The Forgotten Mini-Ferrari
The ASA 1000 GT
Ferrari debuted it's first car, the 125 S racecar, in 1947. Under the hood lay a tiny V12, known as the "Colombo" V12, that displaced a mere 1.5 liters and produced just 118 horsepower. Amazingly, the engine was produced in various forms until 1988, and one of these forms produced under 100 horsepower.
A sub-100-horsepower Ferrari is unthinkable today, but it was in development during the 1950s. The car was intended to be a less expensive, compact alternative to Ferrari's GT cars, as today's Porsche 718 is to the 911. The project was designated "854" by the factory because it was powered by four cylinders in line taken from the Colombo V12 displacing 850cc. Originally, the engine produced 68 horsepower, but the number would gradually rise during development.
A prototype of the car, called the Mille (One Thousand), was displayed on the Bertone stand at the 1961 Turin Auto Show with bodywork by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Although the vehicle was nicknamed "Ferrarina" (little Ferrari), the show car had no Ferrari badging. Ferrari engineers planned to build 3,000 to 5,000 per year, with each car priced at around $2,600 ($22,650/£16,547/€18,639 in 2021 currency), but the Ferrari factory was inadequate for this level of production and Enzo Ferrari was unwilling to expand the factory to make room for the Mille.
By 1962, Enzo elected to entrust production to a close friend, Oronzio de Nora, and his son, Niccolò; a new company, ASA (Autocostruzioni Società per Azioni), was formed to produce the vehicle.
The final version of the Mille, called the ASA 1000 GT, went on sale in 1964. It featured disc brakes and anti-roll bars front and rear, with a 1,032cc, 91-horsepower engine under the hood. 60 MPH was achieved in 14 seconds and the quarter-mile was covered in 19.3 seconds. Two fiberglass-bodied convertibles were produced, but never reached production.
Despite being reported to have excellent handling and reliability, it was criticized for costing too much and having too little power. A 1000 GT with 91 horsepower cost about $6,000 ($50,414/£36,861/€41,492), but a Corvette with 375 horsepower cost about $4,500 ($37,811/£27,646/€31,111). Furthermore, the name had almost no recognition, and when the factory was fully operational, just one car was built each week.
A handful of competition cars were also produced, but they had little success. Just 90 ASAs in total were produced by the time the factory closed in 1967, and the company was replaced by Ferrari's Dino brand, which enjoyed much greater success.