The Boss’s Car: Enzo Ferrari’s Ferrari 400 Superamerica
The Boss’s Car: Enzo Ferrari’s Ferrari 400 Superamerica
For all the automobiles his company assembled, Enzo Ferrari actually owned and used very few of them. He apparently preferred Peugeots. The fact il Commendatore had possession of the 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica that rests regally in The Revs Institute is just one of the facts that make it so special.
First there is the car’s rarity. Ferrari built just 46 examples of their top-of-the-line 400 Superamerica between 1959 and 1964, all bodied by Pininfarina. Earlier versions were built with a 95-inch wheelbase until Ferrari lengthened it to 102 inches, which became the 400 Superamerica Series II. Revs’ example, a short wheelbase Aerodynamic Coupé with open headlights, is one of 14 such Superamericas built.
Best yet, there’s also a bit of mystery behind this Ferrari and the fact it carries two serial numbers. Plus this story has two beginnings. One for the engine. One for the car.
We begin with the car. Customers who wanted a Superamerica Coupé Aerodynamico had a list of choices. Normal headlamps or fixed under aero covers. Color? Rear fender skirts? Nose shape? The arrangement of the instruments? Interior fabrics? And wouldn’t you opt for a set of fitted luggage? Turns out the cost in both currency and time were significant and not every Ferrari dealer was authorized to sell Superamericas.
Enzo Ferrari likely didn’t have to wait for his Superamerica, serial numbered 3097SA. It was fitted with the regular headlights, beige leather seats that had a corduroy inset and finished in a metallic silver green called Verde Dora…thought that was an Italian aperitif, didn’t you?
We asked Tom Matano, who had design stints at General Motors, BMW and Mazda and is now Executive Director, School of Industrial Design at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, to comment on the design.
“There were several variations of the 400 Superamerica/Superfast designs. Most of those are subtle differences, except the front end design of this particular model that related to 250 models against the sleeker nose of the other models that are similar to the 330 GTC.
“I personally feel this front end with exposed headlamps and rectangular grille design has a better visual weight distribution as a sports car. On the side view profile, the short front overhang, high headlight position with swept back windshield line and smooth roof/rear window/deck lid line indicate the front engine (power) leads the rest of the body weight visually.
“The highlight starts high at the front and gracefully slopes down to just above the rear bumper. Just beautifully balanced power and elegance that is Pininfarina at its best.”
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Next the engine, another design of famed engineer Gioacchino Colombo, it’s a V-12 series with a new number. Most Ferrari engines were tagged by their cylinder displacement. Ferrari 250 models have 250-cc displacement per cylinder. Or a Ferrari 412 has a 4.0-liter V-12. For this engine–type 163–the 400 merely meant the engine’s displacement is 4 liters. Technically it has 3.967 liters but who would buy a Ferrari 397?
Rev’s Ferrari wasn’t its V-12’s first use. That was in what seems to have been a prototype chassis, a development 250 GTE 2+2 with the serial number 1287A, which the engine carries today. Apparently that 250 GTE was then renumbered 2257SA which the website barchetta.cc reports as destroyed in an accident in 1972 and rebuilt in 1999. Ah, sweet mysteries…
In any case, V-12 1287A has a single overhead camshaft per head and is rated at 340 horsepower at 7000 rpm. Behind that is a 4-speed manual transmission, similar to those in the 250 GTs, but with beefier gears — ditto with the differential — and the car was fitted with an overdrive.
We’ve found no record of how far Ferrari drove his 400SA during 1961 and his son, Piero, has no real memory of it. But come December 1962 it was delivered to Ferrari’s distributor in Milan, Crepaldi Automobil. With differences. The seats were now wrapped in black leather, the nose had been repainted to touch up road scars and the chassis had a new serial number: 4031.
Apparently the worker given the job of adding the new number was a little careless because you can see a shadow of 3097SA under the 4031SA stamping. There are also some oddities that indicate Ferrari’s Superamerica was something of a test car. The front suspension has the expected double A-arms, coil springs and tube shocks, though the latter carry no maker’s name. At the back is a live axle with semi-elliptic springs, coilover shocks and a nonstandard adjustable Watt linkage. The steering box has a 2/65 manufacture date. Why so late?
Who Crepaldi sold the car to is unknown, but its next home was Philadelphia in the hands of Sidney Markovitz from the early 1970s until 1982 with a factory rebuild of the V-12 in 1974. James Truitt bought the car in 1982 and kept it until 2001. During that time the Superamerica became a personal story for this author. In 1990, I photographed it and another Superamerica on LA’s Mulholland Drive, out in the twisty bits past The Rock Store. How can you miss with a pair of SAs?
The Revs Institute Collier Collection acquired 3097SA at Christie’s 2001 Pebble Beach Auction. Typical for a Revs car it isn’t a dusty display car, but driven. Properly maintained, of course, but never restored.
To give you a little insight into how Revs reveres the past and originality, Scott George, Vice President at Revs explains, “We’ve taken the Ferrari on numerous 1000-mile tours and updated the tires to XWX Michelins. As with all salvageable original tires, however, we saved the Pirellis in our tire room, labeled and black plastic bagged to keep UV and external environment at bay.”
Wonder if the Pirelli spare still has its Modena air?
Studio photography courtesy of Peter Harholdt.
John Lamm worked for Road & Track for 37 years and is equally happy behind a keyboard or a camera. He has written ten automotive books and has been honored with the International Motor Press Association’s Ken Purdy award and the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor award for writing. He is on the organizing committee for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and has been a judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for two decades.