A Ferrari 512 BBi Is A Car To Drift On Track
Story and Photography by Davide Cironi
I’m in love with this lady in black. I can’t stop staring at her, in the early morning light. We arrived here with a red Ferrari Testarossa—and a dark sided, bad eyed, mean sounding 512 BBi.
I took the BBi out at dawn, from a hidden workshop on the outskirts of Turin, Italy. Sharing the space with the ‘Boxer’ was a Lamborghini Countach QV, Porsche 959, and Jaguar E-type—all seductive in their own way. One of the owners here is an ex-Lancia mechanic, and part of Pininfarina’s project for Jim Glickenhaus—in other words, he used his talent to help create the insane Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina.
The others may be distractions, but I can only focus on this black beauty. Both my first and current car wear black paint with a cream interior—this could totally be my Ferrari, and we’d live happily ever after.
Now: supercars have engines. This wedge on wheels has a mid-mounted flat twelve, and it sounds off like no other. It is not a V12, it is not a Boxer—a difference hard to understand if you don’t feel it up your spine. Sound is different, different from any other attribute a supercar like this can share.
On the highway, it howls, hard, in the fast lane—it’s easy to feel like god in sunglasses at every “clack” of the gear gate.
Now that the sun is higher, my eyes are making a closer examination. I’m addicted—the 512 BBi is almost the Brigitte Bardot of motoring.
At the back, she has naked legs, and I can see it all: suspension, exhaust system, engine. I have to reach out and touch these parts and feel connected to those who built them back in the days—but I can’t resist anymore, I must drive it. Seriously. This was the first twelve cylinder mid-engined Ferrari, after the 250 LM—road-going, yes, but a proper race car. The 365 GT/4 BB from 1973 to 1976 was designed to beat both the Miura and Countach.
Ferrari never accepted the Miura’s beauty, they hated it—so they tried to do something better or different.
The one I’m driving here is a BBi, so no more carburetors, and 340 horsepower instead of 380. That said, no more certain death if you’re no Gilles Villeneuve.
It’s fast. The 4,942-cc engine screams in my ears while I’m flooring it on the straight. Braking in a straight line is not a problem, but braking while cornering is very hard—and not advised, anyway.
Its front and rear are always fighting to slide against your wishes, but it also gives the feedback you need to control everything. This is a dangerous dance…but incredibly sensual.
It’s all about sound, connection with the steering, and traction at the same time. The moment you figure out how to best use its chassis to hurl you through corners, and feel in perfect harmony with power—it’s a moment where nothing else matters. There’s only an indicated 9,000 km (5,600 miles) on the odo, and every time I look at it, it’s like I’ve just bought a brand new 512 BBi in the early ‘80s, when owners needed both money and courage to drive a supercar.
Sunset. The BB and the Testarossa are posing for photos. I smoke probably a hundred cigarettes, and try not to accept that I will never see this scene again—the car has been sold, just one of many of our Bardots that has been sent away…probably never to return to Italy.