The seven best Ferrari concept cars

13th January 2021
Henry Biggs

For a company with such flair for design, engineering and, let’s be honest, self-promotion, there have been relatively few Ferrari concept cars down the years. It could well be that a new Ferrari, especially in the last couple of decades, is virtually a concept in its own right. From Old Man Enzo’s reluctance to embrace technical advances, Ferrari today moves the game on with sometimes bewildering speed in each new model.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been some very beautiful and thought-provoking concepts to wear the Prancing Horse down the years and we have a few favourites here.


Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale – 1966

It may look like an overgrown Dino but the 365 P was one of the bolder experiments and designed without the knowledge of Enzo Ferrari who believed a mid-mounted V12 would be too dangerous in a road car. The Speciale was the brainchild of Pininfarina and Luigi Chinetti Jr whose father was a former Ferrari racing driver who persuaded the Old Man to make him the first Prancing Horse dealer in America. 

Based on the Ferrari 365 P2 racer it used that car’s mid-mounted 4.4-litre racing V12 producing 380 horsepower. Unlike the racer, however, the 365 P adopted a mid-mounted driving position, flanked either side by passenger seats and so predating the McLaren F1 by some decades. Arguably it shouldn’t be in this list at all since on its show circuit rounds it caught the eye of Gianni Agnelli who demanded that Pininfarina build two for his own personal use but it was too Speciale to pass up.


Ferrari 512 S Berlinetta Speciale – 1969

Designer Filippo Sapino is best known for the three decades he spent at Ghia where he would be responsible for none other than the famed Ford RS200. But he preceded this with a two-year stint at Pininfarina where he was responsible for bringing wedge styling to the Prancing Horse. The concept’s name is entirely misleading, as it had nothing to do with any of the 512 cars, either road or racing.

It was in fact based on the recovered chassis of a Ferrari 312P which had ended its competition usefulness in a crash at Monza. Pininfarina stepped in and requisitioned the chassis for that year’s showcar. Confusingly the car also lacked the 3.0-litre V12 of the 312P, instead placing the 6.0-litre V12 from a 612 Can-Am car under the rear canopy. Well, sort of. It was really only just a dressed up block as contemporary pictures of the car being dragged into a quarry by a JCB for a very odd photoshoot attest. Regardless of motive power (or lack thereof) the 512 was still a showstopper with its extremely low form, flat rear deck with an amazing set of louvres and a lift-up canopy. 


Ferrari 512 Modulo – 1970

This, however, is the wedgy Ferrari concept that everyone remembers, even before Jim Glickenhaus resurrected it and got it running. This concept really was based on a Ferrari 512S sports prototype albeit converted to big brute Can-Am spec. It was the work of Paolo Martin at Pininfarina and without doubt, when that virtually horizontal canopy pops up and forward you expect ‘60s cliche Little Green Men to pop out.

At the 1970 Geneva Motor Show the Modulo competed for most wedgiest with the Lancia Stratos HF Zero and managed to make that car look almost sensible thanks to the cut-out wheel arches, bisecting bodyline and 24 speed holes that allowed onlookers to glimpse its 5.0-litre 550 horsepower V12, said to make the car capable of 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds and a top speed of 220mph. If you decide to go for it Mr Glickenhaus, can we come and film it please?


Ferrari Pinin – 1980

One unintended consequence of the Fiat takeover of Ferrari was that Enzo Ferrari found himself being chauffeured around in a Fiat 130 which, while big and comfortable, was rather lacking in style for the Old Man’s tastes. So when Sergio Pininfarina proposed a Ferrari rival to the Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 and Maserati Quattroporte, Enzo foresaw the killing of two birds with one stone. The show car was built on a donor chassis from the Ferrari 400 grand tourer but with only a mock-up engine in place.

Penned by Leonardo Fioravanti the Pinin used a host of tricks to disguise its four-door practicality including smoked glass hiding the A- and B-pillars, an exaggerated C-pillar and door handles hidden by a deep crease in the body. New headlights from Lucas allowed for a low bonnet line (but presumably didn’t work) and flanked an old Ferrari signature, the egg-crate grille. At the rear body-coloured lights simplified the back even further. Later in life, the Pinin acquired real running gear, including a flat-12 from a 512 BB, and can now occasionally be seen cruising stylishly up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in California.


Ferrari 408 4RM – 1987

Not all concept cars are designed to make jaws drop as the Ferrari 408 4RM quite clearly demonstrates. It would perhaps be more accurate to describe it as a ‘proof of concept’ since it was designed not to test public reaction to future styling direction but as a technology testbed, in this case, four-wheel-drive. And, well, it was the ‘80s, nothing was attractive back then.

It was the product of the then-new Ferrari Engineering division, set-up up as an internal research and consultancy division under the management of engineer Mauro Forghieri, largely responsible for the company’s huge F1 success in the ‘70s. The 408 was a testbed for a potential four-wheel-drive mid-engined sportscar, using an innovative hydraulic all-wheel-drive set-up. Two cars were built, the second featuring a bonded aluminium chassis, beating the Lotus Elise by several years. Forghieri was poached by Lee Iacocca to join Lamborghini who, lo and behold, released the four-wheel-drive Diablo a few years later.


Ferrari Mythos – 1989

If the Mythos looks familiar to you then you are either a) the Sultan of Brunei or b) misspent your youth playing the Test Drive III arcade game (sequels are never as good as the original). As the side scoops big enough in which to play hide and seek suggest, the base car for the Mythos was the Ferrari Testarossa, pretty much at the height of its powers in the late 1980s. 

The styling is very much representative of the time, morphing from ‘80s straight lines to ‘90s blobiness but it works, just. Enough that two were specially ordered by the Sultan of Brunei for his private collection. As a styling exercise, the Mythos would later go on to influence the F50, which is particularly clear at the rear with its sweeping rear wing.


Ferrari Testa D’Oro Colani (1993) 

We have name-checked a few legendary car designers in this article. People who are rightly famous for their keen eye for line, superb penmanship and pursuit of beauty. Luigi Colani’s designs, by contrast, were a bit, well, out there. No offence intended, we think many of his designs are very beautiful indeed but applicable to the real world? Not so much. Colani called his design philosophy ‘biodynamic’, basing it on rounded forms that took inspiration from nature; he was convinced that in this direction lay better performance and efficiency. 

Colani decided to prove his theory by gunning for a speed record at Bonneville Speed Week and took the Ferrari Testarossa as his starting point for his Testa D’Oro or ‘golden head’. With rounded and lengthened nose and tail and a flat-12 twin-turbocharged by Lotec the car did in fact win its class at Bonneville, clocking 211mph. This was sadly still two miles-an-hour slower than the actual production car record of the day, held by the Ruf CTR Yellowbird. The car then disappeared for a couple of years until it emerged in 1993 in even more extreme form, this time as a styling exercise. A hugely extended and very low nose led up to an extreme wrap-around canopy while a split rear window gave a view of the gold-painted intakes which gave the car its name. It’s totally bonkers and we love it.

Main image courtesy of Artcurial

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