Today, we take automatic transmissions and all-wheel drive in large cars for granted. Before, however, they were more experiments.
The first all-wheel drive Ferrari was the FF in 2011, right? Well, not quite, in 1987 the first red prototype with chassis number 70183 was created, when Ferrari wanted to try this type of drive. A year later, one more car was created, yellow with chassis number 78610. Both prototypes bore the designation 408 4RM (short for Quattro Ruote Motrici), only the first of them had a welded steel frame and the second a glued aluminum frame.
At that time, Ferrari was experimenting a bit, it even had the first car with an automatic transmission in circulation. Back then, all-wheel drive cars were nowhere near as widespread as they are today. Basically, you only found it in large quantities in off-roads and rally races. However, he began to appear where no one expected it – in super sports. An example can be the Porsche 959, the age-old rival of the Ferrari F40.
It is here that we can look for the origin of the idea of a ferrari with all-wheel drive. But why did we see the first production Ferrari with this concept almost a quarter of a century later? Ferrari chose a hydraulic clutch for the 408 4RM to assign the front wheels with a maximum of roughly 30% of the drive forces. However, there were losses during the transfer of power and the car would have been woefully slow due to the increase in weight.
The eight-cylinder engine in the prototypes began life as a unit from the classic 328 sports car, however its displacement was increased to 4.0 liters (bore increased from 83 to 93 mm, stroke retained 73.6 mm). The power rose to 300 hp from the original 270 and the torque even to 373 Nm from the original 304 Nm. The engine was given the designation F117 and as for its use, we only know about these two cars.
Because of the drive shaft to the front wheels, the engine was mounted longitudinally, rather than transversely, as was common. However, a fully tuned car with independent suspension of all wheels, disc brakes and a five-speed gearbox weighed 1343 kilograms. That seems like a flyweight today, but the slightly larger 328 GTB weighed 1,263 kilograms.
Ferrari finally evaluated from these prototypes that all-wheel drive is not that interesting yet and returned to the idea only in 2011 with a complicated solution with two gearboxes for the FF model.