Despite various scare stories and a bad reputation for horrendous running costs, there’s a lot to like about the Ferrari 400 and later 412i. Although the company has a long and well regarded history when it comes to its sports cars such as the Dino, 308 and 355, as well as its ultimate road cars like the 288 GTO and F40, its more recent GT cars have struggled to pick up a following.
While they might have been desirable and reasonably successful when new, these expensive to run GTs quickly built up a bad reputation on the used market. With second and third owners trying to run them on a shoestring budget, it’s perhaps no surprise that some serious problems would arise.
The 412i can trace its roots right back to the Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2 of 1972. The body was by Pininfarina and its angular lines were a stark contrast to its more curvy predecessors. Despite a slightly warm reception from the more hardcore drivers, this became Ferrari’s longest ever running production car, spanning an impressive 16-years, remaining very much in demand right through to the end.
Aesthetics aside, the 365GT4 2+2 had all the traits of a true Ferrari; large V12 giving strong performance up front, and pin sharp handling to match. Luxuriously trimmed leather seats and comfortable interior made it a pleasant long-distance cruiser too. As it developed into the 400 and later 400i - importantly the first Ferrari to be offered with a full auto ‘box - the car became even more civilised, comfortable and reliable.
After the company updated the Mondial, facelifted the ageing 308 into the far more modern 328, attention turned to the 400i. For 1985, the updated model received an enlarged 4943cc V12 engine, Marelli Microplex ignition as well as an improved standard specification – including ABS, a first for a Ferrari.
Today, the 412i is still often met with a mixed reaction, while values are still among the lowest of all Ferraris. While it has never been universally adored, many of its subtle charms have won over many sceptics, and it remains a unique alternative into Ferrari ownership with a dash of added practicality and comfort.
Which one to buy?
The 412 was a direct replacement for the 400, and while engine capacity grew to 4.9-litres, peak power of 340bhp was now delivered at lower revs – improving driveability. The venerable Borg Warner three-speed auto ‘box remained, as did the five-speed manual of which few were ordered. Changes throughout the production run were minor, and choosing between the various model years should be based on condition.
Prices for these big Ferraris have been depressed for quite some time, and some may have been in the hands of less meticulous owners possibly skimping on the sort of maintenance that these cars require. Carry out a thorough inspection, before handing over your cash as badly-maintained models are very costly to sort out.
There are cars out there selling for not much more than a used diesel hatchback but be warned that the servicing and maintenance costs will still be at Ferrari levels so buying a car with patchy history or at a too-good-to-be-true price will almost certainly be a catalyst to the poor house.
Find a good one and the ownership experience will be so much more rewarding than what can be had from a similarly priced modern family car. For a bit more performance and immersion search for one of the rare 5 speed manuals. There were also few cars that have been modified into convertibles but this was never a factory option and while this can be an interesting option there are apparently only 3 convertibles around so finding one will be tough.
Performance and specs
Engine 4942cc, 24valve DOHC V12
Power 335bhp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 333lb ft @ 4200rpm
Top speed 158mph
0-62mph 6.7 seconds
Fuel consumption 15.4 mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
• Parts and service items are available however they are at Ferrari price levels so get in touch with your local Ferrari club to find out where to source the best and most cost effective solutions.
• The complex self-levelling rear suspension systems are expensive to repair and many cars will have had the units replaced by standard coil over items. Restoration of the original units is possible though, if you want the car to be completely standard.
• Automatic gearboxes should change smoothly, and any jerkyness could indicate a failing servo pump. This also boosts the braking system.
• The five-speed manual gearboxes are strong units, however they are notchy and tricky to use when not warmed up. This is normal, and is common in Ferraris of this era.
• Rust can show itself around the front windscreen pillars, bootlid and inner and outer sills. Check all the body panels for previous repair work.
• The Michelin TRX tyres were a unique metric size, and replacements are extremely difficult to get as well as being very costly. Some owners have changed to a more conventional set up using wheels from other models.
• The electrical system can be problematic especially on cars that have been idle for long periods. Contact points corrode and can cause various intermittent electrical maladies, including fluctuating dashboard gauges and problems with lights.
• Major servicing is required every 12,000 miles so budget for this cost, and certain parts can be very pricey.
1985: Ferrari 412 goes on sale replacing 400 models. ABS offered as standard for the first time on a Ferrari, and engine increased to 4.9-litres and 335bhp. Changes over 400 model include higher bootline, modified alloy wheels and updated spoiler, sills and bumper inserts.
1989: Final 412 rolls off the production line making up a total of 576 cars
Clubs and websites
• www.400register.com - specialist website for 400/412 owners
• www.ferrariownersclub.co.uk - UK Ferrari Owners Club and forum
Summary and prices
A good example of a 412i will set you back around £40,000-£45,000, and while some cars can be found for far less, it can be a costly mistake. Go for the cheapest one you can find, and parts alone will run into the tens of thousands of pounds. Prices are currently on the rise for Ferraris in general, and depreciation of your car is unlikely in the current market.
The rarer manuals carry fair premium over the automatics but the key decider here should be the condition and evidence of a long and detailed history. Find the right one and you could have a true Ferrari grand tourer with distinctive Pininfarina styling and the added draw of a fantastic V12.