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The unknown AWD Ferrari 408 4WD

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The Ferrari 408 4WD is a fascinating car on several fronts. And not just because it’s the first all-wheel-drive offering to receive the venerable Prancing Horse Insignia. If you thought it was the FF, you’d be wrong. This fact alone is interesting, but despite all its genius, the famous Italian brand never planned to put the AWD mid-engined supercar into production.

Instead, it was a mid-80s concept created to showcase the innovative technical prowess within the Maranello head office to sell to others. Also facing the AWD opposition of the Porsche 959 and Jaguar XJ220, Ferrari was not going to be left behind. A group of top engineers were brought together under the banner of Ferrari Engineering to build the 408 4WD. The Ferrari team even developed the AWD system in-house.

The red 408 4WD was the first, completed in June 1987 with chassis number 70183. It was made of stainless steel and welded together using laser techniques. The second yellow car has chassis number 78610. It is on display in Maranello at the Galleria Ferrari and is the more advanced of the two concepts. It is made of aluminum and is not assembled by welds, but by bonding adhesive and rivets. Yet it’s also almost 30% lighter than the original.

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The 4.0-liter all-alloy V8 (revised from the 328) also broke new ground for the brand by being placed lengthwise (and further back in the engine compartment so the gearbox could be placed in front) with dual camshafts in head and four valves per cylinder. In addition, it has also been shifted to the right to accommodate the AWD system.

Delivering 221 kW at 6,250 rpm and 373 Nm at 4,500 rpm, the 3,999cc unit provided a decent (for the time) growl to all four wheels with differentials on each axle. Up to 70 percent of the power went to the rear and 30 percent to the front axle. It also used a five-speed manual gearbox with a double-disc clutch.

Although no official 0-100 km / h figure is offered, given the 408 4WD’s curb weight of 1343 kg, performance would be swift. It also used a dry sump setup and with a 120 liter fuel tank, poor economy becomes less of a problem.

However, it’s not just the all-wheel-drive system that’s important here. The 408 4WD also featured electronically adjustable suspension, rear steering and a unibody body. This construction also meant that getting in and out of the 408 4WD was more difficult than usual due to wide sills while the interior featured heavy use of red carpet.

Ferrari 408 Integral Prototype 8

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Both prototypes featured removable front and rear subframes with an extended wheelbase to accommodate the forward-facing gearbox. The suspension was fully independent front and rear with electro-hydraulically adjustable shocks and anti-roll bars.

Tiny by today’s standards, the 408 4WD featured 16-inch five-spoke Speedline wheels with a center-locking hub and vented discs concealed all around. A speed-sensitive rear spoiler was also used with an electronic center section to aid aerodynamics.

For those wondering, the name makes sense, with 40 for engine displacement and 8 for number of cylinders – Peugeot has now chosen the 408 nomenclature. The second half of the name means 4 Ruote Motricic, which translates to four-wheel drive.

Ultimately, the plan to create Ferrari Engineering failed, and the 408 4WD is one of the most interesting Ferraris to ever go into mass production.

Ferrari 408 4WD

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