All good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, this is true of everything- even the life of a rare, grey-market exotic Italian sports car.
One day after work, I stopped by my local AT&T store to pay my bill when I stumbled across this rare sight- a 1980s vintage Ferrari 400i coupe. Although these rare cars never gained the cult status of their sleeker two-seater siblings, I always liked them. They have a sexy yet tastefully understated air about them, and they do an excellent job of showcasing the crisp angular designs that famed Italian designer Pininfarina is known for. As an added bonus, their asking prices have always been pretty reasonable- when you actually find one for sale- which isn’t often. I’ve often considered dumping nearly all my Detroit classics ( except for the Olds and Corvette ) and using the cash to snag one of these unicorns when one pops up for sale. The only thing stopping me is my better judgement.
I’ve only seen these things in the wild three times in my entire life. The first time was at my old job, Jacob’s Unocal 76 in WLA / Beverly Hills. One of our regular full-serve gas customers had one of these- metallic silver with a black interior. He kept it in mint shape, and the engine is as handsome as the exterior, that long, narrow V-12 with its contrasting black wrinkle-finish valve covers and silver painted block and heads, with its six Weber sidedraft carbs or Weber injection system, and two large oil filters standing proudly in the center of the V. The second was at an independent European car repair shop / mini dealership on La Cienega just up the street from Kaiser Permanente. I don’t know what all they were doing to it, but the dashboard was completely torn apart and the seats out of it. The third was at Jama Auto House, a specialty preowned high-end vehicle dealership in Redondo Beach. They had one of these for sale, in the same shade of blue as this one. If I had the cash I would have bought it on the spot. Even as a stupid twenty-something I already knew that these cars were rare and somewhat unique.
I thought this Ferrari’s interior looked a tad peculiar, and upon closer inspection, it’s a European right hand drive model. The owner told me where he got it, but I can’t remember though.
The odd thing about these is that most of them seem to be automatics- which nearly borders on sacrilege. Owning a Ferrari, any Ferrari, is all about the total driving experience. Saddling that smooth, high-revving V12 with a slushbox seems like the automotive equivalent of forcing an NFL cheerleader to wear a burka. Simply tragic.
The car’s most recent owner, the nice fellow in the gray shirt, owns a specialty Ferrari repair, restoration, and dismantling business in Arizona. When I asked him about this particular car’s fate, he gave me the sad news that this car would not be restored, but would be completely dismantled and its components harvested to restore older, rarer, and more valuable Ferraris. Despite this 400i’s outward appearance, the body simply had too much rust in it to make it a viable restoration candidate. I then joked that that made it a prime candidate for the 24 hours of LeMons. He said he knew that, but the car’s guts were too valuable to risk flogging it like that.
So, that’s it. No more happy trails for this Italian stallion. At least its spirit will live on in other vintage Ferraris that it has donated its vital organs to. Rest in peace, 400i. Rest in peace.