Judging by all the remarks on the internet regarding the design of the 400 it is by far the most contributing factor of being impopular. Then again, this makes up only a very small portion of the entire audience. But admittedly it appears to be somewhat representative in general. I guess the bottom line is you either like this model or you don't. Last year my 400 showed up in a Dutch TV car program:
Part of the filming was to interview people on the street and let them comment on the car and to guess the brand of the car. For this they shielded of the logo's. The outcome was hardly anyone recognized it as a Ferrari (including an Italian tourist) and hardly anyone liked it either. As I was on the set I witnessed it myself, in fact a lot more people were interviewed then actually shown on TV. This underpins the fact it's a unknown model but equally disliked too. So be it.
Sticking to the internet commentors, I do have read also a few remarks stating that some used to dislike this model when they were younger but by now they do tend to like them more and more. As they say, the car has aged well. I consider that a huge compliment towards the designer.
If you have been following this blog or if you are a bit into the 400 you are likely aware of the Fiat 130 Coupe and their similarities. Both are creations of the designhouse Pininfarina. However both are designed by different stylists. The fiat 130 Coupe was penned by Paolo Martin while the 365 GT4 2+2 was a result of Leonardo Fioravanti. I suspect there must have been some kind of collaboration between the two of them or at least Paolo must have influenced Leonardo.
Without a doubt the 130 Coupe creation did set the scene for the seventies and even early eighties. The following article snippet quite well expands on this:
"A year after its introduction, the Coupé won the Style Auto award, presented by a jury of international car stylists. It defined all its big car design commissions for more than a decade to come. Arguably, all of them failed to recapture the purity of the original.
The Rolls-Royce Camargue that emerged a few years later was derived from the 130, yet the architecture had been corrupted, as the shape descended into ostentatious caricature. At the other end of the scale, the 1975 Peugeot 604 emerged as a cheap, bland, four-door mass production interpretation. Not even the Ferrari 365GT4 2+2 of 1972 managed to outpoint the Fiat among the style critics, even if it outlived its inspiration by many years. Perhaps only the 1976 Lancia Gamma Coupé, replacement for the 130 Coupé in the Fiat empire, successfully reinterpreted the spirit of the 130 Coupé and made the style its own. Pininfarina was so pleased with the car that it tried to persuade Fiat to expand the 130 range with a pair of one-offs based on the production coupé. The 1974 Opera was merely a four-door version of the coup and would have been a natural successor to factory-bodied 130 saloons."
Sergio Pininfarina once mentioned he considered the 130 Coupe one of his finest creations. Something that was repeated in many articles, ie: "The Fiat 130 coupé was a design of timeless classic elegance and perhaps Pininfarina's best of the 1970s". Or: "Also from Italy comes another superb Pininfarina design – a 1974 Fiat 130 Coupe, universally regarded as a triumph in elegant, uncluttered design".
With all these high appraising comments for the 130 you would expect the 365/400/412 at least pick up some postive vibes due to the similar style influences. The contrary is true, in fact I suspect the majority of the people does not fancy the 130 Coupe either. The straight lines and the boxy appearance seems not be very appealing to the public in general. As mentioned earlier, this became however very much the seventies style and copied by many others. Some practical known popular examples to remind everyone; Ford Escort Mk3, Ford Granada Mk2, Volvo 700 series and I'm pretty sure you can think up a few more.
But how about the Lotus Esprit S1, that does look pretty much like straight lines to me. This is however a very much liked car - I expect that's a result of it's famous appearance in the James Bond movies.
It's a typical Giorgio Giugiaro design which he applied on many more models but often slightly less sharp. Think VW Golf MK1, VW Scirocco MK1, Maserati Quattroporte Mk3 or Lancia Delta MK1 to name a few.
An extreme interpretation of the classic 1970s "folded paper" style. Again a very unliked model indeed.
The 400 design was at least for one exotic sports car maker an inspiration which resulted in a shameless copy, the Bitter SC. This was done by the Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti:
And I even suspect it might have influenced the Japanese designers who did the Honda Prelude Mk2 and Mk3
Another remarkable comparison I recently discovered is the Citroen BX. A car designed by Marcello Gandini. Especially the front hood reminded me of the 400 with the same angular cut.
This also partly reminded me of his creation the Lamborghini Jamara - introduced in 1970. Perhaps a bit far fetched but I recognize some styling elements. Then again, with so many car models produced I think most cars does have comparable style elements one way or another.
The above was more about the used straight lines and somewhat boxy designs used in this particular era. To come back to the 130 design, have a look at these early Fiat 130 Coupe scetch drawings by Paolo Martin.
That could almost have been a prototype scetch for the 400. I wonder if Leonardo have reused these sketches? It is remarkable how little information can be found back regarding this design and it's designer. I could not find a single picture of Leonardo in combination with the 365/400/412. The only one I could find which was close in relation is the Ferrari Pinin. On the FChat forum I found two magazine articles about Leonardo which were posted in a thread - but with minimal reference to the 365/400/412 - see source section at the bottom of this blog if you are interested.
Clearly Leonardo's other Ferrari designs got more attention and were highly appreciated. I guess this has to do more with the fact the 400 was not a sports car and as such less valued or considered less interesting. I think this point counts strong since Ferrari is mostly known for it's racing and sport cars. Going back further in history, the Ferrari 250 GTE - the first true 2+2 production road car, had been undergoing the same trouble in the past as the current 400 status, ie often neglected and not appreciated or simply reused for replicas. The current situation for the 250 GTE is completely different, they are back on track again.
Regardless the design, the 400 has been the longest run model in Ferrari history and it was sold in fairly high numbers considering the tough economic climate. Take in account as well it was never sold in the USA. Would this have happened if the design was really disliked or if it was not succesfull?
The discreet and understated design is something typical Italian and potentially contributed to have attracted buyers who where not in need of a flashy outward but inside could enjoy the luxury and the performance of a true thoroughbred.
The typical line from the C pillar towards the tail in combination with the crease is a true Pininfarina style element and therefore pure classic. It was applied on various models, for instance this beautiful Lancia Flaminia Coupe.
If you like these looks you might find the following page interesting as it shows some nice examples related to the 130 or 400 if you like: http://fiat130.nl/130-coupe-look-a-likes/
It's origin started however on the Lancia Florida launced in 1956. See below the explanation from the master at the Florida II Coupe 1957.
The picture is a snapshot from this Lancia historical movie. A must see in my opinion. You can see Battista "Pinin" Farina himself explaining the background regarding this shape. You will be surprised to hear it was not a style matter but a practical matter.
The Florida was a design milestone, with stylistic elements which have for many years influenced the world-wide production, it was the personal car of the Founder: "I recall that car-maker from Detroit, Olds, who used to live and sleep in his car. And I live in my Florida". Pinin Farina.
To round up this boxy blog and to put things in perspective, the 400 design is simply a typical 70 era style product with classic Pininfarina elements. As such it's less controversial as people tend to say. It is true though in comparisson with the other well curved Ferrari models by Pininfarina. You need to view the car on it's own. Furthermore it is a road car, or GT if you like and not a flashy sports car. Just like the 130 it can be considered a timeless piece which indeed has aged very nicely. It's a classic for the connaisseur.