400 GT Memories
Volume 46 Issue 11
May 22, 2021
The 400 GT has been much maligned. Jim Weed describes how these cars came to be and possibly ahead of its time. If it only had paddle shift...
It’s no secret the 400 GT is one of my favorite Ferraris. I recently ran across an ad in an old FCA bulletin for one that brought back some fond memories.
In January 1971 the last of the large 365 GT 2+2s rolled off the assembly line at Ferrari.
Following Ferrari’s previous forays into a Grand Touring car for the gentleman driver who needed more luggage room and occasionally four passengers, the 365 GT was the continuation of the successful 250 GTE and 330 GT 2+2.
The immediate replacement model was the 365 GTC/4. This had a similar engine as the 365 GTB/4 or Daytona as it was known, but the Pininfarina body design dictated a lower hood line. Side-draft carburetors were used. Six DCOE Webers provided the all-important one-barrel per cylinder performance with a much lower profile.
Pininfarina incorporated rear seats into the design but the reality of the short wheelbase prevented any legroom for passengers. Short drivers could pull the seat forward to fit passengers, but most passengers needed to be in the under-five category. That’s five years old, not five feet tall.
Clearly, the 365 GTC/4 could not fulfill the role of a true 2+2 platform.
The C/4 would be in production a little more than a year with five hundred examples made. By August 1972 the last 365 GTC/4 rolled off the line.
That same August a new 2+2 prototype was being designed. Leonardo Fioravanti sketched the next Ferrari 2+2.
365 GT4 2+2, 400 GT and 400i, note black bumpers
The wedge design had displaced curves as the new decade came into its own. The new 2+2 would use many of the same components of the 365 GTC/4; the side-draft engine mated with a front-mounted transmission and independent suspension all around.
The wheelbase grew eight inches over the C/4 and was two inches longer than the 365 GT 2+2. The difference in the bodies really made the difference. While the new 365 GT4 2+2 was nearly ten inches longer than the C/4 it was still a little more than six inches shorter than the 365 GT 2+2.
This expansion over the 365 GTC/4 allowed rear seat passengers to actually have legroom. Finally, a Ferrari four full-size human beings could fit into.
412 note body colored bumpers
Unfortunately, it would take another year before production could start in earnest. 365 GT4 2+2 production began early in 1973 as Daytona production was winding down. Throughout the rest of 1973 the main production car was the 365 GT4 2+2.
Save for ten Daytonas built in 1974, surely to satisfy the last of the orders, production turned to the 2+2 and the new Berlinetta Boxer, the 365 GT4/BB. Neither of these Ferraris were to be homologated for the US market. There were only two Ferraris available in the USA: the 246 GT and GTS and later in 1974 the 308 GT4.
Even though the 365 GT4 2+2 was not to be imported into the states, many did find their way over here. The body style would become the longest Ferrari-produced model with many updates made along the way.
The 365 GT4 2+2 was upgraded in 1976 with a longer stroke engine now displacing 4.8-liters. The new 400 GT now came with an automatic transmission in addition to the manual 5-speed transmission.
The 400 GT still had a carbureted engine, but emission laws would soon give way to a fuel-injected version.
365 GT4 2+2, 400 GT carbureted engine
In 1979 the 400i was unveiled and it also came with a manual or automatic transmission. The K-Jetronic fuel injection made this series a true everyday Ferrari.
The fuel injection system made for easy starting in all weather conditions and with four full size seats was grand touring at its finest.
The version was refined again in 1985 with the 412, also available with the manual and automatic transmission. The end of the line came in 1989. After sixteen years in production and over 2,800 examples built, the 365 GT4 2+2/400 GT/400i/412 came to an end.
I have driven each version many times, both automatic and manual versions. Typical Ferrari, the later versions are more refined as production moved along.
The 412 is a richer experience than the 365 GT4 2+2, but that is always expected with the evolution of any model.
Many may look down upon the automatic version, but it was really ahead of its time. The GM Turbo 400 Hydramatic is one of the toughest automatic transmissions ever made and can handle with ease the power produced by Ferrari.
While only having three speeds, power was available throughout the entire rev range. A downshift was as easy as putting your foot to the floor. Driving an automatic 400 could be as docile or wild as necessary.
400i and 412 with Bosch K-Jet Injection
Which brings me back to the ad I saw. It was for a 400 GT automatic, S/N 20989. It was a carbureted car. The ad read: My wife’s car for the last 12 years. Red/tan interior. Paint by Pirkle eight years ago, dual MSD electronic ignition. Maintained as only a Ferrari dealer’s personal car can be, a beautiful looking but not perfect 2+2. Needs engine rebuild, slight smoke, 2 cylinders approx. 10% leak down and has valve train noise. $16,000. John Apen. GA.
Yes, I was familiar with this one. I had driven it many times and had enjoyed every minute. I actually knew the car before Apen bought it. It was owned by a gentleman in Ohio.
I remembered the gentleman described in one conversation he had driven this Ferrari at the Ohio Transportation Research Center to a true 156 M.P.H. Over the years I had sold many parts to keep his steed running.
While I was in California in 1982, he ordered a left rear quarter panel and rear taillight panel. It seems he had backed into something and wrinkled the corner. I dutifully ordered parts from England and shipped them to Ohio.
By 1986 I was now back at FAF Motorcars in Tucker, Georgia, and John Apen’s new car had just been dropped off. It was red and beautiful. We all had to take a look as John opened the hood and doors to check out this 400 GT.
The conversation turned to where did he find such a well-kept car and he mentioned the gentleman’s name in Ohio. Oh, I know this car! I sold the sheet metal for it. John immediately opened the trunk and pulled back the carpet. Yes, it had been repaired. Very nicely mind you, but still, repaired.
John uttered a good natured, “damn you, Jim.”
Typical luxurious interior
In 1989 the FCA Annual Meet was in Atlanta. The track event was at Road Atlanta. I drove this 400 GT around the track many times giving rides to anybody who wanted one.
It was hot that June and as we went around and around with the windows up and the A/C on, we were able to keep up with many of the other cars on the track. At one point I had four people in the car and the radio on as we cruised at speed in style.
Apen’s wife drove that car nearly every day and with regular usage rarely gave any trouble, not even the carburetors.
Unfortunately, these Ferraris have stayed toward the bottom of the market. Undeservedly so. While the engines are expensive to rebuild, few Ferrari engines have been neglected as much as these are and continue to soldier on.
Back in the day many looked down upon the automatic as not being Ferrari enough, funny; today you can only get an automatic.
Ahead of its time? I would like to think so.