This 1975 Ferrari 400i was an original factory prototype used for testing and development purposes for the then-new 400 series. In this capacity it’s said to have been test driven by Ferrari F1 veteran and multiple World Champion Niki Lauda.
As a prototype, this car started life as a 365 GT4 2+2. It was later upgraded by the factory with a Weber carburetor-fed 400 series engine for testing, before having a fuel injection system added to test it for the upcoming 400i model.
Fast Facts – A Ferrari 400i “Prototipo”
- The Ferrari 400i was introduced in 1979 as a fuel-injected evolution of the earlier carburetor-fed Ferrari 400. It retained the design penned by Leonardo Fioravanti at Pininfarina of the 400 and the 365 GT4 2+2 that came before.
- The 400i featured a front-engined Colombo V12 layout, and a 2+2 seating arrangement. Its design was marked by a sharp, angular look, a departure from the curvaceous styling of earlier Ferrari GT cars.
- Interestingly, the 400 series cars would be the first Ferraris available with an automatic transmission. This significantly reduced the barrier to entry for many owners who were uncomfortable or inexperienced with manual gearboxes .
- The 400 series actually started with the 365 GT4 2+2 released in 1972, this was followed by the 400 in 1976, the 400i in 1979, and finally the 412 in 1985. Production of this series ran from 1972 until 1989, making it Ferrari’s longest-ever production series.
Ferrari’s Longest Running Production Model
The Ferrari 400i is a member of the family of Ferraris that are mostly famous for three things – being the longest running production series in Ferrari history, appearing in the Daft Punk “Electroma” music video, and for being one of the least-liked Ferraris of the time. Though that last point does seem a little unfair.
The series began in 1972 with the release of the Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2. This car was designed by Leonardo Fioravanti at Pininfarina to replace the outgoing (and similarly named) Ferrari 365 GT 2+2.
Fioravanti’s design was a stark departure from earlier Ferraris with their graceful curves, the 365 GT4 2+2 was far more angular and sharp-edged, it was a look loved by some but not entirely embraced by the wider Ferrari community at the time.
The Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 featured a tubular steel chassis with independent front and rear suspension, disc brakes on all four corners, a front-mounted Colombo V12, rear-wheel drive, a luxurious cabin with two front seats and two smaller rear seats (2+2), and a body that consisted of steel panels with a fiberglass floor.
This would be the first production Ferrari ever offered with an automatic transmission as an option. This automatic option that would prove exceedingly popular, particularly in the United States, as a result of this most surviving examples seem to have automatic boxes fitted.
The series began with the Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 which was sold from 1972 until 1976 when it was replaced with the far simpler-named Ferrari 400. The 400 looks almost indistinguishable from the earlier model, keeping the angular Fioravanti lines but benefitting from a 4.8 liter of the Colombo V12 replacing the 4.4 liter version of the same engine used in the earlier model.
1979 would see the release of the Ferrari 400i. As the little”i” suggests, this model was given Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection to replace the six 38 DCOE Weber carburetors on the preceding model. This switch to fuel injection was to keep inline with increasingly strict US emissions regulations, the US being Ferrari’s most important export market at the time.
The 400i would remain in production until 1985, when it was replaced with the Ferrari 412. The 412 featured a 4.9 liter version of the Colombo V12, offering a slight power increase, it would be the first production Ferrari offered with Bosch ABS, and it would be the final production Ferrari fitted with the Colombo V12.
By the end of production in 1989 the 400 series had been in production for 17 years. 2,907 were produced in total. Prices on them today remain low by Ferrari standards, and it’s almost invariably the least expensive way to get yourself into a V12 Ferrari with values typically remaining firmly in the five figures.
The 1975 Ferrari 400i “Prototipo” Shown Here
The car you see here is one of the most unusual of the 400 series Ferraris we’ve come across yet. As mentioned higher up, it started life as a standard Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2, finished in Argento Metallizzato over a Beige interior.
Unlike its production line siblings, this car was retained by Ferrari as a prototype for testing. It was used for testing the (then upcoming) Ferrari 400 model, and as a result it was fitted with a 400 series V12 Colombo mill topped with six 38 DCOE Weber carburetors. Interestingly, this engine remains in the car today, and it’s stamped with the number #00001.
This engine was later fitted with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection to test and refine the system that would be used on the 400i production model. At some point during its time as a Ferrari prototype test vehicle it’s said to have been driven by Scuderia Ferrari ace, Niki Lauda, likely to get his input on the car.
Though it was built in 1975, the car wasn’t road registered for the first time until March of 1980, it was then sold to its first private owner a month later in April. The car would pass through the hands of six owners before being exported from Italy in 2002.
The car then disappeared from radar for 15 years, when it resurfaced it was in Tasmania, Australia. In 2020 the car was acquired by the consigning seller, and it’s been carefully preserved in “as-found” condition since then.
It’s clear that it now needs a careful recommissioning, perhaps a full restoration, but it will be of paramount importance than as much of the car’s originality is preserved as a notable 1970s-era Ferrari prototype.
It’s now being offered for sale by RM Sotheby’s without reserve and a price guide of $65,000 – $90,000 USD as part of their Paris Auction in late January. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images: Darren Capp ©2023 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
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