Buy a Ferrari for Mondeo money! It’s a line that’s been used many times over the years, but we’re not using it here, because you know as well as we do that such attention-grabbing headlines tell only a part of the picture. Sadly, there’s no such thing as a cheap Ferrari.
For years the Ferrari 400 and its 365/412 siblings have been the runts of the Ferrari litter. Unloved, neglected and worth little. It’s hard to understand why when you consider what they have to offer; understated, stylish lines, a luxurious interior and superb engineering along with a delicious driving experience and fabulous performance. Maybe it’s because the engine is up front and there are four seats instead of two. Whatever it is, this has long been one of the most affordable Ferraris ever made.
Things kicked off with the arrival of the 340bhp 365GT 2+2 in 1972, packing a 4.4-litre V12. There was a manual gearbox only, but when the 400GT debuted in 1976 it brought with it an auto option along with a bigger (4.8-litre) engine. There were still six carburettors but there were a few styling changes too, including larger tail lights (now four instead of six), a front spoiler and bolt-on alloy wheels in place of the previous knock-on items. The auto would be chosen by 70 per cent of buyers.
In 1979 the Weber carbs were replaced by Bosch fuel injection to produce the 400i; Ferrari’s first fuel-injected road car. Fuel economy and driveability were improved, but power dropped to 315bhp. The V12 was boosted to 340bhp once more in 1985 though, with the fitment of a 4943cc V12 in the 412i. With body-coloured bumpers and clear indicators (previously orange), this was also the first Italian car to feature anti-lock brakes. Now, as with its predecessors it’s a relative bargain – but for how much longer?
400 GT auto
Power (bhp@rpm) 340@6800
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 312@4600
Top speed 149mph
Gearbox 3-speed auto
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
1. Expect rust; even cherished cars often have some. It’s especially likely in the sills, floorpans and the boot floor along with the panels below the window line, the windscreen surround, door bottoms and boot lid. New panels aren’t available so everything has to be made specially, although some used parts are available. But nothing is cheap; a used boot lid will set you back £1000 for example.
2. The V12 is strong, but you still need to make the usual checks for blown head gaskets, oil or coolant leaks plus top and bottom end wear. Most likely is a blowing exhaust. If you’re lucky it’ll just be the pipes; a new system costs around £2500 or a bit more for a stainless steel set-up. But if the manifolds have cracked (and they docrack), the bill will more than double, not least because of the labour involved.
3. Setting up six carburettors is a specialist job, but someone who knows what they’re doing won’t be fazed it. Everything should stay in tune too, but don’t be frightened by the Bosch fuel injection, as it’s usually reliable. Listen for rattles from a stretched timing chain, which can lead to the chain slipping – which destroys the V12 when valves and pistons collide. The engine has an array of auxiliary belts which should be replaced every three years or 30,000 miles. It’s a tricky job that typically costs £450 to have sorted by a specialist.
4. Both the manual and automatic gearboxes are durable, if maintained. Until the gearbox has warmed up, second gear shouldn’t be used or the synchromesh will be damaged. There’s plenty of torque to go from first to third, but some owners don’t, so feel for baulking as you change up or down into second.
5. A worn clutch costs around £1000 to replace, so haggle accordingly if necessary. The automatic transmission lasts well if its fluid is changed regularly. Some adjustments may be all that’s needed to eliminate jerky changes; a complete overhaul shouldn’t cost more than £1500, including the labour to remove and refit the gearbox.
6. Expect tired dampers, springs and bushes. All versions feature self-levelling suspension at the rear which on the 412i is hydraulically operated via a pump. Check that the ious pipes for this are intact, because they can corrode – they may have been replaced already.
7. Brake callipers can seize up on cars that are used sparingly, although sometimes it’s just a matter of freeing them off and then using the car. However, if things are really bad you might have to get the callipers rebuilt; bank on paying around £450 to get each of the fronts done while the rears are pitched at £300 or so apiece. The 365 and 400 featured imperial wheels with Michelin XWX tyres while the 400i and 412 got metric rims with Michelin TRX rubber. The latter are expensive while sometimes the earlier cars have modern rubber fitted, which spoils the car’s appearance. An owner who has kept their earlier car on the correct tyres has probably taken the time to keep their car just so in other ways.
8. Italian electrics are notorious for being temperamental, so don’t expect everything to work as it should. While most of the ious motors and solenoids generally last pretty well, the cabling, connectors and relays can play up. So too can the fusebox, which is no longer available, which is why converting to a proprietary part is usually the best solution. Later cars got more gadgets, all of which need to be checked – so don’t overlook items such as electric seats, air conditioning and all instrumentation.
The 400 is still relatively affordable to buy, but running costs can be ruinous, although values are on the rise. Buy a car that’s had money lavished on it, but bear in mind that recent big bills don’t mean further major expense isn’t looming. But what a way to blow your savings!