Lost Prancing Horse: 1979 Ferrari 400 GTA

Some of the most common presumptions about an old Ferrari is either that it's worth a lot of money or someday it's going to be worth a lot of money. Both presumptions are hard at work in this ad. Both presumptions are not always true.

At least not with the Ferrari 400.

For a Ferrari to be worth a lot of money, theory says it has to have no rear seats, be mid-engine and have 12-cylinders. I guess 1 out of 3 ain't bad. The 400 had seating for four, a front-engine, and, yes mercifully, a 12-cylinder engine.

The 400 series was produced from 1976-1989, and featured Ferrari's first automatic transmission, a General Motors Turbo-Hydramatic THM400. It was mated to a 4.8-litre V12 producing about 340 horsepower. Reported 0-60 mph times were around 7.1 seconds.

No version of the 400 was ever officially imported to the U.S., an odd mistake given the automatic transmission, U.S. emissions compliance and upper-crust pedigree perfect for the dawn of the '80s.

That makes this car a rare grey market import.

This is a first-run series 400 car, of which 502 were made from '76-'79.


The pointy body was crafted by none other than famed design house Pininfarina, for whom Ferrari was their #1 client. This early '79 example has black plastic bumper moldings which were later body colored, as well as a painted-black rear taillight region, which I'm not sure was factory but looks passable. It is all typical of the era, and I imagine was horribly dated feeling by the mid-'90s, when smooth bodies and subtle curves were in and hard angles out. But it has since grown into a semi-classic of minimalist oddball expressionism. The squinty, sour-eyed front turn indicators and hidden headlamps take a lot of getting used to and they still occasionally annoy me, but I like them. After years of having the Ferrari Testarossa cheese-grater side air intakes burned into my mind, the flat, unassuming planes of the 400 are a refreshing relief and brilliant direction for the brand. This isn't the Ferrari you'd have on a poster in your room, but that's exactly why I like it.

So ground-breaking was the 400 that it might have had something to do with the very similar-looking 1980 Pinin Concept, which was the first and so far only four-door concept Ferrari has ever entertained the notion of. It's half way to Aston Martin Lagonda territory, but it looks good overall and would have fit alongside the 400 very well.

The seller states this 400 was from a private collection and is in great shape without any major flaws in the body and glass. They say it runs and drives and shifts smoothly. However, they say the a/c is not blowing cold and may need a new compressor. Low-mileage Ferraris are the norm, so the 46,578 on the clock is not at all unusual. Wealthy owners held on to them carefully with the hopes that they'll appreciate in value, along with the usual fair-weather-weekend-only usage.

So what's the price of this admission into the hyper-exclusive V12 Ferrari club? The seller here wants $25,900 but is open to best offers. Hemmings values a 1979 400 GTA in fair condition at $9,875, good condition at $15,950 and excellent condition at $26,475. That would place this at the upper end of value and is by no means a bargain, especially given the rumored cost of maintenance, if it's even used. That said, the 400 cars have got to be the least expensive purchase-price V12 Ferrari ever available when adjusted for inflation.

Find it here on ebay in Johnston, Rhode Island.

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