The classic Ferrari market might have gone a little mad in the last few years, but not all have moved out of reach. The 400 is one such model, offering classy Pininfarina styling, a wonderful V12 engine and of course that all important prancing horse on the bonnet – all for less than £45,000.
As is often the way with these larger GT Ferraris, the 400 was actually a good seller for the company throughout its long life, but it has struggled to make the transition to highly sought after classic. Cars like the Mondial and 456 also suffer the same problem to an extent, with the more sexy two-seaters attracting the most attention.
Perhaps something that puts of a lot of drivers today is the fact that the 400 was the company’s first ever automatic offering. While this made it a big hit in the USA, it also means that there are much fewer manual cars on the market today. It’s styling is also elegant, but really rather understated, failing to attract attention like the more sporty models.
When it came along in 1976, most saw the Ferrari 400 as a mild update of the previous 365 GT/4 2+2, but an increase in engine capacity to 4.8-litres boosted performance significantly. True, the overall shape remained the same, but there were actually a number minor visual changes that changed the overall look. This included a new lip on the front bumper, the revised rear light clusters (two larger pairs rather than the triple units on the 365), new five-stud alloy wheels and a large single door mirror.
Which one to buy?
There were 502 original carburetted 400 models built, while 1305 examples of the fuel injected 400i rolled off the production line. In theory, you can choose between automatic and manual, but the reality is that the automatic cars significantly outnumber the manual cars.
Seeking a manual is not impossible, but the cars do carry a premium, and you will have a much better choice if you opt for the automatic. There’s no way around it, the three-speed GM Turbo Hydra-Matic gearbox does sapp a lot of life out of the 400. That doesn’t mean that auton isn’t still enjoyable, but it’s just in a very different way.
While the 400’s six Weber carbs were highly effective, Ferrari switched to the much more efficient Bosch K-jetronic fuel injection for 1979’s 400i. Although power output dropped (and the edge was taken off the car’s magnificent engine note) performance was officially unchanged.
Performance and specs
Engine 4823cc, four-cam V12
Power 335bhp @ 6500prm
Torque 311lb ft @4600rpm
Top speed 152mph (manual)
Fuel consumption 16mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual/three-speed automatic
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1884kg
• A poorly maintained, or worn out engine can point towards some eye-watering bills in the future, so this is where you should spend some time assessing any potential purchase.
• The good news is that the four-cam V12 fitted to the 400 is actually largely reliable, if in good health. A rattling chain could spell imminent disaster though, if it snaps the engine will most likely be written off. That’s reason enough to make sure you listen to the engine carefully from start up right through to being warmed through, but you should also listen out for any other untoward mechanical noises.
• Make all the usual checks, looking for potential head gasket problems (water mixing with oil) as well as keeping an eye on the exhaust for excessive smoke from the exhaust signalling internal wear.
• Setting up the six Weber carburettors is a specialist job, but once done, they generally give very little trouble.
• Later cars wearing metric-sized wheels can make finding tyres difficult, however availability has improved in recent years.
• Exhausts are surprisingly expensive, so an aftermarket stainless steel exhaust, or recent genuine Ferrari system, is a definite bonus when looking at a 400.
• Like all Ferraris of this era, rust can strike pretty much anywhere. Start by looking at the front and rear screen surrounds, which are extremely prone to rust.
• Most of the body panels are prone to rust, which means that most cars will have seen some restoration by now, and many will require further work. Some spares are impossible to find, while others are hugely expensive.
• Carefully inspect the door bottoms, rear wing panels and boot floor for corrosion. Chassis outriggers will potentially need to be looked at. Due to the fact that values have always been low, watch out for poor quality repairs that could complicate any future resoration.
• Thanks to its humble origins, the automatic gearbox rarely gives any trouble. If the car doesn’t smoothly or consistently change up through the gears, the problem may simply be a perished vacuum hose.
• Cars with the five-speed manual ‘box are also generally reliable, although the synchromesh on second can become damaged if the ‘box is rushed when it is cold. This is a quirk of ‘box, and proof that the previous owner knows how to use the it is always good.
• Clutch life is fairly limited, and replacement will cost a similar amount to any other Ferrari. Check for any slipping or proof of a recent change for peace of mind.
1973: Ferrari 365 GT/4 2+2 launched, based on the same underpinnings as the elegant but short-lived 365 GTC/4.
1976: Ferrari 400GT supersedes the 365 GT/4 2+2, bringing a larger 4.8-litre V12 engine, and the option of an automatic gearbox introduces the 400 Automatic.
1979: The introduction of Bosch fuel injection sees the 400 become the 400i, and the 400 Automatic become the 400i Automatic.
1982: Interior receives a minor update, while fog lights and new Michelin TRX tyres complete the external changes. Power increased by 5bhp.
1985: Ferrari 400i replaced by the 412
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.ferrariownersclub.co.uk - UK owners’ club
• www.clubscuderia.co.uk - International forum for all Ferrari matters
• www.eurospares.co.uk - Parts and service item specialists
Summary and prices
As with all Ferraris, the 400 and 400i have both moved up in value during the last few years, but not as far as you might think. While repair costs are just as high as the 400’s more expensive siblings, a 400 could cost anywhere from £12,000 for a car requiring a full restoration, to around £45,000 for one of the nicest examples.
Most cars fit into these price brackets, with right-hand drive models the most valuable in the UK, especially in extremely rare manual form. It’s easy to be tempted by a shiny looking example, but it pays to find a car with good history.