That’s Feretta, with an “F”

1987 Chevrolet Feretta conceptThat’s not a typo in the headline and it’s not some lowbrow phonetic attempt to make a mental connection with the words Ferrari or fast.

This 1987 engineering concept explored a lot of things but a name change wasn’t one of them. Read on to find out why the Feretta concept existed in the first place and how it got its peculiar name.

Exploring a new breed of car
1987 Chevrolet Feretta concept logoJust as the front-wheel-drive Probe was a by-product of Ford’s aborted plans to abandon its historically rear-wheel-drive Mustang, Chevrolet also had done more than ponder the idea of abandoning the RWD configuration of its Camaro/Firebird twins.

Even though some with decision-wielding power at GM felt FWD was the way of the future for nearly all types of vehicles, many on the performance end of things doubted the V-8 had yet overstayed its welcome on the automotive scene. Hence, GM worked on many different alternatives at the time and the Feretta was one of them.

You say Beretta, I say Feretta
So how about that name. Why did they swap the B for an F? General Motors was involved in a trademark infringement lawsuit with the Italian firearms company also called Beretta. The Italian company had a good claim. After all, they’d been making products under that name for over 450 years when Chevrolet came along and decided to put it on one if their cars. (A fascinating summary of the history of Beretta firearms can be read on their website, here: Beretta Firearms: The History.)

However, I’ve played a bit of trickery on you. In actuality, it had nothing to do with the Italian arms manufacturer. That lawsuit over the use of the Beretta name wasn’t brought to court until summer of 1988, more than a year after Feretta was created. (As a side note, in order for GM to continue using the name on its Chevrolet model, the settlement required a one-time donation from GM in the amount of $500,000 to one of the firearm manufacturer’s cancer foundations. In addition, the two companies swapped some product: a brand new Beretta GTU car for a set of Beretta guns: a hunting rifle and shotgun.)

Okay, so now that I’ve taken us into unrelated information land, why did this car garner the name Feretta if not to intimate speed or avoid a trademark lawsuit? The answer is it was done by a couple of wise-guy engineers as a subtle way of implying this could be the next F-body (which was GM’s platform designation for the Camaro/Firebird). Hence, “F”eretta.

What makes Feretta, Feretta?
1987 Chevrolet Feretta concept engineSo, with all the history behind us, what set Feretta apart from a Beretta? How about its eight cylinders.

Under the heat-extracting louvered hood sits an Isuzu-built, 32 valve all-aluminum V-8 relaying power through a five-speed manual transmission, to the front wheels (not the rears or all four, even though sometimes erroneously reported as such). Although I was unable to positively determine the motor’s displacement, it is reportedly “around 3.5 liters.”

1987 Chevrolet Feretta conceptAccording to an interview, by Hot Rod Magazine of an unnamed GM employee, the Feretta was an idea they were exploring to keep performance enthusiasts (i.e., Camaro/Firebird loyalists) happy in a FWD-dominated world. I’m guessing it would be exhilarating to drive.

Highest bid
1987 Chevrolet Feretta concept first sale (BJ auction)Interestingly, despite lacking legal capability to be operated on public roadways, prototype cars will sometimes end up in the hands of mere mortals. As was the case with Feretta.

In January of 2009, during a week-long process, GM eliminated around 200 of its prized historic possessions at a Scottsdale, Arizona auction. Amongst the cars sold were a 1996 Buick Blackhawk concept car (for $522,500), a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 COPO Coupe (for $319,000), a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette convertible (for $220,000) and the 1987 Chevrolet Feretta concept.

The Feretta, unbelievably, sold for only $6,000. (A YouTube video of the auction is provided in the video gallery and you can hear the reaction from one spectator.)

1987 Chevrolet Feretta conceptHowever, that is not the end of Feretta’s story. That buyer, who got the seemingly undervalued slice of automotive history, had the same car up for sale at $37,500, less than a year later.

It seems, at least initially, that no one was snapping at the car with that price tag on it. Beyond that, unfortunately, I was unable to track down whether it eventually sold or not.

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