Ferrari’s four-wheel-drive FF, the revolutionary four-seat, two-door ‘estate’ it has revealed today as a replacement for the 612 Scaglietti, is not the company’s first four-wheel-drive road car. That distinction goes to the stillborn and barely remembered 408RM from 1986-87, an experimental car masterminded by technical chief of the time, Mauro Forghieri.
The car was far from being one of Ferrari’s best-looking creations, ham-fistedly combining styling elements from the Bertone-designed GT4 and the Honda NSX of the time. The 408RM (for ruote motrici, or “wheel drive”) was powered by a 32-valve, 4.0-litre mid-mounted V8 engine, mounted longitudinally behind the occupants and producing 300bhp. Drive was taken sideways from the rear-mounted five-speed gearbox through a compact transfer case, then forwards through a narrow transmission tunnel to a front differential. As well as its four-wheel-drive system, the car was notable for its extruded aluminium semi-monocoque chassis, built with the speculative cooperation of the aluminium industry, which correctly saw the potential of all-aluminium spaceframe chassis in cars in future years. The chassis is claimed to have weighed just over 80 kilograms when a more conventional steel spaceframe weighed more like 160 kilograms.
No 408s were ever sold to a customer, and the idea was never deemed worthy of production. The two examples built — red and yellow in colour — are still in the Ferrari Galleria in Maranello.