Partnered: Why The Ferrari 400i Is Collectable

Why The Ferrari 400i Is Collectable

By Ronald Ahrens
July 25, 2014
19 comments

Photography by Rémi Dargegen for Petrolicious

The Collector is a weekly series produced in association with Gear Patrol, where we discuss the car, and Gear Patrol discusses the essential gear inspired by the car. (Click here to see the rest of The Collector Series on Petrolicious).

Say “Reagan-era Ferrari,” and most aficionados will think of the shapely 512BB, the heavily straked Testarossa, or the meteoric 288GTO. And, indeed, these Italian missiles might have played some as-yet undocumented part in bringing down the Iron Curtain. But it’s unlikely anyone in the United States would suggest the 400i as an emblem of the era. For one thing, the 400i was never officially imported in the land of Stars and Stripes. Of 1305 examples (more or less, depending upon sources) built between 1979 and 1985, when the 412 succeeded it, only gray-market cars made it to American shores. The single thing that most helped to imprint the profile of this striking, if conservative, coupe on the collective unconscious was its appearance in the 1988 film Rain Man.

Yet the debonair two-plus-two coupe has the right credentials, starting with Pininfarina design. The 400 series originated at the 1976 Paris Motor Show, and three years later its medium-displacement V-12 engine was stripped of Weber carburetors and endowed with Bosch electronic fuel injection. The 400i, as it was now known, continued to be offered with a five-speed manual transmission or the three-speed automatic made, of all places, in the same Michigan factory that had churned out B-24 bombers during World War Two; the Hydra-Matic was also used in Jaguars, Rolls-Royces, and Bentleys–as well as Checker Marathons and Jeep pickups and SUVs. More for diplomat than playboy, the 400i benefitted from well-tailored simplicity. Inside the car, broad and flat front chairs suggested the club room as much as autostrada. The layout of instruments and controls was unprepossessing and orderly enough for a Boy Scout merit badge; in fact, when compared to a car like today’s Porsche Panamera, which is intended for the same purpose, the serving of dials and indicators is disappointingly meager.

Beyond these touches, the 400i shows the usual hopeful aspects of the period: pop-up headlamps, overly obvious five-spoke wheels, and a sleek, large-diameter, pre-airbag steering wheel. This Ferrari strove for elegance and largely achieved it. And despite the electronic fuel injection leading to a nine-percent drop to 310 horsepower (but a more favorable emissions test), the 400i went down the road with authority, no matter which transmission the 4.8-liter twelve was matched with. Zero to 60 mph could be achieved in 7.1 seconds, and the powerband had an advantageous torque curve, letting the drivetrain excel on the type of highway excursion this coupe was designed for. (In one Ferrari forum, the owner of a 400i says the trunk is cavernous, and he thinks the fitted luggage for a 412 would inconspicuously nestle into the rear; but he was not sure about the existence of bespoke cases for his own car. Further research revealed that Schedoni, did in fact make leather valises for this GT.)

Although the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic was heavy, it was the choice for two of every three examples of the 400i.

In 1983, the model benefitted from various minor improvements. Under the hood, five more horsepower became available. Electronic switchgear was added inside the cabin, and the exterior had more prominent fog lamps in front and a body-colored rear panel. Some coachbuilders sliced away the elegant roof pillars to make a convertibles, and even one shooting brake version was shown at Geneva in 1981, anticipating in basic layout the Ferrari FF, only thirty years earlier.

Often denigrated, primarily because of quality issues but also over subjective reactions to the design, the 400i is actually the cheapest way into a Ferrari V-12, so a specimen that has enjoyed some loving attention could make a superb addition to the collection. “Probably under-appreciated,” writes a friend who owns a V-8 Ferrari. “Like many of that vintage,” he continues, “they are more expensive to maintain than they are worth (for now).” Prices equivalent to a new, well-optioned Chevrolet Impala put the 400i where the 330GT was before it routinely began to change hands for six-figure sums. The trick with such a limited-production series is finding a whole car, one that didn’t become a Corvette-engined project or, even worse, fall into disuse.

Then there’s the inevitable question: automatic or manual? Maybe it would help to know the last GM passenger car that the Turbo-Hydramatic tranny went into was none other than President Ronald Reagan’s official Cadillac limousine.

Thank you to Mr. Jacques Martino for allowing us to photograph his car and to the Ferrari 400/412 club.

A Tale of 2+2s

Ferrari sold two 2+2s at the same time, the 400i and the Mondial. Both 2+2 cars boasted Ferrari performance with the ability to transport four people in relative comfort. Both cars, though hugely successful in sales, don’t carry the same Ferrari magic for current vintage sales probably due to the fact that they weren’t as exotic looking as the rest of the Ferrari stable, like the Boxer or the 308. But at least in automotive circles, the 400i gets a bit more respect due to its angular style and its uniqueness for a “bargain” Ferrari. You can get away with one for about $30K, and you won’t get laughed at like you’re having a mid-life crisis as in the Mondial.

Written by Amos Kwon of Gear Patrol

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19 Comments on "Why The Ferrari 400i Is Collectable"

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Tom Craig
Tom Craig
A few years ago I thought this looked like a great low price classic Ferrari so had a look for one. I have to say that from my experience at the time the looks of this car in photographs does not match in reality. You make a few assumptions that don’t translate. For me the first is the size. In the flesh this is quite a small car. Smaller than you’d want a 2+2 to be. Second is the quality. The panel fit is generally poor and the interior is quite crude and ages very badly. The driving experience is… Read more »
Fernando
Fernando

Thanks for the article and pics. I really like the 400i series. It’s probably because I am more a Jaguar (XJ-S) guy than a Ferrari fan. In fact central engine Ferraris only attracted me when I was a teenager. Now in my mid fourties central engined units rarely deserve a second glance for me; I am more for the “diplomat” than for the “playboy”. It’s sad that they are expensive to run.

gwen williams
gwen williams

Oohlala! Great car! [url=”http://www.cardealexpert.com/news-information/opinion/drug-dealer-cars-seized/”]Car auctions[/url] are the best. As a vintage car collector, it is where I got my best buys. It pays to be very careful in choosing sources for this kind of transaction to avoid fraud or worst, drug dealer automobiles.

Harry
Harry
I think we need to define collectibility here. Is it the next model that hedge fund guys are going to start buying and hiding away, making prices skyrocket? Or is it an under-appreciated gem that true car enthusiasts can get into? Few cars are going to gain enough value to offset V-12 maintenance and, god forbid, a restoration. But if I love the car, I’m buying it, driving it, and restoring it for myself, not for the next hypothetical owner. If this model is undervalued because it lacks the glamour of the 512BB and the familiarity of the 308/28, and… Read more »
TJ Martin
TJ Martin
Actually they’re kind of not . Collectable that is . Problem being the cost of maintenance and repair and god help you if restoration is needed well and exceeds any potential value the car may ever have … unless you can do 90\% of the work yourself . Add to that the 400/412 was always unloved by the Ferrarista … not selling well from the get go and still in limbo today . As far as reliability .. having owned a 365 GTC/4 … the 400/412’s are no better nor any worse than any V12 Ferrari . Problem being as… Read more »
Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
The notion that the 400 did not sell well is not entirely true. From the time body style was introduced as the 365GT4 2+2 through to the end of 400 production it marginally outsold Ferrari’s then 12 cylinder berlinetta the Boxer. Yes the 412 was massively outsold by the Testarossa, but by then it was an old design and the Testarossa was sold in the States and the 412 wasn’t officially. The ‘400’ bodystyle was in production for 17 years longer than any other Ferrari. I agree these cars are never going to massively appreciate and will always cost more… Read more »
willem
willem
Thanks for the great article. I own a 1988 412 manual and love to see the respect for these cars. Why did I bought one? I wanted a classic Ferrari, I love the engine sound, the feeling of really driving. I was looking to a Testarossa, great car. But being the father of two boys (7 and 10) I did not liked the outlook of doing Sunday roadtrips by myself. And then the 412 came along : backseat comfortable for kids ( even (small) adults) , V12, manual transition, black outside, cream inside, the feeling of taming a wild horse… Read more »
Aaron Cole
Aaron Cole

thats the life.

Benjamin Shahrabani
Benjamin Shahrabani

Tom Cruise drove one in Rain Man!

name
name

now you have ruined it .

Kirk Robinson
Kirk Robinson
OK, I had previously dismissed the 400i as, in the words of Jeremy Clarkson, “simply awful, in every way”. I never cared much for the more boxy lines (well – boxy compared to the 60’s and 70’s ferraris designed by Pininfarina) or the proportions, which I felt suggested the car was centered around the driver and comfort, like a family sedan, and do not suggest the focus is the engine and performance, as the the mid-engined cars’ and the long hood/short tail proportions of cars like the Daytona and 250 cars suggest. I also felt it was criminal to put… Read more »
Paul
Paul

The clean lines give the aura of sophistication: I fell in love with this car when I first saw it on the Champs Elysee in 1984. I am sure it contributed to my later buying a 1985 Bitter SC, which is a double take dead ringer for the Ferrari 412. (even the same great charcoal color, beautiful leather hide interior, and walnut burl woodwork).

Mike Gulett
Mike Gulett

A great alternative to this Ferrari is an Iso Rivolta GT powered by Chevrolet – http://mycarquest.com/2012/10/i-love-the-iso-rivolta-gt-and-you-should-too.html

Harry
Harry

Am I the only one who thinks these look like Chevy Malibu coupes from the 80s? http://www.oldparkedcars.com/2011/08/1981-chevrolet-malibu-2-door-sedan.html. I still think they look great. An understated Ferrari that doesn’t scream midlife crisis.

Larry Thorson

Beautiful images. Thank you for popping the lights for a couple of them. It is part of the character of the car after all, but we run into a lot of shy owners on the local show circuit who won’t hit the switch.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Underrated cars, but it would have to be a manual and one of the earlier carb fed cars including the similar bodied 365GT4 2+2. They are fairly robust cars if properly maintained, but under bonnet access is tight, and parts prices are the same as a Daytonas.

Ian Miles
Ian Miles

I always liked the look of the 400. However I heard that they were very unreliable which perhaps explains the prices? Especially beautiful in Ferrari blue.

Stephen Fitzgerald

I really like the looks of this car. Understated like a nice suit. I saw a 412 a while back at a coffee shop and it stole 10 minutes from my day as I tried to soak it all in.
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Ash Jackson
Ash Jackson

I love the 400 series. It’s a shame it gets so little love. But still, great for prices – I may actually be able to afford one!

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