1970s Ferraris and the Models that Conquered a Decade

For many true afficionados, 1970s Ferraris represent a golden age for arguably the world’s most famous car marque. In the seven decades since Enzo Ferrari founded his company, they have produced some jaw-droppingly spectacular cars, but there’s something special about the sleek lines and the raw, analogue power of 1970s Ferrari models. A decade packed with outstanding motors, this list of the very best 70s Ferraris is one trip down memory lane not to be missed.

Motoring Automotive History Petrolhead Zone
26 February 2021

The first car to carry the iconic Ferrari badge was the 1947 125S. Since then, the prancing horse has held a special place in the hearts of everyone who has ever dreamed of owning a sports car. Through the 50s and 60s, there’s no doubt that Ferrari produced some extraordinary cars, perhaps none more so than the record-breaking 250 GTO and the stunning 250 GT California Spider.

Building on this outstanding heritage, the 1970s Ferrari models pushed the boundaries further, ushering in a new age of technological innovation, design inspiration and hardcore power. It wasn’t a simple task to shine however, they needed to compete with the bedroom poster Lamborghini Countach, the James Bond-driven Lotus Esprit Turbo and BMWs first attempt at a supercar, the M1. And they did.

Ferrari’s 1970s models were excruciatingly cool and paved the way for today’s sensational speed machines so here, in no particular order, are the very best 70s Ferraris.

Ferrari Dino 246 GT

1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS by Palace House, 2000. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

The Dino models represent a melancholy period in the life of patriarch Enzo Ferrari. They were named in honour and in memory of his son Alfredo ‘Dino’ Ferrari. He was credited with designing the car’s V6 engine but who tragically died of muscular dystrophy in 1956 aged just 24.

The 246 GT was a watershed moment in the lifecycle of Ferrari – and one of the most beautiful of all 1970s Ferraris – with the Aldo Brovarone design hat-tipping to the bygone age of 50s racing. Radical for its time, with styling to match the very best looking cars of all time, it was powered by a mid-mounted 2.4-litre V6 rather than the V12 the patriarch considered to be an indivisible element of Ferrari’s DNA.

An interesting fact about this Ferrari is that, such was the prestige placed on the V12, that the 246 GT was part of a sub-brand known as ‘Dino’ and never badged as a Ferrari. The idea today that the 246 GT is somehow not one of the genuine 1970s Ferrari models is ludicrous and they are changing hands for prices well north of £300,000.

It’s successor, the 308 GT4 – Ferrari’s first production V8 – wore the Dino badge until 1976 when it was finally and deservedly re-badged with the Prancing Horse.

Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer

A metallic gold 1977 Ferrari 512 BB sits on display at Sotheby's auction house. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

For years, Enzo Ferrari refused to even consider a mid-engined road car on the basis that it would be too hard for his buyers to handle. It took a long time for his engineers to convince him it was the future.

After seeing what Ferrari’s fiercest rivals Lamborghini did with the Miura and then the Countach, the decision was made. The Berlinetta Boxer – or BB – was the first of the 1970s Ferrari models to sport a mid-mounted flat-twelve engine and it was so successful it was used in the Testarossa, one of the most famous Ferraris of them all.

The first ‘Boxer’ was the 365 GT/4, produced to rival the Countach between 1973 and 1976. While wild ‘close to 200mph’ claims were made regarding its top speed it was still a 375 bhp, 175mph car with gorgeous pop-up headlights, black bottom half and trademark feline-esque Pininfarina lines.

The Boxer, one of the truly great 70s Ferraris, was updated in 1976 with the introduction of the 512 BB, a 5.0-litre, 12-cylinder powerhouse. It had a lower nose and a single-colour paintjob but performance wasn’t convincingly better than the 365 GT/4.

That said, the BB set a new course in the design and performance of supercars and for that reason, the Berlinetta Boxer in all its guides is one of the greatest of the 1970s Ferrari models.

Ferrari 308 GTS

A close up of the rear lights and exhaust pipes on a Ferrari 308 GTS. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)

At Ferrari, the 1970s models they produced were not only mechanically impressive but also some of the most beautiful sports cars ever made, and the 308 GTS was no exception. The epitome of louche 70s cool, the targa-top was designed by Pininfarina genius Leonardo Fioravanti, the man responsible for the Daytona, the Dino and the BB.

The 2.9-litre V8 was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1977 and came equipped with four Weber carburettors producing 255 bhp which pushed it over 150 mph at the top end. But this car was about more than just the numbers. The pop-up headlights are retro-cool, the four round taillights look as good on the 43-year old 308 as they do on the £200,000 F8 Tributo and the mechanical ‘clack’ of the open-gate gears lets you know you’re in a serious old-school analogue sports car. The 308 GTS is without doubt one of the best of the 1970s Ferraris.

But what makes the 308 GTS stand out as one of the most famous of all 70s Ferraris is that Magnum, the coolest PI of them all, drove one. For fans of the show, this cult classic rivals even the very best TV show cars of all time. Small wonder then that those of a certain age still think the coolest Ferrari of them all is the 308 GTS.

Ferrari 365 GTB4 ‘Daytona’

1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Nicknamed ‘Daytona’ (by the media rather than by Ferrari) to commemorate the marque’s 1-2-3 finish at the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona, the 4.4-litre V12 365 GTB/4 was a true grand tourer. The last of the 70s Ferraris V12 front-engined warhorses, it was introduced at the Paris Salon in 1968, and was built to be driven hard and fast until 1973.

This was Enzo Ferrari’s response to the Lamborghini Miura. Designed by Leonardo Fioravanti and endorsed by Sergio Pininfarina, it put to bed any underlying concerns that a front-engined V12 couldn’t compete with the radical mid-engined Miura.

The Daytona had a top speed of 174 mph, the Miura topped out at 172 mph. The Daytona – one of the greatest of all 1970s Ferrari models (and clearly boasting one of the coolest car names) – only needed 13.8 seconds for a standing quarter mile. The Miura was pedestrian by comparison at 14.5 seconds. Road & Track magazine were quoted as saying, ‘the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona is the best sports car in the world.’

The Daytona was the iconic 70s Ferrari. For many prancing horse purists it’s the benchmark front-engined V12 GT and it has the added kudos of being the last car to leave Maranello whilst Ferrari was under the sole ownership of patriarch Enzo.

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Ferrari 400 GT

1980 Ferrari 400i. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Introduced at the 1976 Paris Salon as a replacement for the Daytona, the 400 GT was a classic front-engined V12 GT and one of the most important of all 70s Ferraris. It was described in 1984 by the fantastically-named British motoring journalist LJK Setright as, ‘one of the few most beautiful, and one of the two most elegant, bodies ever to leave the lead of Pininfarina’s pencilling vision.’ Car & Driver magazine called it ‘surpassingly beautiful.’

The 400 GT used the same body and chassis as the Daytona but benefitted from an improved 4.8-litre engine. However what stood the car out as one of the most iconic of all 1970s Ferraris models was that it was the very first car from Maranello to be offered with an automatic gearbox.

This was a true 2+2 grand tourer designed to compete with the world’s most desirable sports saloons. It was intended to divert discerning customers from Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz and like its competition, it wasn’t short on opulence. This 1970s Ferrari was full of gadgets – self-levelling independent rear suspension, power-assisted steering, electric windows and (at a cost) air conditioning – and while this was undoubtedly a luxury cruiser, the throaty V12 offered the hardcore soundtrack Ferrari aficionados required as de rigueur.

Only 147 400 GTs were produced between 1976 and 1979 and even though it didn’t get the credit it deserved at the time, it still outsold the more exotic Boxer to become one of the most iconic – if underrated – of all Ferrari models of the 1970s.

Ferrari 365 GTC

Ferrari 365 GT 1968. By Simon Clay. (Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

One of the very first 70s Ferraris, the 365 GTC is a jaw-droppingly beautiful car. However, for reasons unknown, it is rarely talked about outside of Ferrari forums and Goodwood garages.

Maybe because the name 365 GTC wasn’t followed by ‘the first Ferrari with…’ or ‘the fastest Ferrari ever produced’ or some such. It wasn’t ground-breaking in any specific way, but the 4.4-litre V12 was a spectacular drivers’ car and one of the best 1970s Ferrari models of the decade.

Replacing the 330 GTC, the 365 had 50:50 weight distribution and was equally thrilling on the back roads of Nice as it was on long motorway cruises. It was also a speed match for the later, more powerful (albeit heavier) 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’. It is classic 60s Pininfarina styling at its finest with some 70s grunt thrown in for good measure.

While only 168 were made between 1968 and mid-1970, it didn’t sell very well. It may be because customers were looking at the Jaguar E-Type and the Lamborghini Miura and thought the styling, however cool we think it is today, was a little conservative. In addition, it was sharing showroom space with the more modern looking 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’, which was always going to be a tough act to follow.

Today, this ‘forgotten Ferrari’ is changing hands for prices north of £650,000 and in many ways represents the ‘sweet spot’ of late 60s, early 70s Ferraris.

A two-seater, front-engined V12, classic movie star good looks, a wooden Nardi steering wheel and Borrani wire wheels. What more could you wish for in a classic 1970s Ferrari?

Replacing the 330 GTC, the 365 had 50:50 weight distribution and was equally thrilling on the back roads of Nice as it was on long motorway cruises. It was also a speed match for the later, more powerful (albeit heavier) 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’. It is classic 60s Pininfarina styling at its finest with some 70s grunt thrown in for good measure.

While only 168 were made between 1968 and mid-1970, it didn’t sell very well. It may be because customers were looking at the Jaguar E-Type and the Lamborghini Miura and thought the styling, however cool we think it is today, was a little conservative. In addition, it was sharing showroom space with the more modern looking 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’, which was always going to be a tough act to follow.

Today, this ‘forgotten Ferrari’ is changing hands for prices north of £650,000 and in many ways represents the ‘sweet spot’ of late 60s, early 70s Ferraris.

A two-seater, front-engined V12, classic movie star good looks, a wooden Nardi steering wheel and Borrani wire wheels. What more could you wish for in a classic 1970s Ferrari?

Ferrari 312T

Jody Scheckter, Ferrari 312 T4, Grand Prix of Germany, Hockenheimring, 29 July 1979. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

The 312T is the least known of Ferrari’s 1970s models but it was driven by some of the most famous names in the pantheon of Ferrari’s great history. It was a 3.0-litre naturally aspirated, mid-mounted flat-12, capable of a staggering 510 bhp. However, for this lesser-known 70s Ferrari, its home was not on the road…

It’s home was on the racetrack.

The 312T is the most successful Formula One car in Ferrari’s history. It was as innately beautiful as it was effective. In 1974, Ferrari appointed young lawyer Luca di Montezemolo as manager of Scuderia Ferrari and his first two major decisions were to reinstate design genius Mauro Forghieri as chief engineer and to retain driver Niki Lauda. His brief was to end the Brabham – Lotus – Tyrrell domination of the previous decade and put Ferrari where Enzo wanted them to be. Back at the top.

Forghieri designed the 312T and between 1975 and 1980 (involving a number of iterations) it took part in 90 races and ended with 27 wins, 61 podiums, 19 poles and 25 fastest laps. One of the best of all 70s Ferraris was driven to Formula One championship success by Niki Lauda in 1975 and 1977 and by Jody Scheckter in 1979. In those six years, Ferrari won the Constructor’s Championship four times including a 1975-77 hat-trick.

Lauda’s championship-winning car sold for $6,000,000 in 2019. As 1970s Ferraris go, there are others which are more famous, but none which did more of what Enzo Ferrari himself had always wanted to do ever since he was a little boy – win Formula One races.

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