well, fine conditions for the SM, a little less for the Ferrari. You see, there are quite a few speed bumps in the roads. Not those short high ones, but those long ones: high enough to stop the Ferrari 400. But not the SM. Cock noticed this immediately behind the wheel. Driving over thresholds is really different from his Ferrari.
I had informed Cock that the SM had already been driven warm on the way to Voorne-Putten. This did not fall on deaf ears. Cock had the momentum going right away. He took the threshold more and more SM-worthy. Cock liked the way the bike picked up. That invited him to pedal nicely. Unfortunately I didn't think of the open door about the odd-fire engine, but the non-verbal communication told me enough. With the Ferrari, you feel every pebble on the road. Not annoying, because that's where the 2 tons of mass does its bit, but in road contact. Cock mentioned that this was very different with the SM. The advantage of not having to brake at plateaus is also comfort as far as Cock is concerned.
What Cock was less enthusiastic about was the steering. He had a firm grip on the steering wheel instead of letting the Diravi do its job. It did get better as the ride went on, but it was no love. Cock prefers a little more resistance when steering. That gives him more feeling. Later in the Ferrari, I would notice what he meant. Used to the SM, I find it a bit heavy to handle. The 400 kilos more also contributes to this. The Ferrari 400 is really a lot of car to drive. Cock also likes the interior of the SM. Only the clockwork doesn't appeal to him. I told Cock that the clockwork is one of the most praised parts of the SM. Cock has more with the clockwork of the Ferrari. Although very different, I really love that one too.
The purchase of the Ferrari was a fluke for Cock. As mentioned, was able to buy it from a friend. The price was just right, but that was not the only thing. Cock himself, together with the owner friend, had completely overhauled the engine. That was necessary, the car has had a long string of owners. The car started its life in the desert of some oil state. Cock noted that so it also has dual air conditioning, both front and rear. It also has a sunroof for some fresh air from above, a not really obvious option when air conditioning is also available. The car was once part of the collection in Hoevelaken after its time in the desert. That did have one advantage. It was and is not a run-down example.
Asked about the particulars of his car, Cock names the good standing color Prugna (Plum), the clean lines and the 12-cylinder engine. I couldn't agree more with Cock. In terms of line, the 400 is beautiful, and as far as I am concerned, it is the last truly classy Ferrari. And that sound, it's like engine music from a symphony orchestra coming out of the front. Trumpet blasts from the carburetors and a deep timpani beat from the 12 cylinders.
One particular technical aspect to the Ferrari 400 seems to be inspired by the idea of hydraulic Citroën suspension. In fact, the Ferrari features a leveling system on the rear axle. Furthermore, Cock mentioned as a special technical element the oval tubes used to build the body of the 400. As a regular part of the interview, I asked Cock about his best experience with the car. To Cock that is a bold question. He has plenty of fun things at his disposal, including a Renault Caravelle convertible, a Dino 308 GT4 and a Fiat 1800 estate with a wonderfully purring 6 in line. The Renault Caravelle is the car he takes most trips in. The answer to my question about the 400 was short but sweet: "Every time I drive it, it's special." And I can see why.
Suggestions for streamers:
Until about ten years ago, you bought one for a turd and three marbles
The Ferrari has become worth about 15 percent more than a comparable SM
The design of the 400 broke with a trend of Ferrari
The engine had to be able to meet increasingly stringent U.S. emissions standards, at the expense of power
And that sound, it's like motor music from a symphony orchestra coming out of the front end