Just Add Engine: 1979 Ferrari 400A

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There are some folks out there who think of Ferrari 400s as engine donors for other V12 Ferraris, and it’s pretty apparent that’s what has happened to this one. However, apart from the missing engine and the aftermarket wheels (I’m a big fan of the original five spoke wheels, although they required Michelin TRX tires, I’m sure you could get similar looking wheels that took regular tires) this car really looks to be in excellent condition, with less than 58,000 miles. Heck, the GM-sourced automatic transmission is still in there! It’s available here on eBay with an opening bid of $12,000 and no reserve. The car is located in the seller’s heated garage in Ipswich, South Dakota.

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The 400 really has a pleasing profile to me, reminding me somewhat of a Bitter SC, but doesn’t really look “Ferrarish”. I think that’s part of the reason many collectors bypass this Ferrari. Based on a serial plate shown in the auction, this was originally a gray market import from France. Bear that in mind as visions of LS-powered Ferraris dance through your head.

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Try to imagine it nose down like this one, they are much more attractive that way. I wish we knew the history of how this car got de-engined, but even not knowing that, it’s tempting to put together an Italian-American hybrid, isn’t it? There’s a later car here on eBay that received a twin-turbo conversion to its original V12; it will be interesting to compare what both go for.

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One of the main draws of the 400 is the interior, and this looks really nice, especially for it’s age. Note the typical “bus driver” steering wheel angle. Have you started looking up crate LS engines yet?

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Here’s where it would go if you went that route. I looked for original Ferrari V12s, but the only ones I could find for sale were going for three times this car’s opening bid. Since that didn’t make sense to me, I started dreaming. Why not use an LS crate engine, 6 speed transmission (heck, I’m going for it if I’m going to make the swap) and modern air conditioning. Go with plain valve covers and maybe paint them crinkle black just for the heck of it. But that’s me–what would you do?

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Comments

  1. CoventryCat

    Your swp idea sounds perfect for this, I’d do the same if I had the kind of money this project needs. Always liked the looks of them, classy and not in your face. The only Ferraris you usually see in different colors other than red, too.

  2. Don

    A v 10 out of a totaled vipper

  3. Blueprint

    Ironically, this is the best 400 I’ve seen listed! Just look at that pristine engine compartment! No idea where the engine went, but that car was as far removed as possible from donor status. For someone with the skills for the swap, this is a bargain.

    • Blueprint

      … And selling those wheels would help pay for that LS.

  4. Oingo

    Think I might wait for someone to wrap one around a tree or look for an existing donor as the value is in the originality c’nest pas?

  5. Rob

    Transplant a low mileage V12 from a BMW 750iL in it, along with its 18 M-Parallel Wheels for that ‘sport’ look you like Jamie. Grind off the BMW lettering & put the Ferrari logo in the middle, ‘n viola, a marriage of the best of both worlds. :)

    • Kevin Harper

      I like it. My guess is 99% could not tell the difference

  6. Squad41

    Just a point of order, this Pininfarina-styled Ferrari (365 GT4 2+2, the 400 and 412) originally came out in 1972. The Bitter SC in 1979. So, the Bitter SC should remind you of this car, not the other way around.

    Incidentally, this would be the perfect car for the individual who has a rusty 400 with a viable drivetrain.

    Beautiful, clean, and straight. This could be a worthwhile project for the right person.

  7. nessy

    With the engine gone, it does make you wonder what electronics could have been removed or cut as well. You have to be careful with this project or you could be upside down in it in no time. It also seems odd that someone would have pulled the V12 out of a car this nice. With that said, this is one beautiful looking car!

    • Squad41

      Based on included photos, this is a French-market car with Weber carburetors. As an owner and enthusiast of Ferraris of this era, I can say with some reasonable certainty that there isn’t anything electronic under the bonnet.

      Also, looking at the condition of the rest of the car, my best guess is that the V12 made it into something like a Norwood 330 P4 replica.

  8. Luki

    They sold the only two things of value. Engine and wheels. GM slush box.
    No worth messing with. If you want one spend 25k and get one that runs and avoid the hassle.

  9. JagManBill

    Jag V12 will fit just was well….TONS less money. BUT..as much of an automotive purist as I am I too see the practicality in the SBC or SBF…or heck…if a BB will fit go for it. Since it already has the GM slush-box then adapting a GM in front of it shouldn’t be too hard…hee hee…..

  10. Keyna Purvis

    This would be a great car, you can take advantage of the fact that it’s not one of the popular high priced models, I had to keep reading because like most people I didn’t even realize it was a Ferrari at first, this would be a great inexpensive way to own one, even having to buy an engine for it.

  11. B Kenney

    Just swap a Honda Lump, Accord badges and everyone will admire the sweetest Honda around.

    • Luki

      Only comment so far that makes any financial sense at all.

  12. zaphod

    I’d buy a Jaguar 5.3 or 6.0 liter V12 and drop it in. Faster, more powerful, more reliable than the Ferrari mill. This is an intriguing proposition, I am sorely tempted by it. Stay tuned – I have extra Jag V12’s…

  13. Dolphin Member

    These 400s are probably the most comfortable and luxurious Ferraris made. But you have to be careful because these are the least sporting and least desirable Ferraris of all, so the relatively low values of these 4-place, automatic Ferrari sedans will play a big part in what someone can do with it without getting in over its value. With a replacement engine and a history of being resold engineless, you can expect that some potential buyers will not be willing to pay what they would pay for an original car with a clean history.

    These have sold recently at auctions for a median of $31K. I couldn’t find a price for a good 400 engine but as a guess I think it will probably cost at least $15K to buy and install a good engine. And then you would need to be sure that all the little stuff is still with the car and the engine like the links between the engine and rest of the car, and the engine accessories. With only 502 of these 400s made you can’t assume that there will be many spare parts around.

    Mike Sheehan is about the most experienced guy in the Ferrari resale business. A call to him for advice and parts would be essential for anyone jumping into this car.

    All this goes out the window if you put a BMW or Jag engine in the car, but then you are in for lots of work and an ultra low value when the car is done. And for a sporting ride better factor in a standard transmission—-and more work to get that done.

  14. Pete

    The Ferrari 12 is much lighter than Jag or BMW which were made for durability. Size will be an issue too. So spring and damper rates would have to change. The only viable route for this is a genuine engine from a wreck or rust heap, or an LS swap checking engine weights (including all ancilliaries).

  15. John Forsman

    In the 80s I lived in LA, Laurel Canyon. My kids went to preschool at the Doheny School bordering Beverly Hills. Eclectic group of parents, photographer Jeff Dunas who discovered Cameron Diaz, to Glen Larson who produced Knight Rider. His wife dropped their daughter Nicole off in a few interesting cars, 50s Buick Skylark, Bentley LeMans Fastback and most often in a Ferrari 400i. Glen could afford his taste in cars after making Quincy and Battle Star Galactica. They have been one of the affordable 12 cylinder Ferraris since the 90s.

  16. Pieter

    Why not the big Audi v12 Diesel?

  17. QB3

    Although I like the idea of the BMW 750 transplant I would still have to go with a small block 350. Must be the redneck in me but I would be the only Ferrari Owner in existence doing smokey burnouts off stop lights blowing the minds of onlooker with the beautiful sound of a throaty American V8 coupled the lines of a Ferrari. This is coming from someone who has never owned anything but European and Japanese sports cars.

  18. Peter R

    The sound of the Ferrari V12 is part of the mystique of owning one. If possilbe I would opt for that – otherwise a Chev V8 probably makes the most sense- my guess is that without the original type V12 this will never be worth much more than the final auction price of this engineless one

  19. George

    put in an LS1 with 4L70E and call it done.

  20. Joe Haska

    What a concept, asking car guys what they would do with this car. Its like what would you do if you won the lottery, no wrong answer, but lots of fun stuff!
    I would be of the side of crate motor transplant, and then drive to cars and coffee in Scottsdale, put on some Ferrari clothing, like all the Ferrari owners, lift the hood and stand around, just for the fun of it.
    I just don’t get enough abuse when I drive my hot rod!

    • Luki

      Ferrari owners wouldn’t walk an extra 20 feet at Cars and Coffee to look at a 400 of any description.
      No love for touring sedans.
      May as well be a Cayenne or a Panorama.

  21. 68 custom

    it is in beautiful shape and would be such a good resting place for an LS swap with big quiet mufflers.

  22. John F

    I’m thinking in the opposite direction: it already has the Turbo 400 transmission, so I’m thinking either a Cadillac 500 V8, or a Rolls-Royce 6.75 V8. Either would be smooth, torquey, and relatively reliable

    • Stephen

      A nice Cad V8 with a mild cam in it and Inglese EFI (eight individual throttle bodies) would be about right.

  23. Grenade

    Everybody keeps saying LS SWAP but that’s the last thing I’d pick. The BMW 12 is cool, but I say 5.7 HEMI or 6.4 HEMI. Come on, I’d even go a Lexus(Toyota) 1UZFE with a nice big turbo on it. Anyone can buy a GM engine and stick it in something- Be more creative!

  24. JagManBill

    Grenade, others;

    I agree there could be big fun with a plethora of other power plants. BUT….(the magic word) it already has a GM autotrans in it. Swap out to what ever bell-housing you need or even swap the tranny out to a GM based unit with engine and its all as close to a “bolt-in” as you could get. When you start “re-engineering” your going to be miles underwater in this thing already. No sense in tying the crete blocks to your own ankles. Put the correct wheels back on it so it doesn’t look like a Bimmer, really good (tuned) exhaust and go to all the Ferrari shows you want just never open the hood. Not a great deal different from lumping an XJ.

  25. Jonathan

    I’d be curious what it would cost to put in a 5 grand ls motor…they are actually available for even less..

    I think it would be awesome…just pull it from any wreaked fifth gen camaro wreak…

    Probably get the 6 speed transmission as well for under five…

    Labor cost to do the install would be the question and is there a kit or is it just a good luck your on your own…

    No question the LS motor would perform better and be more reliable if you can make the swap work…

    Tuning the exhaust for any sound you want should be easy.

    Jmo…as it’s a pretty car

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