Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ferrari 400i GTC - A One-Of (not 1-off) For The Motor Culture Ages

Jim Busby begins to step into his researched and refined Fly Yellow Ferrari 400i conversion build to a full GTC racing class creation. From the choice of color all the way down to the Forgeline Motorsports custom creation of Ferrari spec wheels that would hold modern, low-profile, full racing specification tires, this Ferrari 400i GTC motor culture surprise has to be studied, and possibly slept with, for full appreciation. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

Ferrari 400i GTC - A One-Of (not 1-off) For The Motor Culture Ages

There is no such thing that defines the term '1-off' than where this term came from and was intended to be - "One-Of" - and that is exactly what this latest Fly Yellow Ferrari vision from the garage and mind of Jim Busby is ... One-Of.

No Ferrari 400i was ever created as a racing platform the way the Ferrari engineering staff would have created one if they had turned their attention to this unique creation for pedestrian grand touring use.

Through the research and ingenuity of proven racecar designer Jim Busby and his capable crew, this "One-Of" GTC (because there is only one-of Ferrari 400i GTC) is now a reality.

Le Mans winning driver, Rick Knoop puts Jim Busby's Ferrari-engineering 'channeled' 400i GTC vision through its paces during one of the initial shakedown tests at Willow Springs in Rosamond, CA after the 60 day build. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (2016)

This excerpted and edited from FORZA Magazine -

Competition Conversion - Jim Busby builds the 400i race car Ferrari never did
Story by William Edgar - April 21, 2016

When I decided to do this,” Jim Busby tells me of his inspiration two years ago, “I thought to myself, what if somebody had walked into Enzo Ferrari’s office and said, ‘Mr. Ferrari, we need to make a GTC version of the 400i because the FIA will change the rules and that car could be perfect in a new category.’ What would Enzo build? How would he do it? I tried to imagine what that would be.”

The answer? According to Busby—former drag racer, perennial hot rodder, two-time class winner at Le Mans, IMSA icon, F1 Clienti aficionado, and race-car constructor—Ferrari would have created something like the machine you see here: a one-off track-ready muscle marvel Busby calls the 400i GTC.

A side-view of a stock 1982 Ferrari 400i 2-door 5-speed GT roadcar not too dissimilar to what Jim Busby started with before conversion build to a full GTC racing class creation.. Image Credit:

In order to build a competition version of a road car, of course, you need to start with that road car. Busby found this once dingy grey non-running 1982 example (s/n 39227), then housing dead leaves and old bird nests, in Los Angeles. It had no traceable past—its last owner’s name redacted on the title, the last valid registration in Maine 14 years ago—which is uncommon for a classic Ferrari. But then the 400i, of which 1,308 were produced between 1979 and ’84, was a relatively unpopular model, being expensive, heavy at 4,100 pounds, and only brought to the U.S. through the grey market.

“I was told the car had been in a flood,” Busby recalls, “and it smelled like it, even though there wasn’t a speck of rust or corrosion anywhere.”

It was the perfect starting point for a track car, so Busby bought it for, as he puts it, “virtually nothing.” Good enough. On April 24, 2015, he had the Ferrari hauled to his shop, Jim Busby Racing, in Laguna Beach, California.
Cockpit - once stripped, it doesn't require much leather, sound proofing,and cosmetic overlay to have it become race ready. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

Busby and crew stripped out 400 pounds of factory insulation and heaps of rotten leather. “We threw everything away right down to a bare tub and went to work,” he says. The weight loss didn’t stop there, however. All in all, the 4,034-lb. Ferrari was relieved of 1,000 pounds of not-necessaries.

Busby goes on. “We took out the original 4.8-liter motor, put in a 75-pound lighter, more powerful 5.7-liter 575M [motor], and moved it back 8 inches,” he says. Rather than using Ferrari’s original intake and engine-management setups, Busby converted to individual intake stacks and a MoTeC 400 racing system. 

Busby located this V12 engine at auction on Craigslist for way under $20,000.00. The engine did not have to be crated and shipped from a geography that was far away - no, the engine was picked up locally in the Los Angeles basin. Further, given the low cost, Jim expected that the engine would need some deep repair - "all we did is clean it up and it fired the first time," said Jim Busby with the surprise of landing an inside straight, Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

The 575M powerplant currently makes 510 horsepower, the same as stock, but later this year Busby  plans to pump up the engine to 700 hp. This will be achieved by porting the heads, installing new cams, and other refinements he learned while building a 575M to race on the salt flats of Bonneville, Utah.

“The car came with the stock four-speed Borg Warner Hydro, an awful gearbox,” continues Busby. “We got rid of that, obviously, and put in a Tremec T-56 Magnum six-speed with two overdrives that we had modified for racing. We went with a 5.12:1 final-drive differential that will work at almost every racetrack. It’s got drop gears just like in a sprint car, so we can change the ratio in about ten minutes.

Gear swappable rear-end differential would probably not be a modification the Ferrari engineers would envision or place into their FIA version of a 400i racecar. Notice a second modification in the build that Ferrari would not have had access to ... would be the steel drag racecar wheel tubs. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

“The limited slip is made by Speedway Engineering right here in southern California,” he adds. “And, by the way, this car uses Lobro ‘930-type’ CV joints, so we have rifle-drilled IndyCar-like axles for the rear that slide right in.”

The Ferrari’s full frame was preserved, despite the new engine and driveline, although slight modifications were needed to adapt the quick-change rear end, and a roll cage was added. Then it was time to sort the suspension.

“We put an honest-to-god front anti-roll bar in it, but the rear anti-roll bar is the stock one,” says Busby. “And rather than run the enormous coil-over hydraulic shocks that were used—these cars had self-levelers—we got rid of those and installed JRi racing shocks. We then lowered the car almost a full six inches in front and about four in back. We moved the suspension pick-up points up at the same time, so the factory geometry remains the same. We used all the Ferrari A-arms, reinforcing them where necessary, and fitted aftermarket Ferrari-style bushings.”

Brembo front-end package that measure out at 14" with six-piston calipers. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

Busby did toss the stock brakes, replacing them with Brembo 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers fore, and 12-inch rotors and four-piston calipers aft. Tilton master cylinders reside at each corner.
“Because the 400i had a strange wheel offset, we couldn’t put on wheels that went inside, so we modified the bottom arms so we could mount a wide wheel,” he explains. “It’s now got 18×13s in the rear and 18×11s in the front.”

The "One-Of" would not look or race right with the original 15-inch five-spoke hex-nut center-lock racing wheels, so Jim had them re-created in modern sizes for current technology racing tires. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

Busby has always loved Ferrari’s classic 15-inch five-spoke hex-nut center-lock racing wheels. He wanted them in a modern sizes, however, so he turned to Forgeline Motorsports in Ohio to make a forged-alloy replica using Ferrari’s gold color code. Forgeline owner Steve Schardt tells me that, once he got specifications, the three-inch larger wheels were developed by his engineering staff, then finished with in-house powder coating. Now, says Busby, “You can lay Ferrari wheels next to these and, except for diameter, you cannot tell the difference.”

Nothing like an original look and feel when creating from whole cloth. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)
“I didn’t want to put gigantic flares on this car like almost everybody in GT racing has always done,” Busby says. “It would have looked silly. So we tubbed it in steel at all four corners, much like a Pro Stock NHRA car would be. We cut out the original fender wells and put these wider tubs in to take our wheels and make wheel clearance.”
“We cut the steel fenders off and bent them out three and a half inches, so they bow out from the turn signals and come back into the stock doors,” explains Busby, who was determined to keep the body in steel since that’s what he believes Ferrari would have done in period. “Then the rear quarter-panel behind the door was cut completely off the car, and moved three and a half inches. That too bows out and goes right back into where the taillights are mounted on the aft section. It’s so subtle you have to look closely to see it, which is what I wanted.”
Frontend conversion including splitter,  headlights, and hood scoop modification. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

Needless to say, the heavy stock bumpers had to go. The rear one was simply deleted, while a 45-lb. lighter fiberglass replica was installed in front. Busby then fitted a splitter underneath for an aerodynamic boost—as well as an aesthetic one. “If you follow that line back,” he notes,” the splitter rake is exactly the same as the rake of the car—à la, a racing car.”

Pins, straps, vents and scoops add to the aluminum hood. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

The 400i’s original hood was reworked with a riveted-on scoop, new louvers, and some unusual vintage touches. “The aluminum hood is a lift-off, in the style of Ferrari’s racing cars,” says Busby. “It has pins in the front, and at the back we did leather straps. The GTO-type hold-downs, which are handmade by a guy in Holland for GTO restorations, I found on eBay.” Since the 400i is no GTO, the hold-downs’ tolerances had be modified in order not damage the hood or fenders.

Busby’s next target was the Ferrari’s ugly, oh-so-’80s pop-up headlights: “We dropped correct-period Cibies, that we still had in our shop, down inside buckets we made in the fenders.” Aircraft Windshield Company in Los Alamitos, California, made the lights’ clear covers, which look similar to those found on Daytonas that raced at Le Mans. AFC also replicated the side, rear, and quarter windows from Lexan polycarbonate, and made the side-window sliders. For safety reasons, the windshield is standard Ferrari glass.

Last but not least was the rear deck’s spoiler, which looks so at home you might think it’s inspired by a Ferrari part. It’s not. “I always liked the look of the ’69 Camaro Z/28 rear spoiler,” Busby admits. “So I found one and we cut it up and copied it.”

It’s difficult to fathom, but the process that turned a wiped-out 400i road car into Busby’s vision of a race-ready GTC took only sixty days (albeit after it sat idle for a half year during planning). Of course, no one person builds a race car. It takes a shop-full, and Busby’s crew works as a team. Metal whiz Tiki Alvarez joins ranks with primary fabricator Keith Hickson and first mechanic-fabricator Steve Bounds, whose son Nathaniel built the front spoiler and splitter. Paint, details, and minor bodywork are handled by Chris Hukill, while Van Butler’s gig is cabin interior. Dave Strader wired the entire car, then Shane Tecklenberg, who Busby called “the final baton runner in a relay race,” installed the self-contained MoTeC management system and its harnesses. Once that was done, and the car dropped off its stands on January 13, 2016, all that was left was to push the start button.
Smack dab behind the driver's seat is the source of balancing weight and propulsion ... the fuel cells. Simply a work of art in engineering. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

“Without a whole lot of sorting, this is perhaps the most balanced GT car I’ve ever driven,” Busby tells me the day after testing [test #4] at Thermal, “and I’ve driven a lot. Remember that we moved the engine back eight inches, and we placed the transmission dead in the middle of the car. The fuel cells are where the back seats used to be, centering the weight, and by moving all of the suspension up, which essentially moves the car down, we retained the roll centers.

Engine placement is displaced through a re-engineered firewall toward the cabin of the car in order to enhance the driving center of weight. One has to ask - would Ferrari have this attention to detail? Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

“I like a car that you turn with the steering wheel and steer with the throttle—that’s a balanced car,” he continues. “If the car has a bit of understeer, then you’ve got to chase it with the throttle sooner; if you get the car sideways, you’re wasting time. So if you can get the car to turn in without understeer and then get on the throttle and steer it with that, more power brings the tail around and less power keeps it in the middle. I have always liked that, and this car, without any sorting except 100-pound-stiffer rear springs, is perfectly balanced. You can drive it anywhere you want on the race track. It was truly a prize to have the car this way virtually right off the jig. I’m pleased and really proud to have played a part in creating it.”

Rick Knoop, who has been working and racing with Busby for years [they won at Le Mans together], also drove the Ferrari at Thermal. “The car is a thoroughbred that wants to be driven,” reports Knoop. “It’s about as accurate as anything I’ve driven, and I have been driving these massive-horsepower M8F [Can-Am] McLarens. The 400i goes where it’s supposed to go. And, boy, does it have the music. It’s got quite a bit of torque and has the symphony all the way up to about 7,500. This was maybe Enzo’s dream, if he was still around.”

Jim Busby's dream of a Ferrari 400i GTC come true. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2016)

“Our impressions were exactly the same,” notes Busby. “Rick told me, ‘The faster I go through the corner, the car keeps saying, ‘Come on, a little bit more, come on!’ And he’s right. I never got the car sideways or out of shape, but I could have.”

So how fast is this incongruously-based car, really? “Top speed would depend on the race course, but given the longest straight 200 mph would be achievable,” says Busby. “In testing we saw 172. And you know what’s remarkable about this car? It has such good manners you don’t have to be brave.”

Busby built the 400i GTC for the racetrack, but its next few events are anything but. Gordon McCall has invited it to be a centerpiece at his 25th Anniversary McCall’s Motorworks Revival Monterey Airport party this coming August [Wednesday 8/17/16 - 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm], during Monterey Automotive Week. Two days later, the Ferrari will go to The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering [Friday 8/19/16 - 10:00 am - 4:00 pm]. Don’t miss it if you’ll be in Monterey.
[Reference Here]

Automotive Week - Tuesday through Sunday, Monterey in August 16-21, 2016, will be this dream-come-to-reality, for one of the most forlorn of Ferrari platforms, coming out party.

So if you plan to attend the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca or take in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance make it a point to look-up this "One-Of" for the motor culture ages, the Busby Fly Yellow Ferrari 400i GTC - this effort will never disappoint.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Ferrari 400i, Ferrari 400i GTC, Jim Busby, Rick Knoop, Willow Springs International Raceway, Forgeline Motorsports, Brembo, Tilton, Forza, 25th Anniversary McCall’s Motorworks Revival, The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering, The EDJE, 

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