Home » This Northstar V8-Swapped Classic Ferrari Is A Whole Barrel Of WTF

This Northstar V8-Swapped Classic Ferrari Is A Whole Barrel Of WTF

Northstar Powered Ferrari
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Every so often, an engine swap comes along that just makes you scratch your head. This is one of these times. Under the hood of this 1967 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 sits the heart of a front-wheel-drive Cadillac, the infamous Northstar V8. To borrow a quote from the great John Phillips, “Some look at things that are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why this?’”

While this Columbo V12-engined slice of exotica rolled out of Modena intact and gleaming, the concept of keeping it nice didn’t really happen over the years. According to the Bring A Trailer listing for this car, “It was purchased by the seller’s late husband in the 2000s before being subsequently repainted silver and fitted with a 4.6-liter Northstar V8 and a 700R4 four-speed automatic transmission.” Out of all possible powertrain options, huh?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

See, I could get behind a small-block Chevrolet V8, a Ford Cleveland V8, or a Mopar 440 under the hood of a non-running Ferrari, but the Northstar is a flawed choice. Not only is this V8 not a vast improvement over the stock output of 320 (admittedly gross) horsepower, the engine itself is, well, kind of crappy.

Northstar Ferrari Engine Bay

See, this is a transverse Northstar that was mounted longitudinally in this Ferrari back in 2002, and these earlier engines are known for extreme oil leakage and head bolts that fail, lifting the heads, blowing the head gaskets, compromising the mating surfaces, and turning the engines into coffee table material. Add in the perplexing choice of a four-speed automatic transmission, and you end up with the perfect recipe to anger purists and excite no one in particular. I’m not saying this thing’s a 1993 Cadillac Allante with extra steps, but it’s not the first machine to mate Italian craftsmanship with Northstar power.

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At the same time, this Northstar-swapped 365 GT 2+2 reportedly hasn’t run since 2006, so even getting it going will require at least some modicum of work. Finishing it will take more, as the listing states that “The seller describes the engine installation as “not fully sorted.” Oh dear.

Northstar Ferrari Interior

Alright, so let’s say you want to rip out this thing’s Detroit heart and return it to proper provenance. While tempting as an initial thought, this is not the sort of example you’d put back to stock. Even if you found the correct Columbo V12 for this car, that engine would be cost-prohibitive, as would be un-doing the slicing and dicing that was necessary to make the Northstar fit. At the same time, you’d need to source the original gearbox, along with the requisite accessories.

Northstar Ferrari Profile

Perhaps the answer, as some Bring A Trailer commenters have suggested, is to swap in an F116 V12 out of a Ferrari 456. They usually run for between $10,000 and $15,000 second-hand, can be run on a MoTec or similar aftermarket engine management system, make 436 horsepower straight from the factory, and emit glorious V12 noises. Pair with a manual gearbox of your choosing, and enjoy a V12 Ferrari GT car with classic looks and the convenience of electronic fuel injection.

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Northstar Ferrari Rear Three Quarters

Whatever future plans may lay ahead, this should be on the cheap end for a Ferrari 365 GT 2+2. With a day left on the auction, the current high bid is only $36,000, and the daunting task of dealing with someone else’s project ought to keep a damper on the hammer price. At this point, only one thing’s certain — whoever buys this thing has one hell of a project ahead of them.

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer)

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MushroomGlue
MushroomGlue
22 days ago

I’m going to take a guess on this that someone bought this as an engine donor for a GTO replica; people carving up beautiful classic Ferraris to make replica GTOs always seems nuts to me, but doesn’t seem to be a rare thing.

Dan Parker
Dan Parker
23 days ago

Must’ve had carbon on the valves.

I have vague memories of reading about an old wagoneer with a Ferrari v12 swapped into from ages ago… Maybe this is what happened to the leftovers? My grandparents had a mid-late 90’s fwd caddy sedan in perfect old-fart spec. Pearl white, blue canvas top, blue interior, gold package, white line tires on factory chromies, I loved that thing, spent a bunch of hours behind the wheel and probably would have bought it from them if it wasn’t such a pita. Assuming the dumb head bolt thing is sorted out I’d leave the engine there and figure out how to get a manual running behind it.

DRFS Rich
DRFS Rich
22 days ago
Reply to  Dan Parker
Zac H
Zac H
23 days ago

In defense of the Northstar V8: I owned a 1999 Seville STS back in the early ‘10s. A 10 year old 300hp luxury sedan I picked up for $4500 with 100k miles, mint condition. It was slow off the line but that thing had some serious highway passing power. I thought that engine sounded glorious under full throttle, it was buttery smooth and quiet at cruising speeds and it would do 22-24 mpg on the highway if you took it easy. I was/am a big lead foot and drove the piss out of that car. It survived until 165k miles before the head gaskets finally blew. Even then, it was only leaking coolant outside of the block, the oil and coolant never mixed. That Seville is definitely one of my most favorite cars I’ve owned.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
23 days ago

I can’t tell people what to do, but this is just a sad kind of swap.

Ferrari’s old GT cars are all about the engine, a Northstar isn’t much more reliable, probably less powerful and a million times less interesting. A Ferrari V12 isn’t a Wankel that comes with severe trade-offs in driveability or some obscure Brazilian-market Willys-Renault-Gordini 845cc block with zero parts/community/technician support and 40 horsepower. A Ferrari 365 isn’t the kind of car you buy as a good-enough substitute to swap because you couldn’t afford an Allante.

That leads me to think whoever did this either bought a broken 365 for a song because “look, honey, we can afford a Ferrari!” and then doubled down on it when the V12’s rebuild cost came due, or some disgruntled owner got tired of how six Webers react to putzing around in traffic and decided put in the latest and greatest from Cadillac. Either way, it sends all the wrong signals about why they bought a Ferrari.

Mind you, the prancing horse isn’t above being modified or swapped, it just doesn’t inspire me to see a Northstar and slushbox in there. Like Thomas mentions in the article, any popular engine from a muscle car would make sense as they’re far easier/cheaper to get big power from, so it could be an irreverent enthusiast who wants their GT car to be faster and lighter, but this is a sad swap. I love the K-swapped Ferrari from StanceWorks, that exists for all the right reasons.

Still, a 365 2+2 isn’t rare enough to get upset about, and I’m sure that Colombo is out there powering someone else’s restoration, maybe in a cleaner body with original paint or whatever. If I got my hands on that shell I’d certainly toss the Northstar, but rather than half un-ruining it with a newer V12 or some other Ferrari engine, this would be the time for something offensive like a MOPAR engine that’s technically Italian-owned or some Japanese/German turbocharged inline 6 to take advantage of the long engine bay.

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
23 days ago

It’s not just a Northstar, it’s a “Built Northstar” from Cadillac Hot Rod Fabricators. There’s even receipts:
Crate Engine from Grey Chevrolet: $1,395
“Fab” work: $13,019.40

This wasn’t even a cheap job, the owner spent over $14,400 just on the engine for this thing….

Noahwayout
Noahwayout
23 days ago

An original engine is not cost-prohibitive for a car like this. Nice examples sell for upwards of $250k. $75-100k for an engine and another $50k for odds and ends probably makes this car a good runner. Another $100k if you want to do the body and interior and you have a car right at market value.

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
23 days ago

It’s 2024. When you have a beautiful but unreliable car in need of an impossible/unreasonable to source engine you electrify it. LS swaps are old hat.

Jakob Johansen
Jakob Johansen
23 days ago

Camry V6 in a Dino 246
Volvo/Yamaha V8 in a 348
Would both be an improvement.

Aardvark775
Aardvark775
23 days ago

Does this swap mean that somewhere in the world there is a crappy front wheel drive Cadillac with a Ferrari V12 and manual transmission?

ClutchAbuse
ClutchAbuse
23 days ago

I just can’t fathom the decision making process that went into this. I’m guessing this was the kind of guy who would put the cheapest, incorrectly fitting, vivyle double pane windows he could into a historical Victorian house.

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
24 days ago

Let’s play “Can you top this”! Ran a Goodyear service center back in the day. Boss put free inspection coupon in the paper. OMG…so a Mustang II is next… pull it in, pop the hood and what the hell is this this? Someone had replaced the Pinto 2300 with a Vega 2300…yep that thrasher motor!! Pulled it out quick, owner asked me, What should I do with this thing? Told him sell it and don’t let them look under the hood!

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
24 days ago

Did it even “Ran When Parked”? I think not. Good for yard art!

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