In 1976, Ferrari enlarged their flat-12 engine to 4942cc and created the 512 Berlinetta Boxer (BB). This is the car that replaced the 365 GTB / 4 (known as the Daytona) as Ferrari’s flagship car.
It marked a big change for Ferrari because the company moved a horizontally opposed engine layout for its new flagship car, thus the Berlinetta Boxer name. The move to a flat-12 was largely designed to align the production cars with what the Scuderia Formula 1 team was doing (they had flat-12s since 1970). In practical terms the road and race car engines were of entirely different designs, but the company could say they were both flat-12s.
It wasn’t just the engine design that was different either. For the first time Ferrari put the engine behind the driver. Ferrari’s V12 berlinetta cars always had the engine in the front, but with cars like the Lamborghini Miura and Countach capturing buyers attention, it was clear that Ferrari’s top model had to go the mid-engined route.
The move to a ﬂat-12 was partly dictated by packaging considerations. Mindful that a longitudinal engine with the gearbox behind would add inches to the wheelbase and/or steal cabin space, Ferrari had decided that the BB should have its transmission placed below the engine. This would allow a shorter wheelbase and a roomier cabin. It also pretty much dictated a ’ﬂat’ engine to keep the centre of gravity reasonably low, though it still put substantial mass in a sub-optimal position as far as handling was concerned.
The car was launched as the 365 GT4/ BB in 1973. Most of the magazines and press at the time loved the clean Pininfarina design and were shocked by the strong performance. Road & Track hit 175 mph in the car and were quoted as saying it was the fastest car they had ever tested at that point. Acceleration was strong, with the sprint to 60 mph over in 5.4 seconds. Handling and overall dynamics were class leading at the time. Initial excitement waned a little as stories of the 365 GT4/ BB having a wild and unpredictable side, especially at the limit. If you backed off the throttle mid-turn, the mass of the engine wanted to keep going, causing the tail to snap round and the car to spin (aka old 911-style).
The rest of the car was improved and in detail the 512 had many new changes. The new engine was capable of 360 bhp with a compression ratio of 9.2:1. To deal with the new power, a dual-plate clutch was installed. A dry sump lubrication system was also included to help the car scavenge oil.
Compared to the 365 GT4 BB, the body was wider at the rear for larger tires a revised suspension. Other new features included a NACA side air vents for the rear brakes, a lower front nose with new spoiler and four rear tail lights versus 6 on the 365. Over a five year production run nearly 1,000 512 BBs were produced until the model was upgraded to include Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and became known as the 512i BB.
Ferrari 512 BB Buyers Guide
The 512 BB is a great Ferrari to own. A well cared for car responds pretty much as you’d expect from a mid-engined car of the period and that’s a good thing. Plenty of power, great sound and decent dynamics as long as you aren’t stupid. If you lift off the throttle quickly mid-corner you will unsettle the car and end up in a ditch. Don’t do that. Be thoughtful with the throttle and drive it like an old Porsche 911 and you will be fine. The reputation of the Boxer Berlinetta should not scare you away from buying one.
The 512 BB in many ways is the sweet spot in the Boxer Berlinetta range because it has a bigger-capacity engine and more power than the 365 GT4 BB. Power was up to 360 bhp and torque was up to 330 lb/ft. 0-60mph time was under 6 sec and the top speed a little over 180 mph.
The 512 BB also had a few nice creature comforts that didn’t exist on the 365. Things like air conditioning among them wider rear wheels, which required slightly wider rear bodywork. The more obvious differences included four rather than six rear light lenses. They also made more 512 BBs than the 365 GT4 BB so it is easier to find a nicer one.
As always we recommend finding a fully stamped, service history with ofﬁcial Ferrari dealers and recognized specialists is clearly the ﬁrst box to be ticked. Specialists recommend an oil change, brake ﬂuid change and general checkover every year, with the transmission changed every second or third year, and the cambelts every three years. The good news for buyers of the 512 BB is that it is a really strong engine and not a lot can go horribly wrong (provided it’s been serviced correctly of course). All buyers should make sure they get a compression test to make sure things are sound.
Because its a flat-12, you can get wear on the lower side of the bores. Also bear in mind that when you switch off, the oil drains down to the bottom of the bores, so next time you start it up you will get a good puff of smoke as it pumps out that neat oil at the bottom of the bores.Don’t worry if you see smoke on start-up for the first 30 seconds – it’s totally normal. Obviously if it’s still smoking when its warm, then you’ve got problems. On a test drive, it should clearly be running on all cylinders, with no gaps in the performance.
The main issue with the Boxer is the differential, it’s probably the BBs biggest weak spot. The real problem is parts availability – they’re really hard to find now. So give the car a thorough test, up and down the gears, and listen for any untoward noises from the drivetrain.
The Boxer, as with all Ferrari’s of the era, is built around a strong framework of square and rectangular—section steel tubing. It should be crisp-edged and straight. The hinged nose and tail sections were aluminum, as were the doors, with the lower. bodywork at the nose and tail being glass-fiber. They are not particularly prone to corrosion but it is a car from the late 1970s and early ’80s so don’t expect miracles.
1980 Ferrari 512 BB 34249 – sold for $359,700 Offered from the William M. Keck Estate. Just one caring Southern Californian owner from new. Meticulously and periodically serviced by Los Angeles Area specialist shops. Exceptionally well-preserved condition inside and out. Offered with owners manuals and pouch. Low-mileage example. Auction Source: The Amelia Island Auction 2015 by Bonhams
1980 Ferrari 512 Berlinetta Boxer 32437 – sold for €96,320. This European-specification carburetted 512 BB was supplied in June 1980 to Ferrari dealer Crepaldi in Milan, Italy. Offered today in very presentable condition, this highly desirable carburetted 512 BB has 20,560 km showing on the odometer and is presently finished in Rosso Corsa with tan leather seats and black inserts. It is well-maintained and according to the owner, drives terrifically and is ready for any long distance tour. A European-specification Berlinetta Boxer is considered by many to be the finest variant of the Boxer range and as presented in classic Ferrari colours, a wonderful collector car investment. Auction Source: Monaco 2012 by RM Auctions
1981 Ferrari 512 Berlinetta Boxer – did not sell for $115,000. Introduced in 1976, the Ferrari 512 BB built on the success of its predecessor, the 1973 365 Berlinetta Boxer, with numerous refinements that included a wider rear track, a wider, longer body, a lower front air dam, NACA ducting for the rear brakes and a slightly lengthened tail section. The 512’s Boxer engine, so named because of its horizontally opposed layout, displaced a full 5 liters and produced 340 horsepower at 6,200 RPM using four Weber three-barrel downdraft carburetors, whose crisp power delivery is often preferred by hardcore collectors over the later Bosch fuel-injected version. The 512 engine also marked a return to Ferrari’s traditional practice of combining displacement with the number of cylinders to arrive at the model designation.
Finished in Black with a Cream leather interior, the 1981 512BB offered here is one of just 929 built with Weber downdraft carburetors. It has been driven only 17,900 miles since new and has been meticulously maintained, receiving a full engine-out service in 2009, and remains a fantastic road car that offers the sheer pleasure of driving the best-performing road Ferrari and the ultimate sport GT machine of its time. Auction Source: 2011 Monterey Daytime Auction by Mecum
1978 Ferrari 512BB Berlinetta Boxer – sold for €72,450. This 512 Berlinetta Boxer has covered just over 40,000 miles from new and is to right hand drive specification. In the present ownership for roughly 20 years it has been maintained throughout by a team of specialists charged with keeping the car in usable order. In recent years that has included some tidying of the Rosso Corsa paintwork, and some 6-7 years ago the car received a new clutch. Its interior of cream leather with black ‘Daytona’ inserts remains very presentable. Auction Source: 2011 Automobiles d’exception au Grand Palais by Bonhams
1980 Ferrari 512 BB 33799 – sold for $94,770. Mike Amalfitano was one of those and, while this 1980 512 BB was a nice and satisfying car when he acquired it he expected more. Equipped with air conditioning – as many of this luxury berlinetta were – Mike sent it to specialists for a thorough reconditioning both mechanically and cosmetically. Presented in Ferrari red with tan leather upholstery (and without the black lower body panels which early-80s style favored), some subtle but important refinements have been made, particularly to the engine compartment, for quieter and cooler operation.
Today it is essentially unblemished and both little used and maintained, ready for instant use and enjoyment as were all of the Amalfitano cars. Original manuals accompany the car, contained within the nearly pristine original owner’s folder.
The odometer displays under 20,000 km, an indication of the sparing use which this watershed Ferrari has seen in the last thirty years.
The Berlinetta Boxer series was especially significant for Ferrari, not only transitioning to mid-engined road cars but also responding to the evolving requirements of tailpipe emissions. Compact, powerful, luxurious, beautiful and balanced, it is the rootstock of a glorious branch of Ferrari twelves on both roads and race circuits. Auction Source: Bonhams 2010 Exceptional Motorcars and Automobilia
1979 Ferrari 512 BB 28709 – sold for €126,500. The very good condition of the metallic Dino blue paint and tobacco and black leather interior of the 512 BB we have the pleasure of offering here clearly shows the careful 46,000 kilometres the car has covered from new. Sold in 1979 to a buyer in Milan, the Berlinetta Boxer was purchased by the current and second owner in 1983 at which time it had travelled 12,000 kilometres.
In the 24 years the previous owner had possessed the car it had been lightly used, all the while benefiting from consistent maintenance to conserve its very original condition. In fact, it has only covered 3,000 kilometres in the last 15 years. This lovely 512 BB is complete with its original tools, manuals and documents as well as its original fitted luggage; it is ASI registered and possesses a Ferrari Classiche certification, attesting to its originality and correctness. Cosmetically freshened in 2007, this well-maintained Ferrari is a wonderful example of the highly desirable carburetted Boxer. Auction Source: 2008 Leggenda e Passione