Believe it or not, the Ferrari 500 Superfast is part of Ferrari’s America series, a run of top-end, limited-production cars built between 1951 and 1967. Instead of naming their new model the 500 Superamerica, in the tradition of the 410 and 400 Superamerica models it was based on, Ferrari introduced this new name for the final model in the series. The Superfast name would be resurrected over 50 years later on the 812 Superfast.
In the tradition of all of Ferrari’s America cars, the 500 Superfast was set up with a front-mounted engine, independent front suspension, and a live rear axle. And, as one of the final examples of the series, the 500 Superfast carried on in the tradition of escalating power ratings. Using influences from both the Colombo and Lampredi engine designs, the Superfast’s 5.0-litre V12 made a very healthy 400 bhp. Performance was staggering. Its 174-mph top speed must have been simply terrifying at a time when little thought was given to safety and most vehicles struggled to reach the century mark. Considering the 500 Superfast in this context, the silly-sounding name suddenly starts to make a lot more sense. Whereas early models routed all of that power through a 4-speed manual transmission with overdrive, a final run of 12 models were given an improved 5-speed manual synchromesh gearbox.
Ferrari offered the Superfast in any body style buyers wanted, as long as it was a 2-door coupe. Not to worry if you prefer open-top motoring, however, as Ferrari went on to make the cabriolet-bodied 365 California on the same chassis for ’66 and ’67. Like all of the America cars, the 500 Superfast succeeded in attracting a base of wealthy and influential buyers to the brand, even if not all of them were American. A total of 36 examples rolled out of the Ferrari garage, including two that were sent to the Shah of Iran and one bought by Peter Sellers.