The never born Ferraris by Mauro Forghieri – Classiche


The first answer is peremptory: “It serves no purpose.” The second tragically definitive: “It can not be done”. Two statements that well summarize the attitude of Fiat managers, traditionally suspicious of innovation, but unacceptable for Vittorio Ghidella, who has been chairman of Ferrari for a year. Ghidella in March 1986, fascinated by the Porsche 959 – a real concentrate of innovation, exhibited at the Geneva motor show – urges Giovanni Sguazzini, managing director of the Maranello company, to embark on the same road. The Ferrari president had left irritated Geneva and the anger would have been an additional motivation to organize an adequate reaction to the technological “slap” immediately.

The counter-offensive focuses on Mauro Forghieri – who after 35 years at the head of the technical direction, abandoned Ferrari in disagreement with the Drake who would have wanted him to be the guardian of his son Piero in view of a succession that was fast approaching – for the construction of a sports car equipped with highly innovative solutions. The prototype was to have been the “manifesto” of Ferrari of the future. Needless to say, Giovanni Sguazzini will leave Ferrari three months after that visit to the Geneva motor show. The contract that binds Mauro Forghieri to Fiat is two-year, thus avoiding the risk that the Modena technician will become easy prey to a competition that, in one fell swoop, could have had the results of 35 years of work at Ferrari.

But this is only one aspect and not the most important of a relationship from which Ghidella expects a lot, especially in terms of product innovation. A prototype called 408 4RM is designed, built in two versions. They differ from each other in the material used in the construction of the body: laser-welded stainless steel for one and aluminum glued for the other.

Today, stainless steel is considered the most promising material for applications in the automotive sector, not so much for its corrosion resistance characteristics, but for its favorable impact behavior. Countless were the technical originality of the two prototypes: from all-wheel drive made with a planetary differential and double hydraulic coupling to distribute the drive torque between the front and rear axles, while ensuring slip control, to the independent four-wheel suspension based on common components and integrated by a pneumatic system capable of varying the height from the ground and the angle of incidence of the car with respect to the ground according to the objectives of aerodynamic stability and handling.

No detail, however marginal, escapes the revisionist fury of Mauro Forghieri: it is worth mentioning the gaskets of the self-inflating doors. When the door is closed, they are put under pressure thanks to a compressor driven by the motor which ensures perfect sealing at any speed.

Unfortunately, the collaboration between Ghidella and the Ferrari designer does not offer the results that could be expected from the meeting of two technicians of that magnitude. Two such outstanding personalities can only coexist and integrate through direct contacts and the role of the CEO of Fiat Auto leaves marginal space for this research project. The inadequacy of the intermediaries, if not their hostility towards realizations that are considered as whims, blow up a relationship from which great advantages could have been derived for a Ferrari that, at that time, had a range of products relatively obsolete, lacking in terms of technological content, which not even the strength of the brand was more than sufficient to mask. (M.C.)

Main features Ferrari 408 4RM. Concept car – “berlinetta” – built and developed by Ferrari from 1987 to 1988 in only two copies based on a project by Mauro Forghieri. It was the first all-wheel drive Ferrari. Transmission with transfer case that made use of a hydraulic joint. The red painted model had a full steel frame and was made in June 1987. The second, painted yellow, had installed a frame made up of both steel and aluminum parts. The latter was completed in September 1988. The numerical abbreviation in the model name was linked to the characteristics of the engine: 4.0 liter displacement and the number of 8 V cylinders. The abbreviation “4RM” means 4-wheel drive.

Rear and longitudinal 90 ° V8 engine. The bore and stroke 93 mm and 73.6 mm, which brought the total displacement to 3,999.66 cm³. Compression ratio 9.8: 1. Maximum power 300 HP at 6,250 rpm. Distribution with a double overhead camshaft with four valves per cylinder. Weber-Marelli electronic injection. Single and electronic ignition. Dry sump lubrication. Twin-plate clutch. Independent suspension, with transverse quadrilaterals, coil springs coaxial with telescopic shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. Disk brakes. Transmission with five-speed manual gearbox plus reverse. Rack and pinion steering. Four-wheel drive.

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