Matthew Jones01 March 2012

Classified ad of the week: Ferrari 400i

Can’t afford a ‘new 599’? Here’s a slightly cheaper V12-powered GT Ferrari…

Of course you want the new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. There's a massive 730bhp V12 in the front, seven-speed double-clutch gearbox in the middle, and power's spun to the rear wheels. Most importantly, it also has a yellow badge with a black horse on it. And it's the fastest road-going Ferrari ever built.

But I-wants don't get. Big bags of money do. Unless you compromise the fantasy to service the reality, and take a colossal gamble by purchasing yourself a keenly-priced and softly antiqued alternative. Like this anterior-engined battleship - the Ferrari 400i.

OK, so side-by-side the 400i's a bit of a damp squib. Its V12 is only 4.8-litres (1.5 smaller than the F12's 6.3). It makes less than half the power (340bhp), and chances are it'll be an automatic.

In fact, when it launched in 1979 it was the first Ferrari to be offered as an auto - a GM Turbo-Hydramatic three-speed, to be precise (also used by Rolls-Royce and Jaguar at the time). The Italians thought it would boost sales in America, which is unfortunate because the V12 failed US emissions tests so it couldn't be officially imported. Even more unfortunate is the legacy the option left - nearly two in every three 400's wear a slush ‘box.

Things brightened up a bit in 1979 - Ferrari ripped off the Weber carburetors, fitted Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and slapped on a 400i badge.

But because of that auto' option - and that it was a wobbly, four-seat GT, not a lithe racing thing - the Ferrari beards never really got that excited about it. Which has kept values temptingly low: this rather shiny example costs £18,000. Which is about what you'd pay for a major service on an F12.

And this specimen, which is advertised for sale in Holland, looks like a fine example of the breed. It is black. It looks like a doorstop. It's almost identical to the car used in bizarre cinematic robogasm, Daft Punk's Electroma. And the interior's the same colour as old chips.

Buy it and you can count yourself among the 400's roster of high-profile owners, which includes Sir Elton John, Tom Cruise (well, Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man), Pete Townshend, Sammy Davis Jr, the eponymous Mr Heineken's son, Whitney Houston and - this is the big one - Enzo Ferrari himself. Four perfectly sane celebrities, a regular drinker, one fictional character and the owner of the company that built it can't be wrong.

Obviously, there are considerable risks associated with buying any old Ferrari. Especially a V12. Like it going wrong. Instantly. And spectacularly. Which it probably will, then eviscerate your finances until you're a statistic. Or sell it on to another underfunded petrosexual desperate for the Ferrari cachet.

But still, you can buy it here. Then email us on editor@topgear.com to tell us about it.

TopGear.com does not accept responsibility for this car's condition, legality or general hidden rubbishness. Buy it at your peril.

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