How’s this for an eclectic lineup, fronted by one of the most brilliant and enduring Pininfarina designs ever, a Ferrari 400. I’m going to stick to the 400, as it’s hard for me to take my eyes off it, but you all can have fun with the rest of them if the 400 doesn’t do it for you.
Right off the bat, I need to qualify my headline. The actual 400 was not built for 18 years; but only a mere 14, still a record for a Ferrari. But the 400’s design was carried over almost without change from the 365 GT4 2+2 (above), which arrived in 1972 and was built until 1976, when the 400 and its successor 412 took on the beautiful Pininfarina mantle, and carried it all the way to 1989. It was a hard act to follow, literally.
The 400 has been maligned in some circles because it was the first Ferrari available with an automatic transmission, a GM THM 400. With its not inconsiderable weight of 4,000-4,200 lbs. and the automatic, the 340 hp from its 4.8 liter V12 created for a somewhat less-than typical Ferrari performance envelope. But then this was a genuine 2+2 touring coupe, and Ferrari had lither models on tap too.
I’m pretty sure this one is a 400 GT (five speed manual transmission), from between 1979 and 1984. These were not uncommon in LA during my years there, and my favorite mental image is being on the Santa Monica Freeway next to one with Wilt Chamberlain behind the wheel. He used to play volleyball on the beach in Santa Monica a lot, and he had the seat of his 400 altered considerably, to give his 7’1″ frame room to fit. It looked like he was practically sitting in the rear seat.
Nobody ever criticized the 400’s design, which originated in a very fertile period at Pininfarina. It bore the trademark scallop on the side, the second Ferrari to do so after the ground-breaking Daytona. The 400’s design was profoundly influential; a raft of Pininfarina designs bore its genes, including the Fiat 130 coupe and the Lancia Gamma coupe, among others.
The award for most faithful rip off goes to the Bitter SC coupe, based on an Opel chassis. Flattery indeed.
It was a hard act to follow, for Ferrari and Pininfarina, which undoubtedly explains why it stayed in production so long. And I doubt its successor, the 456, will ever be remembered quite so fondly, in terms of its design.