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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Cam.man67
Cam.man67
1 month ago

LS swap that mf’er.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago
Reply to  Cam.man67

Now that practically everything has been LS swapped, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if there’s already a kit for this particular conversion. “Bolts right in!”
Jokes aside, an LS is a sensible choice, they’re powerful, relatively compact, and even if there’s not a specific kit to fit one into this Ferrari there’s plenty of parts that let you (eg) move the sump to a better location for a particular vehicle.
Maybe an LS isn’t an original choice, but it’s the simplest route to getting this car driving again.

World24
World24
1 month ago

I mean, it sounds like a wrecked XLR might be a good donor for this type of project. Might.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago

Hmmm, how many Hayabusas could we fit under the hood?

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago

A N* can be made reliable. Head studs first. They can even make a decent noise with the right exhaust.

This, ugh, part it and burn it. The Home Depot Motorsports plumbing fittings and hose clamped brake fluid hoses don’t inspire confidence. And just under $40k at time of comment.

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 month ago

These were really cheap in the 90s so I suspect it was somebodies private project and they just tossed in an engine that they had

Dave
Dave
1 month ago

As long as we are being ridiculous, pull the v12 and automatic out of a BMW 850i and drop that in. More faithful to the original, and possibly less reliable.

Delta 88
Delta 88
1 month ago

Thanks, I hate it

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 month ago

To be fairrr, the Northstar is kinda light, pretty compact, real easy to get to run, dirt cheap, and you can run it on some cheap stand-alones. Yeah, it probably blew a headgasket while I typed this. But, If you’re trying to save money on engine swapping your Ferrari, could be worse, I guess.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago

Are we not doing “Crack Pipe” anymore? Nobody?

Automotiveflux
Automotiveflux
1 month ago

This might be the only way to buy a Ferrari for a reasonable price

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

Perhaps the answer, as some Bring A Trailer commenters have suggested, is to swap in an F116 V12 out of a Ferrari 456.”

I have a better or worse idea, depending on your point of view… swap in a Lamborghini V12 of some sort.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamborghini_V12

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
1 month ago

Why not a Jaaaaag? (Well, obviously because it would be a nightmare, but still)

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago

The Pep-boys cobra shifter tells you everything you need to know.

Curtis Loew
Curtis Loew
1 month ago

The original engine is probably in a fake GTO somewhere and that is why this happened. I think just about everyone would remove the Northstar as soon as they got it home. I know it’s boring to some and blasphemy to others but I think I would just put a small block Chevy in it. It’s simple, easy and what I am familiar with.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
1 month ago
Reply to  Curtis Loew

My first thought was LS swap. I understand people thinking LS swaps are overdone and too common but I figure they are common for a reason.

Aron9000
Aron9000
1 month ago

I was thinking swap the diesel/slushbox out of a w123 Benz. One of the slowest cars known to man. But other than slow, that is a REALLY SOLID engine.

Up the blasphmey even more. 5.7 oldsmobile diesel with the glass jaw 200R4 trans. Or a Cadillac HT4100 lol. Maybe not, the HT4100 could at least sound cool with duals/crossover pipe. All bark and no bite

Lotsofchops
Lotsofchops
1 month ago

This makes a solid case to bring back public floggings.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
1 month ago

This is just begging for a Predator swap at this point.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
1 month ago
Reply to  Frankencamry

Man, now my brain is all over joining up 6 Predator V-twins on a single crankshaft to make the world’s worst 4L V-12. 3 banks of 2 engines each with 60 degree offsets and careful attention to timing should do it, right?

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago
Reply to  Frankencamry

Paging Robot Cantina!

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 month ago

Screams for an Aussie Ford Barra I-6.

Mark Jacob
Mark Jacob
1 month ago

For some morbid reason, I would love to see Liberty Walk or RWB or some other crazy tuner get their hands on this, and just go to town on it. Proper engine swap, crazy body kit, ridiculous everything.

Angular Banjoes
Angular Banjoes
1 month ago

As someone who already hates most engine swaps, this is just offensive. Stupid engine choice, shit craftsmanship, and just generally bad decisions made all around. That thing is now a parts car for a restoration and nothing more.

Username Loading...
Username Loading...
1 month ago

I’m a big fan of engine Swaps that make no sense, and this is definitely that. Should enrage the purists and just about everyone else, excellent!

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

With enough time and resources, can Northstar engines be “fixed”/made reliable? (…and without “yeah, by replacing them with [other engine]”)

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Short answer: why?

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

A couple things…

Were Northstar engines fun? I’m sure there’s more than one engine from decades past that can be described as “tons of fun, right until they blow up” or similar.

If so, that leads to my second concern, which is whether such a “bulletproofing” process for a Northstar is more labor-heavy than parts-heavy, in which case, as a passion project, why not?

Even I can admit the pairing of a Northstar in a Ferrari is sacrilegious, yet undeniably hilarious. Like putting an Iron Duke in a Lambo, except at least the Iron Duke was known to be reliable (I think).

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Gotcha. My logic is crap motor why bother. Now an iron Duke in a Ferrari… I’m on board with that.

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

Of course. I just don’t know enough about Northstars to know if they were good when they were working.

In the same way that I’ve heard Ford’s 6.0l PowerStroke is actually a good, competent engine once it’s been bulletproofed.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
1 month ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Lol. Yup. Aka get a truck with a better motor and save money

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
1 month ago

Right now, this is a nice set of Campagnolo alloys, good glass and a decent interior attached to a good VIN and should be priced accordingly. This car is a victim of the days when there was such a thing as a “cheap” v12 Ferrari.

MEK
MEK
1 month ago

I checked the listing… yeah, the plumbing bits from Home Depot spliced into the cooling system and electrical conduit clips holding up the piping aren’t really inspiring confidence in this conversion. Neither are the random blue anodized fittings that smack of boy-racer ebay purchase. Also the clutch petal welded to the brake with some kind of tube steel. I’m going to go ahead and pass on this one.

Bearddevil
Bearddevil
1 month ago

I think the real move forward here is to INCREASE the blasphemy. Which means a Prius swap. Think about it – soul-killing, horrible-sounding 4-cylinder engine, awful CVT… What’s could be better for causing brain bleeds among the Ferrari faithful?

Alternately, I could get behind a Cummins swap on this thing…

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

I’d make it an EV using a Lucid motor, which is good for @ 600hp.

Bearddevil
Bearddevil
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Yeah, but that would make it objectively GOOD to drive, not a horrible, eye-gouging blasphemy of a car. To expand on my previous comment, the Prius swap should make it FWD, too. Just ruin the hell out of any driving joy.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
1 month ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

I came to say let’s go for gold. Duke Iron with a powerglide…. But your idea also works.

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

I will not stand for this Prius blasphemy. The eCVT is different mechanically from regular CVTs (say, like Jatco ones) and is perfectly cromulent. The engine sound isn’t compelling but it’s competent at what it does. I put the pedal down and it goes!

Bearddevil
Bearddevil
1 month ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Maybe I’ve got a limited sample size, since I’ve only driven two second-gen Pruises, but they were both quite drone-y and the transmissions were pretty lethargic-feeling. Especially when the battery is not exactly healthy. I’ve got a lot of seat time in my partner’s Versa Note with the Jatco CVT, and it’s tolerable. Not great, but tolerable. Still, either drivetrain would utterly ruin the driving experience.

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

Mine is a 3rd-generation v model. I dunno, I wish my old van had had the smooth no-shifting transmission experience.

Nonetheless–I do concur the engine would be comparatively disappointing, to put it mildly.

(But it sure would be more reliable than a Northstar.)

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

transmissions were pretty lethargic-feeling. Especially when the battery is not exactly healthy.

This isn’t a problem with the transmission, it’s a problem with a car that’s not functioning correctly. The Prius engine is only 76 HP or something like that, so it’s going to drive pretty badly when not getting the expected boost from the battery.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

The sort of CVT in the Prius is actually brilliant, it’s not one in those haybailer belt drive things. Its more like a differential, and closer to what the Koenigsegg Regera does than to the CVTs in gas cars.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago
Reply to  Bearddevil

I was about to comment Cummins, but you beat me to it.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 month ago

Nothing about this is in good taste and it fails to make sense on any level. This is the type of person that puts carpet in a bathroom.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

This is the kind of person who tears out tile and puts wood laminate in the bathroom without ever installing the trim. He’s not just made it dramatically worse, he didn’t even finish the job!

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

The stick on linoleum tiles on top of real hardwood floors kind of guy

Aaron
Aaron
1 month ago

The person responsible for this build was probably of that generation. I bet every flat surface in his bathroom had some kind of shag, except the tiled countertop.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

The real crime here was painting it silver.

David Puckett
David Puckett
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

Agree. While the buyer is in there spending $thousands sorting out the drive train issues, go ahead and give it a re-spray to proper red.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 month ago
Reply to  David Puckett

Do you think someone who chose a Northstar engine is interested in being seen?

Data
Data
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

Painted silver to blend in with all the other boring-mobiles on modern roads. What the heck is that gear shift “knob”? I can’t make it out on my laptop screen.

MEK
MEK
1 month ago
Reply to  Data

It’s some kind of ergonomic looking Tee handle. Looks odd in that angle but clear from the other side.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 month ago
Reply to  Data
DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

If the interior is original, it could have been born silver. 365 GTCs were generally painted in more subtle colors.

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