Going Twelve Rounds in Ferrari's Boxer
Inline fours, straight and V-shaped sixes, bent eights, tens, and twelves are the popular kids of engine design, their many strengths and accepted weaknesses allow them first round draft status to the automotive engineering and design dodgeball team nearly every time. Last round ball-fodder consists of parallel twins, inline threes, pancake fours, the one-time-jock-turned-anime-club-president straight eight, and the motor equivalent of that guy who smelled like cat pee and talked to himself, the rotary engine. Boxer sixes tread the line between those two camps, with the 911’s role as the introverted and smart track star of sports cars a long-standing one. That leaves the rich home-schooled kid, the flat 12. Yep, the Ferrari 512BB and Testarossa are quite well-versed in animal husbandry and think the world is flat, but are too well-bred and wealthy for anyone to dare not invite them to the party.
Ferrari first began experimenting with the flat 12 in the early '60s as a way of lowering a car’s center of gravity by concentrating mass across a horizontal plane. The 512 F1, equipped with a 1.5-liter version of said configuration failed to impress in its inaugural and only racing season, with a best result of two second-place finishes in 1965. Half a decade would pass before Ferrari again built a horizontally-opposed 12 cylinder, this time in the forms of 1970’s 312B Formula One machine and the following year’s 312PB prototype racer. Around this time Maranello began work on a flat-12 road car as a way to capitalize on the unique design they’d nurtured to infancy, and the 365 GT4 BB was unveiled at 1973’s Paris Motor Show, the world’s first production car thus powered and simultaneously Ferrari’s first mid-engined street machine.