Thought the Ferrari FF was the first Ferrari with a four-wheel drivetrain? Ferrari designer Mauro Forghieri – mainly known for his successes in Formula 1 – would like to prove you wrong. Meet the Ferrari 408 4RM.

Photography: Ferrari Collection, Petrolicious, Ferrari

An early experiment

The 1980s were very innovating for Ferrari, but executives must’ve looked perplexed when their engineers told them they wanted to build a sports car with four-wheel drive. Forghieri was in charge of this very advanced project, but the fact this car left the factory the same year as the iconic Ferrari F40 is simply amazing. The 408 4RM is not among the prettiest cars Ferrari build, whereas the F40 is.

The Ferrari 408 4RM is a study model that was built to test four-wheel drive and hydraulic systems. Just two prototypes left the factory: a red example (chassis no. 70183) in 1987 and a yellow one (chassis no. 78610) a year later. The red car was fitted with an all-steel welded chassis whereas the yellow one had an aluminum frame. Both cars had the same weight: 1340 kg or 2954 lb.

The name of the car comes from the engine and drivetrain: 4.0-L [40] 8-cylinder [8] with a 4 Ruote Motrici [4RM]. The latter simply translates as ‘‘four-wheel drive’’ from Italian. The Ferrari 328-derived mid-mounted engine produced around 300 bhp at 6250 rpm with 373 Nm of torque.

Ferrari always built rear-wheel drive sports cars, so the 408 4RM was real blasphemy. In the 1980s, four-wheel drive only existed in the SUV and rally world with the 1981 RAM Pickup and 1979 Lancia Delta S4. The purpose of the car wasn’t to look beautiful; it was a technical experiment to test if four-wheel drive would work for production cars.

The first production 4WD Ferrari

It took the Italians just shy of 25 years to implement a four-wheel drive system into a production car. In 2011, the Ferrari FF became the first production Ferrari featuring four-wheel drive. The car was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show and intended as a successor of the (rear-wheel drive) 612 Scaglietti. Ferrari managed to sell around 2300 examples before they introduced its successor, the GTC4Lusso.

The four-wheel drive system is called 4RM. Ferrari patented the system so it’s a given fact more cars will be equipped with it, which is 50% lighter than a standard four-wheel drive system. It also distributes power intelligently to each of the four wheels. As a matter of fact, the four-wheel drive is only active in comfort and snow mode. All other driving modes are using the rear-wheel drive layout.

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