Ferrari News – This Is the Four-Cylinder Ferrari You Never Knew Existed
The car in question was called the ASA 1000 GT and was unofficially known as the Ferrarina, meaning “little Ferrari” in Italian. The idea originated in the late 1950s, when a team of Ferrari engineers began working on a compact, less expensive alternative to the company’s usual GT cars. The project was internally known as 854, a designation coming from the 850cc (0.8-liter) four-cylinder engine.
The mill was far from new, as Ferrari had already been experimenting with four-cylinder designs. The four-banger was originally created by the famous Aurelio Lampredi in 1950s by “slicing” a V12. Lampredi created six different designs that were eventually used in race cars (including Formula One) until 1957.
The first “affordable” Ferrari
The first Ferrarina engine was much smaller though, at only 0.85 liters. The unit was eventually enlarged to a 1.0-liter and dubbed the Tipo 141. By the time the engine was completed, Ferrari had developed a second prototype following the 854. It was called the Mille and it was eventually adopted as the final Ferrarina design.
Penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Bertone, the Mille looked a lot like a shrunken 250 GT. The round headlamps, the split front grille, the sloping roof, and the quad taillights were all there. The strong resemblance didn’t go unnoticed at the 1961 Turin Auto Show, despite the fact that the car was displayed on the Bertone stand.
Ferrari, in fact, did not attempt to hide the car’s roots, but did not want to produce it at its Maranello factory. Designed as a less expensive GT that would fund the company’s racing efforts, the Ferrarina was originally planned to spawn more than 3,000 units per year. But Ferrari’s factory was too small for that and Enzo was unwilling to expand the facility in order to produce the four-cylinder GT.
As a result, the project was entrusted to Oronzio de Nora. Enzo’s close friend, de Nora established ASA and put the Mille prototype into production as the 1000 GT.
The production Ferrarina wasn’t very different from the prototype, but the engine was fitted with different carburetors and reportedly delivered around 95 horsepower. The 1000 GT also retained the tubular spaceframe chassis based on the 250 GTO and the live rear axle, but also employed an anti-roll bar and disk brakes.
Fitted with aluminum hood and trunk lids, the 1000 GT tipped the scales at only 780 kg (1,720). However, the low output meant that the Little Ferrari need around 14 seconds to hit 62 mph (100 kph).
Things didn’t go as planned
Ferrari envisioned the 1000 GT as a high-volume, less expensive GT that would move 3,000 to 5,000 units per year at around $2,600 a pop. But things didn’t go as planned. The production version turned out to be notably more expensive, hitting the U.S. market at almost $6,000.
Luigi Chinetti, Ferrari’s only U.S. importer, struggled to sell the 1000 GT. Not only ASA had no name recognition, but Chinetti’s customers still preferred the more powerful Ferraris. What’s more, the 1000 GT was notably more expensive than a Chevy Corvette fitted with a large-displacement V8, which usually retailed from around $4,500.
Chinetti was eventual forced to drastically lower priced in order to move stock. Reports claim that 1000 GTs were sold for as low as $2,000 toward the late 1960s.
Slowly becoming a prized collectible
ASA eventually failed to achieve the anticipated target of at least 3,000 per year. The small Italian shop barely managed to built a car per week in 1964 and production was eventually cut short as the cars were piling up in dealerships. There are no precise records as to how many 1000 GTs were built from 1964 to 1967, but most sources agree that only around 90 examples rolled off the assembly line.
The majority of these cars were coupes, but ASA also built a handful of convertibles and a few race-spec versions. Various iterations of the latter were raced at Targa Florio, Daytona, and Sebring, but were unsuccessful aside from a third-place class finish.
Once a Ferrari look-alike that no one really wanted, the ASA 1000 GT is slowly becoming a full-fledged collectible. There are no records as to how many survived, but 1000 GTs have been popping up at auction in recent years. And their value is going up as more and more people discover the beautiful and underrated four-cylinder Ferrari.
Back in 2007, a convertible was auctioned off for $99,000. Back then, some coupes were estimated to cost around $30,000 to $40,000. Fast forward to early 2019 and a red-painted 1000 GT coupe changed hands for $165,200. A silver example followed later that year at €138,000 (around $164,700). Come 2021 and we’re probably looking at more than $200,000 for a 1000 GT.
Granted, that’s still pennies compared to a Ferrari 250 GTO, but it’s a sign that the ASA 1000 GT is finally getting the love it deserves.