Currently reading: From the archive: Ferrari creates a junior GT
In 1962, we drove the ASA 1000 GT - a baby sports car with an interesting history

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.

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To solve this, Ferrari struck a deal with major electronics firm de Nora (run by a close friend of Ferrari) to produce it under a new brand – ASA – at a factory in Milan.

Formula 1 drivers Lorenzo Bandini, Giancarlo Baghetti and Gerino Gerini were involved in the brand's management.

Rechristened as the ASA 1000 GT, the Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed coupé was unveiled in September 1961, although due to manufacturing issues, series-production didn’t begin until 1964.

The production 1000 GT used the 1032cc Tipo 141 engine. With 90bhp, it had a better horsepower-per-litre ratio than Ferrari’s contemporary 275 GTB.

This engine was mounted on a tubular frame chassis designed by famed engineer Gitto Bizzarrini, who based it on his design for the 250 GTO.

“It’s not particularly light, at 848kg, yet its performance is remarkable for a 1.0-litre,” we said in our November 1962 road test. We clocked 0-60mph in 14sec.

And despite its tininess, it had enough room for two six-footers. Our only real criticism was that its engine was rather noisy for a GT. 

Sadly, the 1000 GT sold poorly, mainly due to its high price. In the US, the 1000 GT’s biggest market, it was priced at $6000 (around £40,000 in today’s money), when the much more powerful Chevrolet Corvette of the time cost just $4500 (equivalent to just over £30,000). 

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Luigi Chinetti Motors, the sole US importer, had to slowly lower the price of the ASA cars in order to shift them, selling its last new car in 1973, nine years after it first went on sale, for just $1800 - a measly £8470 today.

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289 16 December 2021

Interesting story. I was completely unaware of this.

Its looks, (particularly front three quarters) are very like a baby AC Frua 428.