Articles

Michael Sheehan's Ferraris-online.com Article

Room for Four

Mechanics, parts suppliers and restoration shops do not discriminate; Ferrari parts and labor do not relate to market value

As appeared in:

Sports Car Market—August 2007 issue

Sheehan Speaks

by Michael Sheehan

Part I: More seats, less money. The early 2+2s

In the late 1950s, Aston Martin and Maserati found a very lucrative market niche supplying GT cars to owners who wanted to bring the occasional extra friend or children along for the ride. While Ferrari had built four-seaters with bodies by Ghia, Touring, and Vignale, they were compromised coupes, and so Ferrari, ever eager to pay the racing bills, built an all-new car from the ground up as a 2+2.

1963 250 GTE
1963 250 GTE

The 250 GTE was introduced in October 1960 at the Paris Salon, an evolution of the highly successful 250 series. The traditional frame was lengthened, the engine was moved forward, and the rear track was widened, giving usable rear cabin space. The defining 2+2 supercar of its era, a factory test car went from a dead stop to 100 mph and back to rest in 25 seconds, topping out at just under 140 mph, with 0–60 mph in just over seven seconds. Thanks to the stretched coachwork, the 250 GTE bodylines were more fluid and sporting than its shorter 250 PF coupe brother

Indeed, the 250 GTE 2+2 was the best looking Ferrari 2+2, with classical lines not matched until the modern 456 GT and 456 M. Nothing else in its era could match the 250 GTE 2+2 for space, grace, and pace, ushering in a new era of what was, for Ferrari, high-volume efficiency and mass-marketing. Between 1960 and 1963, just over 950 250 GTEs were built at a rate of around six per week, making the GTE a huge commercial success.

The 250 GTE was followed by the 330 America, an interim model using the chassis and body of the Series III 250 GTE 2+2, fitted with the engine of the 330 GT 2+2, due to begin production in 1964. Only 50 were built, all in late 1963, and all over a period of about a month.

250 GTE: Problems, and on buying one

Any 250 GTE is on the wrong side of 40 years old, and all have suffered the ravages of time. Because of a complex and expensive-to-rebuild front suspension, an engine with poor casting quality and no valve guide seals, an overdrive that is a mystery to most mechanics, and the reality that every component on the car is well past its rebuild-or-replace date, the 250 2+2 has always been at the bottom of the 250 food chain. Rust-proofing was perfunctory at best, and so the 250 GTE was the donor car of choice through the late 1980s, with hundreds parted out to become 250 replicas of one sort or another. Owners tend to put off service work that over time becomes a study in deferred maintenance. What should be a $5,000–$10,000 service once every few years is put off for years and becomes a $25,000-plus deferred maintenance bill.

A project car is worth $75,000, yet the best on the planet would struggle to bring $145,000, making the search for the right car difficult, as the restoration needed to make a rough car into a show car is the same for a 250 GTE as it is for a 250 SWB. Very few owners have been dedicated (or foolish) enough to fully restore a 250 GTE, and so almost all have serious deferred maintenance issues, making the 250 GTE, and indeed all of the classic 2+2s, the poster children for a detailed pre-purchase inspection.

330 2+2 four headlight: PF misses the boat

1966 330 2+2 Series I
1966 330 2+2 Series I

The 330 2+2 was introduced in 1964 at January’s annual Ferrari press conference. Replacing the well-styled and best-selling 250 GTE would be a difficult task, and being built alongside the svelte 275 GTB and attractive 500 Superfast did little to help explain the 330 2+2’s bland styling. The twin-headlight nose was ugly and the rear body was simply formless. The new 4-liter engine gave a very healthy 300 hp at 6,600 rpm, enough to take the 330 GT from 0–60 mph in just 6.3 seconds, with a top speed of 150 mph. The 4-speed with overdrive from the 250 GTE was used until the spring of 1965, when it was replaced with a 5-speed gearbox. A total of 509 Series I 330 2+2s were built, with the last 119 all fitted with the new 5-speed box.

330 2+2 two headlight: A better package

1965 330 2+2 Series II
1965 330 2+2 Series II

Launched in mid-1965, the Series II 330 GT featured a more attractive two-headlight design and a long list of updated features. The 5-speed was now standard, and a fiberglass floorpan eliminated much of the rust problem of the earlier cars. Power steering and air conditioning were also offered as extra cost options. Mid-way through production, Ferrari replaced the four-mount block with a new casting that had two engine mounts. Production continued until autumn 1967, by which time 460 examples had been completed. Total production for the 330 GT was 1,088.

330 GT 2+2: Problems, and on buying one

The problem list on the 330 mirrors the 250 GTE-deferred maintenance and the reality that any major work is equal to half the value of the car. Pay $45,000 for a “driver” Series I project car, spend $150,000 to restore it, it’s worth $85,000. Pay $45,000–$55,000 for a “driver” Series II car, spend $150,000 to restore it, it’s worth $100,000, making the 330 2+2s the bad math cars.

365 GT 2+2: Pininfarina hits the mark

1970 365 GT 2+2
1970 365 GT 2+2

Launched in October 1967 at the Paris Salon, the 365 was well received and continued Ferrari marketing success with evolving 2+2 models. The 365 GT was clearly inspired by the GTC Speciale and Ferrari’s 500 Superfast, resulting in a nicely cohesive but overly large design. The imposing rear overhang made the 365 GT 2+2 the longest car Ferrari had ever made, earning the nickname “Queen Mother.”

The 365 GT featured a fully independent self-leveling rear suspension, air conditioning, electric door windows, electric vent windows, and power steering. The 365 delivered 320 hp, with a top speed of 152 mph and a 0–60 time of 7.3 seconds. Production ended in early 1971 with 801 365 2+2s built.

365 GT 2+2: Problems, and on buying one

The potential deferred maintenance issues on the 365 GT 2+2 mirror the earlier 2+2 problems, although rust is not a serious problem on these later Pininfarina-built cars. Pay $60,000 for a “driver” pay over $100,000 for the best.

365 GT4 2+2: Bland but fast

1973 365 GT4 2+2
1973 365 GT4 2+2

Launched at the October 1972 Paris Salon, the 365 GT4 2+2 offered impressive performance and comfort for four adults but, as the predecessor to the 400 and 412, suffered from the same bland styling. While the GT4 sat on the longest wheelbase of any Ferrari, the overall length was still seven inches less than the “Queen Mother.” With 340 hp, the 4-cam GT4 was the world’s fastest four-seater with a top speed of 155 mph and a 0–60 time of just 6.4 seconds. The GT4 2+2 was by far the most spacious 2+2 yet produced by Ferrari, giving an airy interior for front and rear passengers. When GT4 production ended in late 1976, 521 cars and three prototypes had been built.

400 GT and GTA: Going shiftless

1978 400 GT
1978 400 GT

Launched in October 1976 at the Paris Salon, the 400 was an immediate success, despite doubts over the option of an automatic transmission. The 400 GT was little changed from the 365 GT4, with the major changes in the engine, now 4.8 liters, although power stayed at 340 hp. The 3-speed auto box worked well around town, although the lack of two extra gears hurt top end performance and top speed. Many questioned Ferrari offering an automatic transmission, but nearly two of every three 400s were automatics. Production ended in mid 1979, with 353 GTs and 770 automatics built.

400i: Injection is added

1980 400i
1980 400i

Because of tighter emissions laws, Ferrari introduced a fuel-injected 400 in 1979 that could be modified to meet stricter rules. The 400i engine was noticeably smoother and more refined but at a loss of 30 hp. Power was down to 310 hp and top speed below 150 mph. Production of the 400i ended in early 1985 after the debut of Ferrari’s 412. However, the 400i was another commercial success for Ferrari, with 427 GTs and 886 automatics built over six years.

412: The best of the bland

1986 412
1986 412

Launched in March 1985 at the Geneva Salon, the 412 enjoyed an engine size increase from 4.8 to 5 liters, and power was up by 25 to 340 hp. The 412 continued Ferrari tradition on building the planet’s fastest 2+2, with a top speed of 155 mph and 0–60 under seven seconds. Production ended in 1989, after 303 GTs and 226 automatics were built.

The 365 GT4, 400, and 412 Ferraris are all 18 to 34 years old and have been at the bottom of the Ferrari V12 2+2 food chain for decades. The electric buttons that open the hood, trunk, and gas door fail regularly. Given the car’s low ride height, speed bumps can flatten the exhaust. If you notice an oil mist on your windshield, it means the front oil cooler is cracked and you will soon run out of oil, and the list goes on…. As for long term appreciation or building “sweat equity” by slowly restoring one, I can assure you that Ferrari mechanics, parts suppliers and restoration shops do not discriminate; all parts and labor are equally expensive, regardless of the market value of your Ferrari.

Ask for a detailed pre-purchase inspection. Most will easily find $10,000-plus in deferred maintenance and/or recommended work, hard to justify with a 365 GT4 or 400 worth $20,000 to $35,000 and a 412 worth $35,000 to $45,000. The 365 GT4-400-412 are the cheapest V12 rides but also really bad-math cars, should you buy a bad one.

I’ve owned and driven every model in this market summary and have to opine that my favorite is the 365 GT4 or 400 GT 5-speed, as these are seriously fast cars, with a great exhaust sound and amenities like power windows, power steering, and a/c that work adequately. In the mid-1970s I was able to make a high-speed run from Phoenix to Newport Beach in only five hours, running at a steady 125 across the desert in my 365 GT4, a feat that would certainly guarantee a trip to jail today. I’m glad I’ve lived at a time these cars could be used as Ferrari intended.

All of the above were great cars when they left the factory, and if you find a properly restored one, they are still great cars and decent buys today. But be forewarned that buying a car with needs, or a project car, will create a situation that tries your patience, empties your bank account, and makes you regret you ever went down this path. Buy smart, spend more up front, be happy.

MIKE SHEEHAN has been a Ferrari broker and racer for 30 years. He has raced in the Mazda Pro Series and the Trans Am Series as well as IMSA GTO and IMSA Camel-Lite, with three separate drives in the 24 Hours of Daytona.