As the echoes of World War II austerity faded in Europe, it occurred to Enzo Ferrari that his wealthiest clients were ready for a superfast road going gran turismo. The result was the 410 Superamerica, which took the big four-litre Lampredi V-12, increased its displacement to 4.9 litres, and wrapped it in a series of elegant coupé and cabriolet bodies by the finest Italian coachbuilders. Truly a bespoke offering, each car was individually tailored to its owner’s requests, blisteringly fast, and sophisticated enough to transport a royal. It was Ferrari’s gift to his best customers: a car that truly proved one had arrived in the hard-to-breach hierarchy of Maranello.
Like all Ferraris, the Superamerica enjoyed gradual evolution. By 1959, with the Lampredi V-12 ageing, a new model was introduced with a four-litre version of the Colombo V-12 that powered the 250 Series. Five inches shorter and much lighter than the Lampredi unit, the engine was fitted into the 400 Superamerica, which featured disc brakes, a first on a Ferrari street car, and was offered in two wheelbase lengths. Once more, the Superamerica was exclusive, driven by Enzo himself, as well as by the Aga Khan, Gianni Agnelli, minor European royalty, and major Hollywood stars. No doubt, they were all appropriately impressed by the top speed of 160 mph and its acceleration from 0–100 mph in 18 seconds, figures that remain impressive in an era of variable valve timing and sophisticated direct fuel injection.
Car & Driver tested the prototype 400 Superamerica in April 1963, reporting that it was “the best example extant of the true GT car, in the traditional, non-Detroit, non-FIA manner, a closed two-seater, slightly hysterical, and designed expressly for long-distance, high-speed travel … owning one is, or should be, the goal of every automotive enthusiast anywhere”.