A Ferrari 412 from 1985

AS the story goes, it was the best of times. The 1970s began with a whimper for the Formula One (F1) team, but on the road cars like the 246 Dino and 365 GTB/4 Daytona were making waves, showing off Ferrari’s bravado and love for cutting-edge design and technology.

The 1970s were also a time of excess, and what better way to show off than to arrive in an elegant Ferrari coupe. If you had the wad of cash, the 365GT4 2+2 Coupe was the car to be seen in.

Obviously if you are a raging Anglophile, then the only car for you is the Jaguar E-type, and if that is too plebeian, you can always help the struggling Aston Martin company and get one of their DBS.

If you love Italian design but prefer American muscle then there is always the option of an Iso Grifo or if you are more eclectic than usual, there is even the Iso Lele.

If you can’t stand the sight of Enzo Ferrari and want to spite him, you can always spend your top one per cent dollars on the Lamborghini Espada.

In the world of the supercars, there may be faster cars, more dramatic looking shapes and brands that offer more bling. But just as in F1, everyone really wants to drive a Ferrari and if you are in the market for a two plus two, then there is the 365GT4 which evolved into the 400i and finally morphed into the 412i.

This model is known as the Tipo F101 or Type F101 and it is one of the longest running Ferrari models, leaving the factory from 1972 until 1989.

The F101 was a super low-slung coupe that was so sharp that looked like it just got off work from slicing time.

While the design is cutting-edge, the car is actually a combination of two old Ferrari collaborators with the bodywork coming from the pen of Leonardo Fioravanti at PininFarina, while the engine was dreamt of by the genius of Gioacchino Colombo. The marriage of these two genius minds made it the best of times at Ferrari.

The fingerprints of these two modern masters should be enough to make these cars fast-sellers but the fact was, they were about as popular as spam and in the 1990s you could have picked one up for about the price of a tin of the same.

No one really knows how things work in Italy and fewer understand the inner workings at Maranello, but these cars were like other 1970s Italian cars. They were not too carefully tacked together and product uniformity was not even in Ferrari’s factory vocabulary then.

I suppose it is charming to think of Italian men arguing passionately about cars and putting together one of Enzo’s masterpiece according to their mood that one day the clock would be a bit higher on the centre console and on other days it would sit just that little bit closer to the left, because it felt right.

All great if you happen to live in Maranello and have a few friends who work at Ferrari to sort things out when they act up, but quite terrible if you live in miserable Manchester or appallingly cold Albany and no one knows the right incantations to make things work. This made it the worst of times.

As a romantic fool and someone who is in no immediate danger of being able to afford a Ferrari, I only saw it as an object of great beauty not in the traditional curvy feminine form so popular in the 1960s, but in that 1970s love of severe concrete architecture.

I always imagined that Enzo had run out of ideas of how to design cars for the rock and roll crowd and told Fioravanti that he didn’t want any more of the same shape and urged the design genius to surprise him.

“I know the 246 Dino is drop-dead gorgeous and the Daytona is the ultimate phallic projection. But these hippie rock and rollers, they want something a bit more modern and soft and more at home rather than on the Stelvio Pass.

“Give them something ridiculous, something like one of those random paint strokes that passes as modern art,” I imagined Enzo saying to Leo.

“But, but but,” stuttered Leo.

In a fit of arrogance, Enzo was driven to quote an 18th century English poet and playwright Susanna Centlivre and late 20th century American stand-up comedian, Larry the Cable Guy, he said; “But me no buts, just git ‘er done”.

Leo left fuming.

Guided by the mischievous spirits of a few bottles of red wine, Fioravanti imagined poking Enzo in the eye with his slide rule, and in one of those moments when metaphor leapt into reality, he looked at the straight edge and saw revenge.

Apart from round tyres, the 365 GT4 was drawn with strict adherence to a ruler and threatened to amputate below the knee any pedestrians who so much as let their mind wander too close to the edge of the sidewalk.

Leo used the rulers even for the interiors and had initially insisted that even the seat cushions had razor-sharp edges, but when it was pointed out to him that it might cost Ferrari that fifth star in a EuroNCAP test, he relented.

In the 17 years, the F101 sold 2,907 cars. That’s about 14 cars a month.

To be fair, that was a generous number for an obscenely expensive car. Aston Martin wished they could sell five cars a month.

Anyway, those halcyon days when an F101 was cheap are long gone. Now even an average car enters the market with a price tag of £40,000 (RM219, 75).

I blame the luxury industry.

They have failed to produce enough products to suck up all that extra cash being generated by the top one per cent that the super rich have had to resort to buying affordable classic Ferraris and pricing them out of our reach.

My plan of action is this: tell every rich friend we have that they are better off collecting Facel Vegas and rare Opels and that the Type F101 may get them kicked out of the lodge because the design contravenes all known mason principles. Tell them Trump has one.

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