Ferrari had a big problem with its 400 series when it debuted in 1959. Sure, the car packed a racing V-12 and all the gravitas a Ferrari badge can bring, but its brutal style made the front-engine 2+2 GT car a tough sell in one of Ferrari’s fastest-growing markets: the United States.
An emergency refresh was undertaken. Gone was the 400’s square grille and quad headlamp setup, replaced by Ferrari’s delicious oval slatted grille and single round headlamps under glass at each corner. Suddenly, the 400 Superamerica SWB Coupé Aerodinamico was as gorgeous as its two-seat siblings.
This very car, one of 36 built, is owned by famed driving instructor Skip Barber and is set for auction this weekend on May 25th by RM Auctions in Lake Cuomo, Italy. The pre-sale estimate is between $2.4 and $3 million, but the bidding could well reach $5 million before the dust settles.
Beneath the Superamerica Aerodinamico’s sumptuous bodywork lies the vanguard of Ferrari tech at the time, much like the Ferrari 456GT and current FF . Part of the “America” series of cars that included the 330 GT and 365 GTC , the plan in Modena was to leverage the flexibility offered by their small-scale Pininfarina bodywork team to create unique shells that would sell cars in crucial markets, like New York and Los Angeles, as well as Firenzi and Roma.
Click past the jump for the full review and photo gallery of this timeless classic, the 400 Superamerica Coupe SWB Aerodinamico.
The Superamerica Aerodinamico solved the 400 Superamerica’s big style problem. Overly influenced by American cars of the time, especially Checker cabs and the 1957 Chevrolet lineup; the 400 Superamerica lacked the panache of the Ferrari 250GT series.
In addition to the heavy mods up front, the rest of the car was totally redone with almost zero styling commonality with its predecessor. The headlights are perhaps the biggest change, with the desirable optional chrome-rimmed glass shrouds up front offering an appearance more similar to Ferrari’s racing cars.
Immediately upon comparison, the Aerodinamico appears smoother and softer at the nose, where the hood arcs down to meet the oval grille instead of the previously bluff lines. The hood itself shares the same chrome-trimmed cooling scoop as the previous car but it is almost unrecognizable, thanks to the other changes. Aero styling of the time was just a theoretical science. There were no wind tunnels or computational fluid-dynamics software to test a car’s drag coefficient, so designers used intuition and aircraft principles to smooth the shape.
A more raked windshield and the totally redesigned glasshouse helped reset the Aerodinamico’s road presence without sacrificing the seating or comfort of occupants. An arc of metal flows around the front wheel arch and extends back to the door from the top of the fender. This line frames the diagonal side vents before meeting another horizontal swage line that continues to the rear bumper. Whether for body strength, production ease or as a visual element, the result works really well to tighten the loose top shapes and create a longer, fitter appearance from the lower rear and sides.
We see influences from the period’s Jaguar E-type and S-type throughout the Aerodinamico, including the slim chrome bumpers that wrap around the body to almost meet the rear wheel arch, as well as the elegant tapering shoulder line just beside the trunk. Within those Jag-like bumpers were the primary stop and indicator recessed deep within the chrome.
The rear view of the Superamerica Aerodinamico is stunning. It keeps the stylish sloping trunk lid, like the Aston Marton DB4 GT Jet by Bertone , but it looks cleaner, thanks to the sculpted tumble-home, heavily curved back glass and shapelier metal below the bumpers to help ground the car’s appearance.
As evidence that aero principles were in their infancy, the bodywork of even this masterpiece does not extend deep enough over the sills to cover the exposed exhaust and other mechanical pieces from high-speed airflow. The concept for deep air dams up front wouldn’t take hold for another 15 years in the 1970s BMW CSL racing prototypes.
Rather than a demerit, seeing the exhaust system from the side of the Aerodinamico only enhances its period glamour. The straight pipes flow back to a quad-tipped exhaust finished with an Abarth racing scorpion logo just before the mufflers.
Thankfully for Pininfarina , the interior of the Superamerica Aerodinamico needed far less graphic surgery than the exterior. The basics stay the same: lovely seats and leatherwork, wood-rimmed three-spoke wheel and a deeply curved windshield glass wrapping the cockpit. The handbrake still has a unique position mounted just beside the driver’s right knee and wrapped in matching Connolly leather, of course.
The Aerodinamico added an extra gauge to the dash’s center info area, which is flanked by banks of individual toggle switches and more gauges below. Conspicuous by their absence are air vents and a head unit for the radio; however, this particular Aerodinamico shows speaker plates in the front foot wells, indicating a possible modern retrofit unit inside the glove box or armrest.
Looking sumptuous in cream leather, the seats of the Aero are huge by standards of the day, matching the car’s mission as fast and comfy transport for the very affluent. The seat bases are so wide and large that they more closely resemble individual bench seats than the racing buckets of the era. This spacious cockpit and trunk were designed-in features to help the car appeal to American buyers, who were much taller and broader people than post-war Italians.
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
The Ferrari 400 Superamerica Aerodinamico kept the older model basics: front-mounted, single overhead-cam 4.0-liter V-12 power sent through a four-speed manual transmission and stopped by hydraulic discs all around. Enzo Ferrari built his fame partly through high-performance V-12s with very small displacements and compact dimensions that could be mounted low in the nose.
The 400 SA’s racing-derived ‘Columbo’ 4.0-liter was smaller than previous V-12s used in the America Ferraris, but matched the larger engine’s power, thanks to enhancements to the triple Weber carburetors and stronger internal components.
Drivetrain Specifications :
|Peak power||360 horsepower|
|Peak torque||285 pound-feet (est.)|
|Top Speed||158 mph (est.)|
In the video above of a different 400 Superamerica Aerodinamico, the V-12 exhaust sounds quite strained around town, as though the exhaust is choking the sound down to manageable levels. It sounds like this because that’s exactly what’s happening.
Racing Ferrari’s of the day had little to no exhaust system whatsoever, simply pumping out copious fumes under the car and creating an untamed shriek that deafened race fans. In the name of civility and a minor nod to road laws, the exhaust was hastily added to the racing V-12 for road-car production.
There’s no muffling the mechanical symphony of V-12 engine noise. At first throttle tip-in, the note is much like an in-line six or eight cylinder engine, but as revs rise past 3,000 rpm, it’s as if another complete engine has chimed in to help. All 12 cylinders have been at work the whole time; it just takes some revs to create the gorgeous sonic resonance than builds inside the Aerodinamico’s cockpit like a wall of sound at full throttle.
Pricing, Concours and Auction History
Of course, this 400 Superamerica Aerodinamico is ultra-rare and extremely valuable. One of only 36 made and featuring the desirable optional headlight covers, it is a beauty that’s been celebrated since it arrived with its first owner in Ohio. The Abarth exhaust system was added to this 400 SA in 1968, meaning it sounds more soulful than the original car and is approved by the snooty Ferrari Classiche certification team.
This 400 SA has competed in concours throughout its life, evidence that it doesn’t take 20-plus years to appreciate the shape. Below is a quick summary of the car’s show history:
- Ferrari Club of America, 1968, Greenwich Connecticut: Judge’s Choice
- Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Ferrari Club of America, 1994
- Concours Automobiles Classiques et Louis Vuitton at Parc de Bagatelle, 1997, Paris: Class VIII Win
- Grand Prix of Montreux, 2002
- Cavallino Classic, Florida, 2005
- Cavallino Classic, Florida, 2012: Platinum Award winner
Big money has been spent over the years to maintain the car well enough to achieve Ferrari Classiche certification.
The only thing holding back this numbers-matching SWB example from eclipsing the $5 million mark is buyer appetite for a 2+2 hardtop Ferraris versus two-seat spyders, which can be worth far more. Knowing the ultra-posh, older crowd at this weekend’s Villa d’Este auction, some additional comfort might be just what buyers’ desire.
This Lamborghini is seriously ahead of its time. Rectangular headlights to go along with an extremely low and sleek body show that Lambo’s stylists were onto something in the years before their landmark Miura and Countach models.
Gallery Lamborghini 350 GT
The David Brown series of Aston Martins brought the fight to Ferrari in endurance and sprint racing between 1955 and the early `60s, when Aston resolved itself into a more gentlemanly performance cruiser. The DB5 offers a very similar package but with half the cylinders of the 400 SA.
The looks of this Ferrari 400 SA defined Ferrari style in the `60s with the 500 Superfast and the 330 GTC carrying the proportions and surfacing almost untouched. The Lamborghini 350 GT and Aston Martin DB5 were also born from this curvy style ethos. The big style change for Ferrari style was a quantum leap: the 1968 365 GTB/4 Daytona , which immediately made curvaceous Ferraris a thing of the past.
The proportions of the car make it look incredibly light on its feet and are reflected in its easy driveability, even by today’s standards. Driven flat out, there was no other GT car with as much pace as these 400 Superamerica Aerodinamicos. Additionally, they were known worldwide as the most glamorous car on the road, driven by celebs and despots alike.
The chance to own this desirable 400 SA is an exciting prospect. After years in the doldrums, this curvy 2+2 shape is appreciating in value very rapidly. What sets Skip Barber’s Superamerica Aerodinamico apart is that all the heavy lifting to restore and certify the car has already been completed.
This is a turn-key invitation into the concours circuit that’s prepped to win among the best of the best. What’s the cost of entry into this blue-blooded world? Stay tuned until the 25th to see whether this pristine Ferrari 400 Superamerica Aerodinamico can bust through the $3 million price ceiling for 2+2s.
- Dripping with style and class; Styling set the template for the many future Ferrari’s
- Big seats and trunk offered high-speed gran touring comfort
- Awesome ’Superamerica Aerodinamico’ name
- Rarity means few will ever see or experience the car
- Costly to drive because of insurance and maintenance prices
- SWB chassis offers less rear-seat room than later LWB models