Enzo Ferrari originally insisted that he wouldn't give his name to a road car with fewer than 12 cylinders, but in the late 1950s, he found himself in need of more cash.
To solve this, he dreamed up a junior grand tourer to sell at a lower level than the Ferrari range, which at the time consisted of the ultra-luxurious 410 Superamerica and 400 Superamerica, several touring variants of the 250 GT and the hardcore 250 GT TDF and 250 GT SWB racing sports cars.
Several prototypes were developed by Ferrari under the 854 name, which stood for 850cc and four cylinders. Most engineers called it the ‘Ferrarina’ – Italian for ‘little Ferrari'.
A few different engines were tested, all variants of an in-line-four developed from the famous Columbo V12. The original engine, known as the Tipo 122, was a tiny 850cc lump producing just 68bhp at 7000rpm.
Two other engines were tested in the ‘Ferrarina’ prototype, a Pininfarina-bodied coupé built on a Fiat chassis that looked remarkably like a shrunken-down 250 GT Pininfarina Coupé.
The grille badge featured a machine gun, apparently in attempt to persuade arms manufacturer Beretta to produce it.
Ferrari himself liked the car so much that he used it as his personal transport for some time in 1959.
The final product was shown at the 1961 Turin motor show on coachbuilder Bertone’s stand, under the name ‘Mille’. It was much curvier than the 854 prototypes, with its design echoing the Ferrari GTs of the day, although it featured no Ferrari badging.
Well-received and having open support from the Ferrari brand, the ‘Ferrarina’ was meant for the mass market. Ferrari engineers predicted an annual production run of between 3000 and 5000 cars, which was simply too much for the Maranello factory to handle.