Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960


400 Superamerica

Produced in two series between 1960 and 1964, the 400 Superamerica was one of those flagship models created in response to customer demand. A big, 4-litre V12, with loads of power and massive torque, sober yet luxurious interior, firm suspension settings that didn’t compromise on comfort, and a gearbox with overdrive. The cars were all bodied by Pininfarina and included spider, cabriolet and aerodynamic coupé versions, as well as the famous, one-off Superfast models: II, III and IV.

Focus on

The 400 Superamerica series of cars were the successors to the 410 Superamerica models, and were produced between 1959 and 1964. This was the first time with a production road car that Ferrari deviated from the path of the model type number denoting the swept volume of a single-cylinder. The ’400′ designation referred to their total cubic capacity of four litres. All but two of the forty-six cars in the series were designed by Pininfarina (the company became Pininfarina in 1962), and the majority were in coupé form.

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Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960
Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960

The Chassis

The chassis, with factory reference number 538, initially with a 2420 mm wheel base and then with a 2600 mm wheel base to increase interior space, were numbered in the odd number road car sequence carrying an ‘SA’ suffix. They were constructed along the same general lines as those of the concurrent 250 GT series, with a pair of large section, oval longitudinal tubes passing over the rear axle and substantial cross bracing, plus a built-up front cross-member. Similarly, the suspension was independent at the front, via wishbones with individual coil springs and shock absorbers, whilst the rigid rear axle was supported on semi-elliptic leaf springs, and fitted with radius arms, whilst hydraulic shock absorbers were provided to each wheel. Hydraulically operated disc brakes were fitted all round, with a cable operated handbrake to the rear wheels. Apart from chassis 2311SA, all were left-hand drive.

The Engine

The engines, with factory type reference 163, had a compression ratio of 8.8:1, and were a departure from the ‘long’ block Lampredi-designed engines used in the preceding 410 series of cars. Instead they had a ‘short’ block motor, based on the original Colombo SOHC per bank design used in the concurrently produced 250 GT series. This was stretched to increase the capacity, by enlarging the bore to 77 mm and lengthening the stroke to 71 mm, providing a total capacity of 3967 cc.

A twin coil and distributor ignition system was fitted, with the drive to the distributors from the rear of the camshafts on each bank of the vee. Triple twin-choke Weber 40 DCZ/6, 42 DCN or sometimes Solex C40 PAAI carburettors were fitted, to provide a claimed power output of 340 bhp.

The engine was coupled to a 4-speed, all synchromesh gearbox, fitted with an electronic overdrive unit on top gear, driving through a universally jointed propeller shaft to a rigid rear axle.

Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960
Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960

History of Models

The first example was a one-off, special-bodied car built for Fiat supremo Gianni Agnelli, on chassis 1517SA, in late 1959 and presented at the Turin Salon that October. The design featured a large square radiator grille that extended almost to the bottom of the front valance, with quarter bumpers either side of it. There were also current American styling elements: a horizontal twin headlight layout at the wing extremities with a single fog light below it, and a wrap-around windscreen. The tail light treatment was a vertical chrome bezel to each wing, incorporating three circular lenses, which would subsequently see series production on the 400SA cabriolets, early coupés and the 250 GTE series which began in 1960. Between the Turin Salon and delivery to the client at the end of May 1960, the design was refined. The frontal metalwork was modified to reduce the size of the radiator grille, which still remained square in shape, now with a full width bumper running below it. The horizontal inlets that had originally featured above the quarter bumpers disappeared, the shape of the bonnet air intake was also altered, and a bright metal trim strip was added along the body side swage line to accentuate this feature.

The second example, and the first of the true production series, was a cabriolet, chassis 1611SA, which made its public debut at the Brussels Salon in January 1960, then went on to be displayed at the New York Show a few weeks later. The 400 SA Cabriolet was similar in overall shape to the 250 GT Cabriolet of the period, although it had a shallower grille opening, normally with uncovered fog lights in the grille extremities, and occasionally an additional central driving light. As these were extremely expensive, limited production cars, individual clients could have them personalised. Thus, no two cars had exactly the same details. One of the clearer options was the availability of open headlights or recessed units under Plexiglass covers. When the open light option was specified on a ‘coupé aerodinamico’, the whole frontal aspect of the car changed from the projecting oval radiator grille shape, to that used on the cabriolets. One example, chassis 2311 SA, received a body virtually identical to the 250 GT California Spider, with right-hand drive, built specifically by Scaglietti for Ferrari board member, Michel Paul-Cavallier. Another, chassis 3673SA, had a body in the style of the 250 GT ‘passo corto’ berlinetta. It has been erroneously reported that Enzo Ferrari used an example wearing a 250 GTE 2+2 body, but factory records confirm that this was a normal 250 GTE, chassis 2257GT.

Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960
Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960

Coupé aerodinamica

The ‘coupé aerodinamica’ for the 400 Superamerica coupé evolved from a design study shown by Pininfarina on their stand at the Turin Salon in November 1960.

On a 400 SA, chassis 2207SA, which bore the name ‘Superfast II’, it was used by Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina as his personal car, whilst it underwent a series of developments to its shape. It earned the epithet ‘coupé aerodinamica’ due to the long and low flowing curved lines, which swept into the cabin, where the windscreen pillars curved both inward and rearward, and the shallow rear screen angle ran in a straight line through the boot to the tail at bumper level. There the circular tail lights were in a horizontal protective shroud forming part of the wrap-around quarter bumpers.

The initial rendering had retractable headlights in the nose panel and a shallow, oval egg-crate radiator grille bounded by quarter bumpers with over-riders sweeping under the front apron. During the winter of 1960-61, the car received a wide shallow air intake on the bonnet with a fancy chrome surround trim; small circular parking lights were semi-recessed in the tops of the front wings, the rear wheel arch spats disappeared, and quarter lights appeared in the door glass.

The second full iteration of the design on the same chassis was called Superfast III; displayed at the Geneva Salon in March 1962, by this time it featured a revised cabin glass area with new slimmer C-pillars and larger rear quarter windows. At the front the nose profile was altered to provide a very shallow, elliptical radiator intake with a thermostatically controlled, metal cover panel adorned with a ‘Cavallino Rampante’.

Other notable alterations were: a change of colour from white to metallic green (having also been metallic grey in the interim), the reinstatement of spats to the rear wheel arches, whilst exhaust air outlets were provided on the lower rear wing panels.

This car then underwent further metamorphosis to become the Superfast IV, the most obvious innovation being the headlight treatment. Gone were the retractable units, to be replaced with uncovered paired headlights, 7” diameter outer and 5” diameter inner units, a theme that would be used on the 330 GT in 1964. Not so noticeable was a slight change to the C-pillar design, and the raising of the lower edge of the rear screen.

Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960
Ferrari 400 Superamerica - 1960

Meanwhile the model had gone into series production, with the first customer version being exhibited at the 1961 Geneva Salon. This had most of the design features of Superfast II, except that the headlights were more traditional units under Plexiglass covers recessed in the front wings. As previously noted, there were individual differences to specific cars. Apart from the open or closed headlight option, there were alternative door handle assemblies (a conventional chrome-plated with push button, or a recessed lever type), whilst some cars had rear wheel spats fitted but others did not. Those built until the middle of 1962 had the 2420 mm wheel base, while those built later had the 2600 mm wheel base.

The latter cars can be identified by the greater space between the trailing edge of the door and the forward edge of the rear wheel arch. They usually featured a closed bonnet blister too, instead of the earlier open intake with chrome surround trim. The total production run was: one Scaglietti spider, one Scaglietti berlinetta, nine cabriolets and thirty-five coupés, in the chassis number range 1517SA to 5139SA. It should also be noted that the two 4-litre GTOs (chassis 3765 and 4561) plus the four 330 LM berlinettas (chassis 4381, 4453, 4619 and 4725), all had chassis numbers with an SA suffix from this series of cars.

An accurate selection of the high-definition key images of the 400 Superamerica. The photo gallery, with details and the most important parts, shows the distinctive features of this Ferrari model from 1960.


V12  Engine

Type front, longitudinal 60° V12
Bore/stroke 77 x 71 mm
Unitary displacement 330.62 cc
Total displacement 3967.44 cc
Compression ratio 8.8 : 1
Maximum power 250 kW (340 hp) at 7000 rpm
Power per litre 86 hp/l
Maximum torque -
Valve actuation single overhead camshaft per bank, two valves per cylinder
Fuel feed three Weber 46 DCF/3 carburettors
Ignition single spark plug per cylinder, two coils
Lubrication wet sump
Clutch single-plate
Frame tubular steel
Front suspension independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension live axle, twin radius arms, semi-elliptic springs, co-axial springs and telescopic shock absorbers
Brakes discs
Transmission 4-speed + overdrive + reverse
Steering worm and sector
Fuel tank capacity 120 litres
Front tyres 6.50 x 15
Rear tyres 6.50 x 15
Type two-seater coupé, cabriolet
Length -
Width -
Height -
Wheelbase 2420 mm
Front track 1359 mm
Rear track 1350 mm
Weight 1250 kg (dry, coupé)
Top speed 265 km/h
Acceleration 0-100 km/h -
0-400 m -
0-1000 m -