Prancing horse or lame nag? Archie Vicar samples Ferrari’s 4-seater oddity.
From Motor Enthusiast, October 1976. Photos by Edward Blayliss. Owing to the excessive lens flare of the original photography, stock images have instead been used.
Editor’s note: This period review was originally published on DTW in November 2013.
It’s quite peculiar to review a car that already exists. As the only motoring writer in Britain who has been permitted to officially test drive Bristol’s new four-seater, the 603, I can reveal Ferrari’s 400 GT (an evolution of the previous 365 GT4 2+2) is the same car but worse. Far be it for me to criticise the long, hard lunches put in by Mr Ferrari’s assistants, but the 400 GT is a rather poor show. And Bristol’s car, despite its slightly brash Chrysler lump, trumps the 400 GT in every major respect.
Let us consider the ash receptacles. Bristol places theirs near the steering wheel while Ferrari throws theirs somewhere down by one’s knees. Both cars are 4-seater GTs. Both cost a king’s ransom, but one car will unfailingly deliver one home while the other is dependent on the services of a flatbed lorry. It’s not the car from Filton. Paying £3,450 for a car is one thing but having to pay another £1500 for a support vehicle is asking too much.
We were invited to the restaurant across from Ferrari’s tatty workshops and offered ‘spaghetti Bolognese’ and some acidic chianti. Even British Leyland managed better when they launched their Princess in Bournemouth. As Ing. Gandolfini went on, it became clear that his firm was simply presenting its own interpretation of a 4-seater grand touring motor car. Much has been lost in translation, I would have to contend
The Ferrari has a monstrous 4.8 litre 12-cylinder engine stuffed forwards of the driver. Supposedly the intention is to offer keen performance, but it robs the car of any comfort. Waves of heat seeping into the cabin overwhelm the feeble gasps of the air-conditioner. I had to take off my jacket and tie at one point. The gearbox has 5 speeds, and each requires a manful shove to bully into submission. It’s virtually a two-handed task just to engage third.
As many experienced motorists will tell you, steering a moving car requires at least one palm on the wheel. Luckily, I was able to ask our photographer, Mr Eddie Blayliss, to swap the cogs for me as we hurtled through the villages of the Piedmont. Occasionally he had to hold my cigarette for me as I twirled the slippery steering wheel in my struggles to alter the car’s direction. Sometimes this worked. However, eventually it did not. I am sad to report that the test car wriggled out of my own control and into that of that of the timeless masonry of a goat-herder’s abode. I killed a goat.
On the morrow, Ferrari provided another car – only made available because the Mirror’s chap was stuck in Orly (air-traffic controller’s strike!). Waiting for the engine oil to warm I had a pipeful of Latakia and noticed how similar the car is to Fiat’s more reasonably priced 130 coupe. One wonders if these car-styling chappies move in herds.
(Please turn to page 45 to continue.)
Is the 400 GT a 4-seater? Well, it fits four seats but not four people. We tried to force snapper Blayliss into the back. He insisted on keeping his feet attached to his ankles, so we failed. Were it a Bristol he could simply have waltzed into the rear compartment of the vehicle. We pointed this out to Ing. Gandolfini who replied that the rear seats would be a good place for groceries or small children. They either pamper their groceries here or terribly mistreat their poor offspring.
Without a proper breakfast (a shot of Italian grappa and a filterless don’t count) it was difficult to get going in our second car. Anyway, we soon halted when the overheating engine sprayed reddish sluice all over the windscreen. Time for lunch. While waiting for the mechanic we found that several parts of the dashboard were in the boot. The black vinyl inside this rather costly motor car reminded me of the awful new cockpits of Alfa Romeo’s Alfetta GT and that nasty Austin Princess I mentioned above.
We covered 68 miles in our two Ferraris. Petrol consumption will not trouble prospective owners as they are probably very well off and also because their 400 GT’s will probably not travel very far (under their own steam). Perhaps the Ferrarese ought to find out the Italian for ‘fails to proceed.’
A GM 3-speed automatic is promised in the near future.