Maranello Old Master.

The romantic’s Ferrari.

Image: (c)

Marque iconographies can be somewhat unhelpful at times. Being so one-dimensional, it often requires an effort of will in the observer to see outside of their often-rigid narratives. The mythology surrounding Ferrari for example has become so infused by images of crimson-red racing cars and strumpet-Berlinettas that it is possible to neglect the fact that the less strident grand turismo was an intrinsic part of Maranello’s arsenal, almost from the outset.

Indeed, such machines were once the Scuderia’s primary source of income, and the primary means by which the racing cars were funded. Nevertheless, the road-going Ferraris occupied only as much of Enzo Ferrari’s thinking as was strictly necessary. He had them built, his wealthy customers would purchase them at suitably eye-watering prices and that was that. The Commendatore condescended to his patrons, for whom, the more shabbily they were treated, the more Pavlovian they behaved. This was the way of things at Maranello, but as the Sixties faded, harsh realities impinged upon this largely symbiotic state of affairs.

The cost of building cars and in particular, homologating them for global markets was spiralling[1]. Ferrari, who was not nearly as successful in business or upon the racetracks as mythology might have you believe needed a benefactor and having rebuffed the overtures of Henry Ford II, turned to the emollient Gianni Agnelli of FIAT SpA, who was as good at listening as he was at making deals. Furthermore, he was in possession of very deep pockets. By the close of 1969, Agnelli had taken a 40% stake[2] in the carmaking side of the Ferrari business, leaving its mercurial founder to concentrate upon the racetracks.

When Agnelli got his foot in Maranello, Ferrari’s 2+2 GT offering was in shapely 365 GT 2+2 form, a model which dated from 1967. These were somewhat ponderous machines, and while their Pininfarina styling made clear reference to the low-volume Superfast series from earlier in the decade, they were looking slightly dated, especially when compared with Lamborghini’s futuristic Espada. 1971 would see a successor in the 365 GTB/4 (Daytona) derived 365 GTC/4 model[3], but this latter car, clearly only intended to be a stopgap was discontinued in Autumn 1972, with just over 500 examples built.

Shortlived. 1971 Ferrari 365 GTC/4. Image: (c)

The reason for this lay within Pininfarina’s Grugliasco studio, where work had been progressing on a design for a more expansive ‘Grand Coupé’, under the keen eye of Leonardo Fioravanti. This car, which made its 1972 Paris show debut as the 365 GT4 2+2[4], marked a clear departure from previous practice, eschewing any semblance of a fastback silhouette for a more conservative, more distinct three-volume profile.

Having previously been the principal designer for the Daytona, Fioravanti reprised several styling themes, notably in terms of body surfacing and the deep central bodyside scallops, but he also could be said to have imbibed (either directly or subliminally) from Paolo Martin’s Fiat 130 Coupé, which was being completed alongside. This can be seen in the height and shaping of the canopy, the glazing and the formal C-pillar arrangement.

Proportionally, it was about as close to ideal as one could reasonably expect, its restrained formality balanced by a few subtle nods to power, such as the eared wheel spinners[5], the twin double exhausts and triple rear lamp units. What resulted was a supremely elegant motor car with crisp, delicate lines that were as much Pininfarina as they were Ferrari, a design which emphasised refinement and luxury over more overt displays of brute power – or shock and awe for that matter. Because, while the 365 GT4 2+2 might have spoken in a lower register, it did anything but lower the tone.

In keeping with the exterior, the cabin was suitably sybaritic, with acres of the softest leather and a modernist, linear dash design, with instruments in a grouped binnacle ahead of the driver. A large, ramped centre console bisected the cabin and unlike the more aggressive Ferrari Berlinettas, the gear selector eschewed the clichéd slotted gate[6].

The 4390 cc V12 was a carryover from the four-cam engine fitted to the 365 GTC/4. This 60° unit was derived from the fabled 250 Columbo powerplant, 365 cm³ denoting the capacity of each individual cylinder. Fuelled by six Weber 38 DCOE carburettors, it developed 340 hp at 6500 rpm. Suspension was also carried over, although in this case, self-levelling dampers were fitted to the rear, and the track was wider.

Four years later, at the Paris motor show, a larger capacity engine (4823 cc) precipitated a simplification in nomenclature. Now dubbed 400, it looked broadly the same but could be distinguished externally by a small frontal spoiler, the removal of the eared wheel spinners and dual rear lamp units. Again, this iteration would prove shortlived, production ceasing in 1979[7].

1980 Ferrari Pinin. Image: oldconceptcars

Meanwhile in 1980, to celebrate the carrozzeria’s 50th anniversary, Pininfarina displayed the Pinin concept, a four-door saloon, which was for a time under consideration to be adopted by Ferrari, to form a replacement for the 400. Debate rumbled on for a while, as Maranello factions argued over the feasibility and rationality of a 4-door Ferrari, and eventually the idea was abandoned. No great loss[8].

Meanwhile, 1979 had seen the introduction of the 400i, again largely identical apart from the fitment of Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and Dinoplex electronic ignition. A three-speed automatic transmission was also made available – a first for Ferrari and much appreciated by 400 owners with hyper-developed left legs[9]. Produced in far greater numbers than of yore, the 400i remained in production until 1985[10].

These were not halcyon days for Maranello, Fiat’s coffers being solely depleted, and Ferrari feeling the effects of being unable to sell their most lucrative (V12-engined) wares in the United States. This would prove a serious impediment to their fortunes, it being likely that the 400i would have sold strongly there. Belts were necessarily worn tighter, and Mondial 8 aside, the early 1980s would be lean years for the prancing horse, both in product terms and worse, on the Grand Prix tracks[11].

By the mid-80s however, the 400 had become viewed as an anachronism by a majority of the auto press, who failed to comprehend the appeal of a car bearing the stallion of Maranello which wasn’t a heart-rending road-burner. Naturally then, it was LJK Setright who in 1984 took the contrary view, expressing his fealty towards the 400i, both in characteristic prose and in verse[12].

A year later, at the 1985 Geneva Salon, the 412 was presented, the most comprehensive reworking of the car yet. Pininfarina carried out some subtle sheet metal changes to the rear, resulting in a flatter, more linear boot line, while body-coloured bumper units and other subtle revisions both externally and within the cabin modernised the aesthetics. Technically, further enlargement saw engine capacity up to 4943 cc and in another first for the prancing horse, anti-lock brakes became standard equipment.

Ferrari 412. Image: autoevolution

By then a further attempt at a replacement model had been instigated, and a great deal of work carried out, before it too would be axed, later in the decade, amid new management and a fresh ethos[13].

One outcome of the 412’s styling, which could not have been foreseen at the time of its inception, was that its classicism (conservatism to some eyes) would considerably bolster its longevity in the market – which as matters evolved, proved to be somewhat fortuitous. Selling steadily to a clientele who didn’t want to draw unwarranted attention to themselves, its classical style was therefore no impediment, nor was there much by way of direct rivals – certainly not at Ferrari’s prices anyway.

Image: (c)

When Ferrari phased out the 412 in 1989 – the basic design having been in continuous production for sixteen years[14] – it was the longest running production model in Ferrari history. It would also be the last Ferrari (to date) to employ a three-volume body style. For another three years, the gap in the portfolio remained unfilled[15], before its replacement, the 1992 456 GT was belatedly introduced.

Likely to have been the first production Ferrari model to have entered production under FIAT Auto’s purview, the 365 GT4 2+2 and its direct descendants marked a fresh ethos for the marque. Some aficionados decried this approach as ‘corporatised’, others would argue that it brought an element of professionalism hitherto lacking at Maranello. In addition, it not only proved to be a Ferrari GT for the ages, but also a rather difficult car to replace.

Since then, the ownership profile for Ferrari and for this type of suave gran turismo has shifted markedly, witnessed by the manner in which Ferrari has latterly chosen to offer four seats to its customers. The 2022 Purosangue is the prancing horse’s latest direction of travel. Four seats, four doors and four-wheel drive. A crossover in everything but name, it is clearly what the market wants, but where is the romance?

[1] The 365 GTB4 (Daytona) was the last twelve-cylinder Ferrari to be sold in the US market until the debut of the 1984 Testarossa. This was owing to the prohibitive costs of homologating cars for US regulations.

[2] The year before, Agnelli, in inking the PARDEVI accord with Citroën, would also gain an interest in Maserati, somewhat by proxy – a matter perhaps not lost on Ferrari. A measure of how important this agreement was to him, Enzo reportedly drove to Turin (the mountain for once coming to Mohammad) to sign the papers.

[3] The 365 GTC/4 was never regarded as one of Pininfarina’s stylistic masterpieces.

[4] Ferrari’s naming conventions were labyrinthine and hopelessly confusing – requiring a lexicon – which tells you everything.

[5] Borrani wire wheels were an option on the initial cars, but there were few takers.

[6] From 1972 to 1976, 532 examples of the 365 GT4 2+2 were built.

[7] From 1976 to 1979, 147 examples of the 400 were built.

[8] The Pinin was a design which did not age well – and certainly was not the game-change Pininfarina considered it to be. Ferrari may have swerved a bullet there. 

[9] Such was the weight of the clutch that drivers complained of muscle strain. LJK Setright being one of them. The automatic gearbox was the well-regarded GM400 series. 

[10] From 1979 to 1985, 883 examples of the 400i were built.

[11] Ferrari won the F1 driver’s championship in 1979 with Jody Schecter. They would not win another until the Schumacher era. Both he and team-mate Gilles Villeneuve were granted Ferrari ‘company cars’. While Gilles chose a 308, Schecter drove a 400i. 

[12] Setright’s prose was up to his usual erudite standards. His poetry, however, was a different matter. Mercifully, this was not repeated. 

[13] Read more about the cancelled Ferrari here.

[14] Throughout its entire run, all bodies were fully built and trimmed at Pininfarina’s Grugliasco facility before being transported to Maranello for running gear and final assembly.

[15] From 1985 to 1989 576 examples of the 412 were built.

Editor’s note: The text has been altered to reflect an error in the original piece regarding the source of the 400’s automatic transmission.

Source: Car Magazine August 1984.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

35 thoughts on “Maranello Old Master.”

  1. To judge the perfection of this Pininfarina car, compare it with the Bitter SC, an secret brother of the Ferrari 400. The Bitter is not bad, but it has not the elegance, the balance and harmony of the proportions of the Ferrari.

  2. Another great article Eóin, thank you.

    I always hate to be ‘that guy’, but I have one nit to pick. Ferrari’s first car with an automatic transmission, the 400 didn’t have a Borg Warner 35 transmission. It had a GM 400, as fitted to Rolls Royce and Bentley cars, GMC and Chevrolet trucks and Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Holden cars, and later V12 Jaguars. These three speed autos are very strong and easy to adjust, and cheap to fix in the unlikely event of anything going wrong, and as a bonus can easily be replaced by a later four speed GM700.

    DTW is famous for the accuracy of content as well as the quality of writing.

    1. David: Thanks for the clarification. Annoyingly, a number of sources cited the GM 400 (including LJKS), which was widely used by European luxury carmakers at the time – not least Jaguar for its V12 – but I rather foolishly thought that Ferrari themselves would have had chapter and verse, so I went with their account. That’ll learn me.

      I have modified the text accordingly. (Now in footnotes)

  3. There was always a lot of guff about the 365GT4 2+2 (I’m already worn out typing that, is that what owners have to say whenever people ask them what they drive?) and its variants being an ‘old man’s car’, not a ‘proper’ Ferrari. With the exception of LJKS, I think that was Car Magazine’s attitude as the model aged, and has been much the received wisdom in some contemporary classic car magazines. I have never understood what could be wrong with a very good looking V12 that allowed you to transport friends in comfort, and to travel across Europe with more than a spare pair of pants. And I’d add that I’ve always felt the 365 GTC/4 was an underappreciated gem living in the shadow of the Daytona.

    1. Good morning bristowfuller. I couldn’t agree more that cars like those featured today are every bit as ‘proper’ a Ferrari as their mid-engined siblings. The latter often were (and still are) spectacularly impractical, difficult to manoeuvre and impossible to see out of, hence unsuited to all but a tiny fraction of potential uses. Watching a portly middle-aged man trying to extract himself from a mid-engined Ferrari or Lamborghini supercar parked alongside a high kerb can be highly entertaining!

    2. And yet, contemporary reviews of the 412 referred to it with some reverence as the last of the traditional Ferraris. These are wonderful cars. The differences between the carb and injection or the manual or auto tend to be overstated. For occasional use, some induction roar and a bit of heel and toe is fun, but for anything at all regular, the automatic makes for a very versatile car, which is why most of them were ordered that way. As were all V12 Jags, all Bristols and big Jensens, most Porsche 928s and so on. It is certainly good for UK driving, where the chances of hitting several miles of slow moving traffic are pretty high, and the attraction of having a third pedal rapidly fades. These aren’t cars for tearing around backroads. They are for effortless cruising in a straight line for hours, in which case you won’t need to change gear, or gliding around town, in which case you won’t want to. I bought an auto having tried a manual. The latter was obviously more involving, but I barely needed the top two gears. I was more inclined to rag it in second and third most of the time, and, if I wanted to do that kind of thing I’d buy something a little more agile and without the epic thirst.

      As mentioned in an earlier post, the Bitter is a pretty car, but parked next to one of these Ferraris it looks remarkably ordinary. I’ve had both.

  4. I was on board until the hate directed towards the Pinin concept – i really liked that one!

    Would have definitely been part of my dream garage had they actually made some, but then i do like low and sleek sport sedans in general.

    1. Good morning bjarnetv. I’m another fan of the Pinin and take issue with Eóin’s view that it did not age well. Like the 400/412 it was not designed to be ‘fashionable’.

    2. The Pinin had some influential elements. They exploded like shrapnel off the car and went in many directions. As a single group of features they did not hang together. It is a transitional kind of design. The 412´s C-pillar and the crease running to the tail lamp ended up being re-used on the 406, I think. They did it at the other end too, from a-pillar to the front lamp.

    3. bjarnetv: I think in this case that ‘hate’ is a little strong. The Pinin remains an elegant shape, and it was a design I really liked back in 1980. However, I don’t believe that it has aged all that well, nor do I think a ‘Ferrari for the ages’ would have emerged from it. Furthermore, I didn’t think then, nor do I now, that Ferrari’s interests would have been best served by making a four-door saloon in the Quattroporte idiom.

      I say that as someone who, like yourself appreciates low and sleek sport sedans, all the more so when they are well executed. The Pinin needed more work. But no amount of work would have made it a Ferrari in my eyes.

      Other views, as always, are both available and welcome…

    4. An interesting detail of the Pinin is the engine, it was meant to be a Testarossa 180° V12. In period it never ran under it’s own power yet eventually (with a little help from Mauro Forghieri’s office) it did

  5. Thanks, an interesting history of an underrated run of cars that have aged very well. The only blemish for me is the brightwork around the side glazing, which I think is resolved better on the 130 Coupe.

    Personally I have a soft spot for the crisp Pinin concept, in profile anyway (but not the unfortunate rectangular lights/egg crate grille combo. Opel obviously thought more highly of that aspect when styling the 1987 Senator).

  6. A 365 GT4 2+2 would be among my personal top three Ferraris – unlike a 412.

    While by no means Fiat Charta stuff, those facelifts did nothing to improve a flawless basic shape. I wouldn’t say the taller boot of the later variants ruined Fioravanti’s design, but some elegance was unquestionably lost. The 412 ended up particularly chunky by comparison, and probably intentionally so, in order for the car not to appear ‘petite’ by ’80s standards – those metaphorical shoulder pads, not to mention the ever-objectionably Vitaloni Turbo wing mirrors, being at odds with the basic design’s inherent grace.

    Once again, I feel compelled to point out the grave differences between the car design process then and now in this context. Unlike today’s spectacular illustrations, the graphical means of expression of a Leonardo Fioravanti were decidedly limited – unlike this trained engineer’s creativity at the time.

    So please take a moment to appreciate what Pininfarina’s unnamed craftsmen and artisans added during the transformation of this very naive sketch into the sublime 365 GT4 2+2:

    … and compare this with that intricate Purosangue illustration (most likely created after the fact, but even so indicative of the designers’ intentions):

    … versus the final outcome:

    1. That is tragic (the Purosangue). As you rightly point out, there’s an art in transforming a design idea into a mass production item. For years – certainly since the late 1970s – we’ve seen cars grow smoother and more like their show car progenitors until somewhere in the beginning of this millennium, when designers seemed to start to add design features ‘just because they could (model it in 3d)’ (Infiniti and Lexus were in early on that trend). This led (in my eyes) to severely attention deficit disordered designs culminating in the horror that is today’s Audi or BMW line up. More restrained efforts from Hyundai/KIA and Honda and even Toyota seem to point to this trend finally slowing down or even reversing. One can hope.

  7. I could not disagree more with the opinion of the Pinin. I think it was stunning in 1980 and still looks good now.

    Given the likes of Lamborghini and Masterati making SUVs now, I see no problem with Ferrari supposedly compromising its values to make a beautiful and fast 4 door sedan.

  8. Of course sports cars aren’t about practicality, yet I find there is something inherently selfish about a car that only seats two. After all, two people can never do justice to Bohemian Rhapsody, so that’s probably why cars such as this, the Maserati Quattroporte, Lamborghini Espada, Iso Fidia, De Tomaso Deauville and, indeed, any exotic car that purported to carry at least 4 adults appealed. I could never understand the almost universal scorn for the Ferrari Mondial, since it will actually take 4 reasonably sized adults at a pinch, rather than so many 2+2s that are really just for suitcases.

    1. This is a case of the bug being seen as a feature: “look at me, I can afford to as much petrol as it takes to carry six people in a car with just two seats”. Or, charitably, why waste weight and space on two passengers who are nearly never there.

    2. “Nearly never there …” Indeed. My puritanism over 2 seaters is somewhat unjustified, since the rear headrests in my totally practical 4 door car have sat discarded in the boot in order to give me a better view, since I can’t remember the last time I actually had rear passengers. Nevertheless, it is good to know that I could.

    3. “…there is something inherently selfish about a car that only seats two.”

      Hi bristowfuller. If you are talking about so-called supercars, then I would tend to agree, but I think it’s unfair to tar all two-seaters with the same brush. Many drivers, myself included, very rarely carry passengers other than their partner. On the rare occasions when my Boxster (or my partner’s Mini hatch) won’t suffice, we simply rent a larger car.

      I would regard a huge seven-seat SUV occupied by only a driver (and front seat passenger) as far more selfish than even a supercar, given the profligacy of its use of resources, including road space.

    4. Even if it doesn’t fit the topic of the article.
      But I have to agree with Daniel. You shouldn’t lump all 2-seaters together.
      In our 4-seater Lancia Y, there were about as many passengers in the back seat as in our Spider: none. This means that the Spider was optimally occupied for all 220,000 kilometres driven.

    5. Daniel and Fred. Knowing the ownership choices of various respected regular contributors to this site, I was tempted to qualify my opinion. But only by saying that one selfish act certainly does not make one a bad person. I’ve owned one car with questionable rear accommodation, but never one that doesn’t have any seats at all. It’s just unnatural. Even with the first van I bought new, I couldn’t bring myself not to tick the stupidly expensive option box for (removable) rear seats and windows. They were hardly ever used so, since then, I’ve had to become more pragmatic. But as you can see, not less judgemental.

    6. Absolutely with you on the Mondial comment. If 2-seaters are impractical and 4-seaters/GTs don’t tick the ‘sporty’ box, perhaps the Mondial is the answer. Ferrari sold loads of them and went to the extent of updating it four times. They must have been popular at the time so I also find the scorn a bit irrational. Not poles apart from the practical appeal of a 911 really.

    1. A couple of years ago a used car dealer in a nearby village had a 400 for sale at a temotingly low price.
      For a couple of weeks I thought about buying it just for the sake of it but in the end common sense previaled. Afer all, it had an automatic gearbox and there’s not much in a car I hate more than auto boxes. And why on earth did this car have to be sold through a dealer where it sat it in the open between Opels and the like?
      I’m not easily intimidated by anything Italian with an engine and wheels but this one could /would have been too much simply regarding spare parts prices.

      It’s interesting to look at the differences between the Daytona engine and the one for these.
      The Daytona has downdraught carburettors sitting inside the V with two oil filters in front of the engine. The GT/4 2+2 has the inlet ducts going between the camshafts (as per the Lamborghini V12 for lack of space inside the V) and horizontal carburettors for a lower bonnet and two oil filters sitting in the V. All this effort for about 1,000 cars they made.

      365 GT/4 2+2

  9. This article has reminded me just how much I liked these Ferraris. The proportions and details are so effortlessly correct, and the engineering beneath is elegant and uncontrived.

    On the gearbox matter, it seems that Ferrari’s own website is promoting bum information on the Borg Warner / GM THM400 matter. Perhaps such things are only of peripheral interest to the typical reader; they most certainly aren’t to me.

    Enzo was a bit of a two-pedal fan, and used his influence with Alec Issigonis to obtain a factory built one-off Mini Cooper S with the AP four-speed automatic.

    The manual gearbox fitted to the 365 GT4 2+2 and its 400 and 412 successors is a bit of a mystery. Some sources say it was Ferrari’s own, others that it is a ZF, possibly an S5-20 or S5-24. A 400i owning acquaintance had the box taken out of his car when it developed problems, and the local transmissions specialist in Daytona reckoned it was something from a light truck. It was eventually air-freighted to a specialist in Switzerland to be restored, at some considerable expense. That concluded its owner’s Ferrari dalliance, afterwards he favoured American and Japanese high-performance cars, with a leavening of Zuffenhausen’s better efforts.

  10. Thanks, Eóin. The 365 and 400 are quite wonderful. The 412 is still nice, but I have to agree with Christopher that the new boot add little to the appeal. Not unlike the step from BMW E12 to E28 5 series.

    I do have to say that the Fiat 130 holds up very well next to its more exotic countryman. What a design.

    Although I agree with you that the Pinin isn’t necessarily a Ferrari, I definitely still would.

  11. Always liked the 400, and that lovely brochure, with vellum inlays, and a small square profile. Then rode in the back of one in Arizona, on largely nice roads, and was not pleasantly surprised by how poor the ride was in the rear. Just saying…..

  12. Thanks, Eóin, for another wonderful read!

    If I were asked to name my favourite Ferrari (unfortunately I am asked that question way less often than I would like) I’d say “456”. Design and proportions don’t achieve the jaw dropping “effortless rightness” of the 400, but overall, I think, the 456 is the better car, at least for people who like understatement and long service intervals. Hope “the world’s most least influential motoring site” will will revisit the 456 too at some point. 😉

    And a question to whom it may concern: Does anybody happen to know who took that wonderful photo of the 365 GTC/4 with the horse and the high voltage power lines? What a work of art!

    1. The 456 is the last Ferrari I accepted as authentic. Nothing that came after looked right to me. If I had to own a Ferrari that would be one. Did you ever read Car´s article about driving one across Europe?

    2. If you dream of long service intervals, forget the 456.
      Ferrari didn’t stop 456 production after about a year for nothing because its quality was so bad.
      After most of the faults were fixed it re-started as 456M which still gives more than its fair share of trouble.

    3. You´ll need to get a copy of Car, April 1994. “Trans Europe Excess: everyone´s dream, fly to Maranello, pick up a Ferrari 456GT and hare back to England in the shortest possible time. Colin Goodwin won the fight for the plane ticket (and yes, that is 186 mph on the speedo)”. Photography by Tim Wren. Pages 90-95.

      The next article compares the Ferrari with the Aston Martin Vantage.

      There is also January 1996 where Jamie Kitman takes a 456GT to Montana;

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