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The Ferrari 412 Daily Driver– The Case For

Jim Yu October 23, 2012 Cars You Should Know 66 Comments

Owning a Phaeton has exponentially decreased my risk aversion for notoriously finicky cars.

Let’s examine the proposition objectively, with an open mind. Can the underrated 2+2 V12 be a daily driver?

First, a little background. Between 1985 and 1989, 270 412s with 5-speed manuals and 306 412s with GM’s Turbo-Hydramatic were made. They were not officially imported here. The ones found Stateside were federalized by grey market importers, to varying degrees of quality. A 4943cc fuel injected V12 corralling 340 prancing horses lay up front.

1. You can buy a decent 412 for the price of a new, spec’d out BMW 3-series. If you look hard enough and know how to bargain, you can get a very nice, albeit not perfect, 412 for around $40,000. Sure, you could buy a newer, safer, and more reliable car. But what are you going to do this holiday shopping season when you can’t pick out your car from the sea of identical, boring cars in parking level 4F? You will never have that problem as a 412 owner.

2. It’s the least douchey of the Ferraris. As much as we admire modern day Ferraris and Lamborghinis, it takes a certain amount of, shall we say, chutzpah, to drive around in one. And just think of what your judgmental neighbors and co-workers will think if you pull up in a Magnum, P.I. 308. This will not be a problem with a 412. For the non-cognoscenti, the 412 is as anonymous as can be. People can’t judge you for what you drive because they don’t know what you are driving! Ergo, you won’t feel like a douche for driving it.

3. It has room for four and a decent sized trunk. There is a surprising amount of head- and legroom for the front and rear passengers. The trunk has over 17 cubic feet of capacity. That’s more than a 2012 Camry. The 412 is the perfect people hauler.

4. It’s all about priorities. Maintenance and repair costs are high. There’s no beating around the bush. But this just makes you re-evaluate your priorities. By foregoing premium cable at $150/month, you will save enough over three years ($5,400) to pay for that transmission rebuild. Rather than sitting on the couch, watching the boob tube, entertain yourself by taking a drive in your 412, or reading a library book. It’ll do you good. Oh, and by foregoing Starbucks coffee every weekday, you will save more than enough for that $500 distributor cap.

5. It’s a Ferrari with a V12!

Or, you could just buy a Bitter SC.

Images source: St. Louis Motorsports

  • Wait, you really want to DD a car that's one of 576 ever made? Look at that number again. Five-hundred and seventy six. The biggest hurdle isn't going to be the cost of parts. It's parts availability. A few years back, my boss spent an insane chunk of change to buy out a cache of NOS spark plugs he uncovered for his F40 because they are no longer available. That's right spark plugs are becoming unobtainable! And Ferarri built over 1300 F40s—that's well over twice the number of 412s out there, and the F40 went out of production several years after the 412.

    Heaven help you if (er, when) you get in a collision.

    • Eh. Parts availability is overrated.

      • DemonXanth

        Just ask the Cubans about part availability.

      • It's a lot easier when your car has only 7 moving parts.

        • Well, seven that are supposed to move, anyway.

    • OA5599

      I've daily driven a 1-of-500 and a 1-of-135. A lot of the internet forums can come up with NOS/used replacement parts, but better than that, there are a lot of creative souls who either group buy a special run of unobtanium parts, or who search every manufacturer's parts book comparing dimensions to discover you can use the one off a '99 Camry if you machine .003 off the bottom and reverse the polarity.

      Finding collision parts is why you carry insurance.

      • BobAsh

        Like, real 1-of-135, or "1-of-135 with the same engine/transmission/color/interior color/equipment/hubcaps/tyres/sticker package/ combo? 🙂

    • That's the risk and, dare I say, fun? There were only 820 2005 Phaetons sold here. Mine is getting the front passenger side window regulator replaced. In all of this country, there was only one available– in New Jersey.

    • Maymar

      To be fair, there were another 1800 400 and 400i's built, which were fundamentally similar. So, you know, probably only equal in difficulty to sourcing F40 parts.

      It does make a case for taking an automatic example though, just for the sake of having a transmission serviceable in every single shop in the country.

      • I agree regarding the transmission. It's a grand tourer so a slushbox is kosher.

  • smalleyxb122

    I actually really want a Bitter SC. Anemic Opel running gear and all. The trouble with Bitters is that many of them weren’t really cared for by their second/third/fourth owners. It’s kind of like picking up a Maserati Biturbo. You can get a cheap one, or you can get a good one, but well-kept examples go for quite a bit more than would seem commensurate for the condition.

    If you’re willing to plop down $40k for a 412, why not just get a 400i? You can get them as official US cars for quite a bit less than $40k, and no one would think less of you for it.

    • The 400 and 400i are perfectly good alternatives. I had to pick one so I picked the latest iteration.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      I'd love to get a… not-so-well-kept SC and LSify it…

  • Alcology

    Is it just me or does this look really japanese? If I went and won the lottery I would strongly consider this route as something interesting. Drift pig approved?


    If I have three commuting buds to help with the occasional push? Yeah sure!

  • 340hp is pretty impressive for the time. With some decent tires, I bet it's legitimately fast.

    Still, as long as we're going crazy on V12 tourers…
    <img src="http://gomotors.net/pics/Lamborghini/lamborghini-espada-02.jpg&quot; width=450>
    Click for source

    I can wrap my head around an absurd daily driver, but not at that price of entry. If I'm going to spend ~3500/year in maintenance, I need an entry point more like $15-20k.

    Keep in mind a lot of the older examples (~75 and before) really aren't that complicated when it comes to general fix-its. They're assembled like any other classic car with proper bolts, screws and easy-to-reach wires. It's just the parts cost (or availability) and finicky rebuild intervals and procedures that'll kill you.

    …which is why I love "hybrid" cars like an ISO, Pantera or Jensen. Any idiot can rebuild those motors.

    • Quite a few of these Ferraris have Chevy small blocks. It's much more practical.

      • As with the Lambos. There's a gorgeous blue 350-equipped Espada that's been on and off of eBay over the last year. It's in really good shape, save the 350/350 combo.

        In bad shape, the unloved models' powerplants are worth more than the whole, so they get yanked to repower the more popular models.

        I…could actually be ok with a Detroit powered Italian example if it's actually done with some eye to the period. Stock interior, manual transmisssion and a vintage looking powerplant with a Weber cross-ram intake does the trick for me.
        <img src="http://jiminglese.com/linked/crossram.jpg&quot; width=450>

        • DemonXanth

          Damn that's sexy.

        • sport_wagon

          I think you just won. That's THE way to go.

        • Yes, of course. But, make it a high-revving 302 (350 block with 283 crank) that redlines way up high like a V12, and you've got a great substitute. That would suit this car just fine.

    • Sjalabais

      I am never going to forget this article in the NY Times, and it fits like hand in glove just here: 74 Espada as a daily driver – World's hoonest grandma.

  • Manic_King

    “The big 400 and 412 are very expensive to run because they’re V12s, but I think they’ve got much better future value over the next 10 to 20 years. Production numbers are low and it’s best to go for a manual transmission. It’s a good driver’s car powered by a Daytona engine with injection. It shouldn’t be ignored, but only if you can find one that’s been cherished.”

    UK's Telegraph had story about cheap ferraris recently: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/car-manufactu

    • I think prices will definitely go up, but not enough to justify it as an investment.

  • When I was shopping for my current car (a Tesla Roadster), I considered going the used Ferrari route. With 100K burning a hole in my pocket (I sorta won the stock option lottery), I could buy one for $60K and have $40K left over for maintenance.
    At the end, the slightly cooler part of my brain prevailed and I bought the Roadster. It was still a gamble as I was buying a car from a 3 year old company with no track record… So far, I have no regrets!

    If I ever buy a Ferrari, it will have a 12 cylinder engine up front. A 612 would be great, but I'd be happy with a 400i.

    • If I could have any new Ferrari, I agree it would be a 612. Very understated.

  • OA5599

    So is this indeed an offshoot of my 12 days, 12 sponsors nomination?

    • You inspired me! Any ideas for what I should write about next week?

      • OA5599

        Maybe expand on some depreciation specials. Pick a few cars with pedigree that can now be purchased for less than a new Camry, and research their weak links with ballpark repair costs. You have the Phaeton experience, obviously, but I want to know what a $25K Rolls Royce looks like, or a $2500 Allante.

        • aastrovan

          Just for the record,most Allantes are $2500. dollar cars.Poor engineering,but one stylish automobile.

          • Didn't they fly them on 747s between America and Italy?

  • Van_Sarockin

    For a daily driver, you want one that's in good mechanical condition, with full repair records. A bit of wear and scuffing to the exterior and interior is a good thing, as it will help keep the asking price down, and you'll be putting enough of your own wear onto it soon enough. It's a driver not a garage goddess; you don't want to have to freak out if you get dinged in parking lots, or need to toss your burger wrapper on the floor, or go driving in the rain and slush. Might want to check to see if you can actually get snow tires in the right size a little earlier than usual, too.

    But you'll also want to have a Plan B prepared – often enough the car will be out of service for repairs, waiting for parts, or just because it decided not to start again this morning. So you'll need to have readily accessible alternate transport, whether a second car, cab, public transit, bicycle, telecommute, but you must have something. Also useful when you need to go fetch parts or go pick your car up at the repair shop.

  • Spring-heeled Jack

    Find one with a blowed-up engine and stick an LS-1 in it, it's already got a hydramatic. Voila! reliability and maintenance issues gone.

    • Devin

      If you want to get something Italian and shove an American engine in it, it makes more sense to get something that already had an American engine in it. Like so:

      <img src="http://www.motorstown.com/images/iso-grifo-a3-01.jpg"&gt;

      This might be due to my aversion to SBCs in anything not originally equipped with a SBC, I admit.

      • sport_wagon

        And it will eat your soul. I approve.

  • nasalgoat

    I really like these cars (both the 400i and 412), and nice examples turn up on ebay all the time. I'd definitely want it in manual. Seems like a great way to get into the prancing horse without being called Magnum all the time.

    • Alcology

      but then there's no excuse to have the stache!

      • Tiller188

        Excuse? Who needs that?

  • Manic_King

    I'd buy something even more rare, some unnoticed car like this: http://www.iagmotors.com/carpages/1977-Maserati-K

    • Dean Bigglesworth

      That's… actually pretty awesome. the transparent tailgate is very cool.

  • DemonXanth

    I'd love to find one with a blown engine and drop a 400 CID SBC infront of a built TH400 into it just to piss off the Ferrari fanatics. I got your 400 RIGHT HERE!

  • Sjalabais

    The car doesn't do it for me at all. But it would be interesting to do a Camrari restomod with this one. Best scarecrow ever.

  • TrueBlue315

    "$500 distributor cap."

    Good God, man. Is it made out of adamantium and sold from the summit of K2? Staggering!

    • Van_Sarockin

      I remember reading an article somewhere that quoted a Lamborghini engineer about what it was liked to be hooked up to Ferrari's parts chain, and he was complaining that Ferrari has the absolute highest costs basis for parts of all manufacturers. I'm led to believe that tuneups on newer Ferraris are several thousand dollars, with engine rebuilds at tens of thousands, and pretty short mandated service intervals to boot.

      The upside is that this is one very nice distributor cap.

  • jeepjeff

    I'm totally going to give you the least-douchey Ferrari point. This opinion is brought to you by a curb hopping mothersomething in a PMY Jeep Wrangler.

    As noted above, it looks like the nicest Prelude ever made. I don't think I could pull off a 412 though. First time I had to go to the dealership for a part, the parts lady pegged me as the guy she'd talked to on the phone about an '01 Wrangler. I know I can't pull off a 308. I've never been able to get the mustache right.

    • Devin

      Some guy at a dealer thought I was a priest once, that was strange. I guess there's some priest out there who is only interested in hatchbacks with manual transmissions.

      That was a non sequitur, carry on.

      • ptschett

        Perhaps a priest of the Church of Hooniversal Hoonitarianism! (Praise be to Murilee.)

  • hwyengr

    Fuel injection? Pshaw. We're taking Ferraris here. Go for the original, 365GT4 2+2. You get the carb'd Daytona engine and knock-off wheels. <img src="http://www.ferrari400.com/images/ferrari_365_gt4.jpg&quot; width="400">

  • Maymar

    This is only an hour away from me. It's more than a little tempting*.

    *By tempting, I mean, it'll be years before I can justify a $32,000 car, but you know, I should dupe my parents into thinking it's a sensible idea.

  • JayP2112
    • Tiller188

      It'd be cheaper, but I dunno how much better you'd fare in the reliability department…

  • David Walker in NZ

    As someone else pointed out elsewhere, the real hoon would keep the V12, and since it comes bolted to a GM THM 400 it should have the right bolt pattern to fit up a T56-or maybe even a current Corvette six speed. Once converted to manual cars can be push-started more easily, too!

  • dtargo

    i liked the idea, I looked for one, but JC Whitney doesn't have a hitch for it…

  • Randy Lee

    People keep saying "Daytona engine". Not so. Emphatically not so. A Daytona Engine has a short cam chain and gears to the DOHCs. The 400 and 412s have the worlds longest cam chain that drives both SOHCs and need a new chain every 25k – $12k job. It's a lot cheaper to maintain a Daytona!