Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer what you need to know about owning a top end classic buyers’ guide. Is the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer the most beautiful supercar ever built? If you want to invest in peerless beauty, here’s your ABC guide to the three versions. Report by Chris Rees. Photography Michael Ward.
Berlinetta Boxer: two simple words. And all they really indicate is a fixed roof and a horizontallyopposed engine. But what an explosive charge of potency and desirability lies behind the BB moniker – it is nothing short of the ultimate supercar of the 1970s and early 1980s.
The Boxer was Ferrari’s belated answer to the Lamborghini Miura. It was the first road-going Ferrari (as opposed to a Dino) to be mid-engined, the first with a ‘flat’ 12-cylinder engine, and the first to have beltdriven overhead cams.
At its show debut in 1971, the BB created a maelstrom of excitement but it didn’t enter production – as the 365 GT4 BB – until 1973. Pininfarina’s deft penwork teed up the mid-engined Ferrari look for decades, and many regard the BB as the perfect sportscar shape. Just one clue to its great design is the fact that it looks equally elegant in any colour.
With its 4.4-litre flat-12 engine, Ferrari claimed a top speed of 188mph – a little fanciful, admittedly (it was merely a ‘theoretical’ maximum). But there’s no doubt that this was one of the world’s fastest cars in its day, with a tested 0-60 time of around 6.5 seconds.
The BB dynasty went through three iterations: the 365 GT4 BB (1973-1976), the 5.0-litre 512 BB (1976-1982) and the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel-injected 512i BB (1981-1984). The 365 GT4 BBs and 512 BBs all had satin black on the bottom half of the body, while later examples of the 512 BBi had a colour-coded lower half. Which is the best of all? The truth is, they’re all great. Ferrari specialist Ed Callow from Foskers says: “The 365 GT4 BB is really the ‘collector’ Boxer. It’s the rarest and is seen as the ‘purest’. The body is sharper and arguably more elegant. The 512 is better to drive, more muscular in comparison, and there are more of them.” But not terribly many: all BBs are rare beasts. Just 387 examples of the 365 GT4 BB were built (of which 58 were RHD and supplied to the UK); the 512 BB had a run of 929 (101 UK RHD); and the most numerous was the 512 BBi at 1007 examples (but just 42 were UK RHD).
ON THE ROAD
Stepping into the BB cabin is to step back into the 1970s, from the dials with their garish orange calibrations to the all-black dashboard. The seating position is also very ’70s: early seats have no headrests and hardly any adjustment; the steering wheel presses against your legs; and the tiny pedals are very offset. The 512 is a slightly more accommodating machine – but not by much.
Fire the engine up and there’s a deeply menacing rumble, moving to a high-pitched scream as you rev it, joined by carburettor roar and a wailing exhaust – all very 1970s Ferrari Formula 1. The 365 benefits from being kept at high revs, where the real fireworks are to be found, whereas the 512 BB’s extra 552cc give it a power and torque advantage that’s especially noticeable in the lower rev range.
Acceleration is intoxicating. In pre-injection BBs, there’s some snorting and stuttering from the four triple-downdraught carbs and the heavy clutch makes it tricky to get cleanly off the line, but once into its groove, the smoothness of the 12-cylinder engines is astounding. The 512i feels more modern but perhaps loses some of the character of carb-fed cars. Cornering isn’t always easy. Flex in the high-profile tyre walls is compounded by surprising amounts of body roll, so judging turn-in speeds is a real art form. The non-assisted steering is impossibly weighty at low speeds but once up to pace the feel is superb: very much like driving a big Dino.
Boot the throttle, or lift off too sharply mid-corner, and the tail will all too easily wag: oversteer is always waiting to bite. That’s partly because so much weight sits over the rear axle and partly because that weight sits high up, a corollary of the gearbox being mounted underneath the engine. If it does start to go, beware: the oversteer is hardly what you’d call of the controllable variety.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
The engine is the scariest single item for any BB buyer. Engine rebuilds are punishingly expensive, so you need to make sure there are no major issues. Ideally, deal with a Ferrari specialist who can show you compression test results. Carburettor tuning is an art in itself, but it doesn’t actually cost a lot to sort out. Not so the exhaust: a replacement for the 365 is around £3500. Check that the gearbox is working sweetly with no synchro issues. You don’t want to be surprised by a gearbox rebuild – it’s not cheap! Clutches are a known bugbear, too. The 365 has a dry sump engine with a single-plate clutch; the 512 has a wet sump and a twinplate clutch with a lighter action. A twin-plate clutch replacement will set you back around £2000 + VAT. Quite a few 365s have had their magnesium-case gearbox assemblies switched to stronger twin-plate 512 items. This upgrade is a ‘factory-recognised’ period fitment, and Ferrari’s own Classiche department will still certify a 365 GT4 BB with a 512 BB gearbox without any problem.
CHASSIS & BODY
The BB consists of steel and aluminium panels over a square tube steel framework, but the black fibreglass lower panels (colour-coded on late cars) were a real departure for Ferrari. Rust is possible in the structure, but unlikely to be impossible to solve. The front and rear ‘clamshells’ open up to access a small luggage space up front, plus the engine/transmission in the tail; these should both be checked carefully for damage. Hand-beaten body panels are, as one might imagine, very expensive to repair or replace.
The double wishbone/coil-over suspension is fairly robust, and complete suspension bush kits are cheap for the front end (around £40), but pricier at the rear (£380). The brakes are servo-assisted vented discs with four-pot Brembo calipers. You can buy brake repair kits from around £120 each, while discs are a not unreasonable £140 each. Add in labour and you’re looking at around £2000 + VAT for a full disc/pad replacement on all four corners.
Early BBs featured cloth seats, but this soon switched to leather or leather-and-cloth seats, which are much more common. Leather needs constant attention to keep it in fine fettle. As with any older Ferrari, check that all the electrics work.
Without doubt, the BB is one of the pricier Ferraris to keep going. The BB needs servicing every 6000 miles or 12 months. Costs obviously vary depending on exactly what needs to be done, but a major (engine-out) service with cambelt replacement is around £2500 + VAT. Cambelts need changing every three years. All Ferrari Boxers have seen significant price rises in recent years. More and more owners have been restoring their cars, and there are many truly fantastic examples out there.
365s are seen as the most collectible, but there’s not a massive price difference between the 365 GT4 BB, the 512 BB and the 512 BBi. You should expect to pay from £275k for a useable 512 up to as much as £425k for the very best 365 GT4 BB (assuming they’re original UK RHD cars).
Ed Callow from Foskers comments: “There’s absolutely no reason why the best 365 Boxers shouldn’t be £500,000 in as little as a year from now. Even though the 512 BB and BBi are not as rare, they are still incredible to look at and to drive, and they will continue to be in strong demand for the foreseeable future. I’d expect to see their prices at £400,000+ a year from now. In the longer term, the collectability of the 365 BB in particular means it could well end up at similar money to where the Daytona is now.”
365 GT4 BB , 1974, 27k miles, white, £440,000
512 BB , 1981, 21k miles, black, £350,000
512 BBi , 1983, 46k miles, silver, £340,000
512 BBi , 1984, 12k miles, red, £300,000
|Car||FERRARI 365 GT4 BB||FERRARI 512 BB||FERRARI 512 BBi|
|Engine||4390cc flat-12||4943cc horizontally-opposed12-cylinder, dohc, four Weber 40IF3C carburettors||4942cc flat-12 / Bosch K-Jetronic fuel-injected|
|Max power (DIN)||344bhp at 7200rpm||360bhp at 6800rpm||340bhp at 6000rpm|
|Max torque (DIN)||302lb ft at 3900rpm||333lb ft at 4600rpm||333lb ft at 4200rpm|
|Transmission||Five-speed manual, RWD|
|Suspension||Front and rear: independent, double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar|
|Steering||Rack and pinion|
|Brakes||Vented discs, with servo|
|Length||4,400 mm (173.2 in)|
|Width||1,830 mm (72.0 in)|
|Height||1,120 mm (44.1 in)|
|Wheelbase||2,500 mm (98.4 in)|
|Power to weight|
|0-62mph||6.5sec||5.4 secs||5.6 secs|