GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1988 Ferrari 412 Film Shoot
The Ferrari 412 might not carry the same cachet as the marque’s truly definitive road cars, but the three-box design of Maranello’s stately GT was made with the same ingredients as its more iconic kin, and the result is aging better than anyone would have guessed had you asked them even five years ago. Styling by Pininfarina, thrust by V12, it was a marked departure from Ferrari and their trusted design partner’s curvaceous work in the 1960s, but the 412 stayed true to the Ferrari ideals of fast-paced grand touring spiked with a dose of Italian verve. Only 576 examples of the car were ever built—the last of a lineage that began in 1972 with the 365 GT4 2+2—and finally, more than thirty years later, the boxy but sleek design is being regarded for what it is instead of what it’s not.
The owner of this example wanted to be a car designer in another life, so the fact that he’s chosen the 412—and chose it in 1988 no less—should speak to the car’s ability to command attention even among the flashier denizens of the sports car world. The 412 evolved from a car made in the early 1970s, but it was born in the 1980s, a decade when sports car design could and often did go off the deep end in regard to adding wings and other aggressive “aero.” The 412 is clean by comparison. It was a fast car with hard edges, but it didn’t lose its dignity by getting some useless wings glued onto it.
The design is a mix of supercar sleekness and staid maturity. For instance, there is the low belt line stripe set in relief against the bodywork, the same line that this car’s designer—Leonardo Fioravanti—included on the Daytona, and it’s connected at the front end to some rather massive pop-up headlights. They call to mind supercars of the time like the Countach and F40, and when they’re set flush into the body the angular driving lights on the leading edge of the bodywork take on the slit eye look of a predator. Then you look at the C-pillar and are reminded what this car was made for—comfortable, fast-paced cruising.
Unlike many Ferrari 400 and 412 models, today’s film subject drives his with three pedals, and there are only a few experiences that you can have inside a car that can compete with having huge Ferrari V12 in front of you connected to a gearbox that you shift on your own.
The owner of this example is smitten with it, and has been since 1988. He recalls visiting Philippe Gardette’s showroom as a just-licensed teenager with his friend, and how important that moment was. Without Philippe’s encouragement and enthusiasm it’s hard to say what would have happened; all kinds of young car-obsessed kids have dreams of owning Ferraris and Lamborghinis and the like, but many times those fantasies remain as such or are forgotten, never seriously pursued. Not in this case though. Philippe, the owner of Auvergne Moteur, remembers the boys well from that first visit: “That’s a pretty special story, because they had the courage to just come over one day to follow their passion. They just pushed open the door. Compared to so many others their desires were so strong, they were so determined. They knew exactly what they wanted, what they had their hearts set on.”
Getting to a place where Ferrari ownership becomes a possibility takes a lot of dedication and work and isn’t likely to happen without genuine interest and enthusiasm for the brand. Philippe encouraged the two kids to keep dreaming about the cars they lusted after, and having a knowledgeable, experienced mentor figure of sorts went a long way toward the realization of those dreams. Philippe treated them like fellow enthusiasts and not just kids coming in to look at cars one day for fun.
With age, the 412 design has come into its own to stand up proudly as an example of Pininfarina and Ferrari thinking in the 1980s. The lines are confidently angular, but not to the extent of overdoing it, a la the anniversary edition of the Countach, another car that can trace itself back to the ‘70s and yet has become a piece of ‘80s automotive pop culture. The Pininfarina design is a more mature expression of this era, and though it may leave GTO and SWB Ferrari fans wanting when it comes to a curve or two, the 412 offers a clean mixture of brashness and reservation. It’s big, but not so much that you’d call it a boat. It’s got pace, but it’s not fast, nor is it slow. It was one of the last luxurious GTs that didn’t need an abundance of features and assists to provide the definition. It was a well-appointed car with plenty of leather, but it delivered the reasoning for its price tag through the pedals and the seat and the steering wheel instead of a bank of buttons.