posted at the Cohort by ostwestphal
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.
beautiful car. Sexy as all hell. Kinda reminds me of an Italian 8-series albeit maybe the inspiration for the the 8.
My favorite Ferrari, the one I’d really love to own. And, happily for me, amongst collectors, this is Ferrari’s equivalent to the Porsche 924/928/944’s – little collector value but the expected-for-the-brand maintenance costs. Which means someday I can actually afford one.
CC-procognition-moment: On the way home from work one day last week, I thought I saw a 400 at a little country service station out in Rockville, MD (country suburb to the west Richmond suburbs), which didn’t make a whole lot of sense. This garage has a very good reputation, but on American iron only. Honda Accord’s are exotic at this place.
So I stop by and discover the first Bitter SC coupe I’ve ever seen in the metal. If memory serves me well, didn’t those have small block Chevy’s under the hood? Which would explain why that garage had it in.
The earlier CD was SBC powered. The SC rides on an Opel Senator platform.
Nice, its like a German Ghibli with a thousand less problems, they should have imported these and sold them through Buick dealers like Panteras.
Agreed. Would have made a nice Buick Reatta.
It’s funny, but at one point in the development of the Reatta, Buick was offered their choice of any GM platform, including the Y-body Corvette and the P-car Fiero platforms, but Buick management decided against either one because the traditional Buick buyer would have found them too rough, it interesting to consider what could have been.
+1. They seem to be a well-kept secret that I have always admired as well.
The 1st car pictured, the blue one w/the wire wheels, is especially beautiful.
I actually saw a Bitter SC a few years ago @ a car show & it looked nice, although the interior was somewhat shabby.
Bitter. hehehe. This used to be the nose-tapping car for those in the know at high school.
I’d like to see one of these PFs with the wedge nose chopped in favour of a thin grille/headlights. Apologies to Maestro Battista et al.
Indeed a beautiful design. I had never paid enough attention to realize how close a copy the Bitter was of this car.
I enlarged the first picture. Is this lineup of desirable Euro-cars capped on the end by a . . . Checker?
We’ve really lost something due to regulations designed to protect pedestrians. Even the Bitter couldn’t get the hood as beautifully low as the 400.
These scream 1980’s but in a good way I think. Also, I’ve only ever seen one Bitter. I took a tour of Callaway’s Connecticut facility in 1983 and he had one. there was a sparrow splattered in the grille like a June bug and I thought how fast do you have to drive to catch one like that.
Ah, the classic gentleman’s 4 seat V12 Ferrari, these conjure up images of the south of France, cruising along at about 100, Persol sunglasses and a cigarette, with a slinky sunglassed blonde or brunette in the passenger seat, off to blow a little bit of the inheritance money down at the casino.
I think the Bitter looks nicer, the proportions are better, the 400i somehow reminds me of one of those altered wheelbase early funnycars from the mid-60s.
I’ll go as far to say that the SC is one of the most beautiful cars of the era, if not period. There is an unadorned, understated elegance about it. I love the roof, not coincidentally I also like the ’77-’79 LeSabre coupes, the roofline is very similar.
In my own personal parallel universe, this tooling would have been mass produced and sold at a lower price as some sort of upscale Buick Coupe.
Forget the Ferrari, give me the Checker at the far end of that lineup.
Sweet looking Ferrari. I’ve never seen one in person. Nor have I seen a Bitter SC coupe. Both are cool looking coupes. I have always liked the Ferrari 400 GT over anything Ferrari was offering at the time.
If the Ferrari was too expensive this Fiat 130 Coupé could be an alternative.
(Photo: The Gallery, Brummen)
I’ve only ever seen one in person, but I’ve always admired these cars. So different than most of Ferrari’s style with the knife edges and sharp angles, but it really works. Looked a little dated by the end of the run but not bad given the origin. The dark blue one pictured up top makes me realize how good these look with wires, as opposed to the more typical Ferrari 5-spokes of the later cars. (Which, iconic as they are, always make me think of the copycat “5 star” wheels that made their way onto every “tuner” car in the early 90’s.)
What’s not to admire about these coupe Ferraris? They’re some of the best looking Ferraris I’ve ever seen. 🙂
I’ve always loved this model, so much so that a few years ago when one came up on Trademe (and before I’d bought my Celica) I considered buying one. Then I did a little research about running/servicing costs……..
I actually got into an argument with someone a few weeks ago about the comparative merits of this design and those of the 308 GT4 and Mondial. (I seem to be the only one who isn’t overly bothered by the latter, although I agree some of its detailing is OTT.) I tend to like two-door-sedanish coupes, so I like these as well, although I have to admit that given this car’s pedigree, the amount of rear overhang is disconcerting.
Ferrari 400, Renault Twingo, Alfa Sipder and Rover P5 – must be my driveway……
Thanks, I thought that second car was the Renault, but wasn’t entirely sure. With the black bumpers it really looks like an early Honda Today – love both of them!
I know it might seem odd, but I’ve always preferred (for the most part) the big, soft, front-engined Ferraris – the ones that were more obviously road cars – to the supercars they’re famous for. I had the Testarossa poster on my wall when I was a kid too, but I was secretly lusting after the 400s and 412s that old car mags at the library loved to shit on so thoroughly. Even now, I haven’t officially made up my mind on whether or not I think the FF is good looking, but it’s, by FAR, the Ferrari I’m most interested in.
It never even occurred to me that the Bitter SC was so similar, but seeing them side-by-side… oh my god! I’ve always loved those too, how did I not see this?! In my defense, I’ve never actually seen one up close.
At least Bitter picked the right car to rip-off. With the exception of the original 250GT 2+2, the 400 was their best looking four-seater ever, IMO. That said, I was soooooo into the 456 when they were new! Looking at it now, it’s certainly not as timeless, but it still looks damn good to me in that Navy Blue color with the tan leather interior.
Maybe this is why I like both of them so much. Yeah, they’re Ferraris… but you still wouldn’t feel silly driving one down to the local KOHL’s to buy yourself a pair of Croft & Barrow-brand underwear:
I was a big fan of the 456 too, they had a very Daytonaish look to them, despite being 2+2 and the 550/575 being the true successors. But that navy blue/tan combo was just so Blah to me. It seems like every one I ever saw in person had that color combo. Call me cliche but I loved them in bright red the most.
Speaking of which, how about a 456 sedan in Bright red 😀
Oh man, that looks awesome! I remember reading that those existed, and were actually custom ordered through Ferrari, but I’d never seen a picture. I bet a car like that would be a huge hit right now, but Ferrari would never do it and they’re probably wise not to.
As I’m sure you know, there was a “shooting brake” version built by Pininfarina too:
The latest model Ferrari four-door sedan.
I’m seeing Quattroportes and Ghiblis all over the place lately. One of them with a Ferrari badge and styling a little closer to the 456 sedan shown above would do a killing, but it’d permanently soil the reputation of the prancing horse.
Maserati is doing very well these days and their future is bright.
I really like the looks of the Ghibli and the Quattroporte, the best looking sedans of the whole planet right now IMHO. Surprise, surprise, they also come with diesel engines. Exactly the same 3.0 V6 as in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500, tuned to 275 hp in the Maserati though.
That photo reminds me of the time last year I saw a perfect straight out of Miami Vice style slant nose 911 quadruple white, white, white on white, in the parking lot of a local discount “low rent” 35% vacancy semi-dead mall I happened to be at, it was the craziest thing, it was like a UFO, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but there it was. I have to pull the photos of it off my old phone.
The worst of this cars clones
Living in Miami as a kid in the 80’s who was crazy about cars, I remember seeing both of these on the road, and even the copy Bitter SC coupe too, there were a lot of crazy cars on the road in Miami during the Cocaine Cowboys heyday era, I remember seeing a 2door convertible Mercedes G-wagen in a mall parking lot, crazy, a car not even sold here.
Years ago I saw a 400 (might have been a 412) at an auction, that had been completely stripped including all paint for long enough to have a decent coat of surface rust everywhere, either a non-running or no engine, I think a basket case interior and so on. To restore it you would be underwater if it was free, yet there was a spirited bidding war and it went for a surprising amount, say around half of what you could buy a decent running car for. Still probably the cheapest Ferrari you could buy if you only wanted to be able to say you owned one I suppose.
I don’t mind them, but I like the 456 more. The FF looks more like something from Star Wars Phantom Menace with its demented grin.
I do like the Ferrari 365 and 400 GT. Have also liked the Bitter SC for quite some time. Actually saw a Bitter SC at a car show about 15 years ago and talked with the owner a bit, as I knew about the Bitter cars from online research.
The 400i was my dream car as a teenager — the gentleman’s express, an Armani suit on wheels. I pictured myself driving to and fro from Monaco to Portofino to Gstaad with a comely companion.
There was one parked at the hospital near where I lived, presumably driven by a well-heeled doctor.