Originally called the 365 GT/4 BB and powered by a 4.4-liter flat-twelve engine, the Berlinetta Boxer was upgraded and renamed the 512 BB in 1976. Engine displacement grew to 4.9 liters, while output dropped slightly from 339 to 335 horsepower.
The third iteration of the BB, called the 512i, followed in 1981 with a fuel-injected flat-telve. It remained in production until 1984, when it was replaced by the Testarossa.
The Berlinetta Boxer is now famous for being the first mid-engined Ferrari, as well as the company’s first road-going vehicle powered by a flat-12 engine. But there are a couple of things that the uninitiated don’t know about the BB.
The first one is that the BB acronym did not stand for Berlinetta Boxer back in the day. Some Ferrari employees argue that the name was coined by the media and that it was eventually adopted by enthusiasts. BB actually meant Berlinetta Bialbero, with the latter being Italian for “dual camshaft”. The second fact not many people know about the BB is that it spawned a racing version.
Ferrari had no intention to race the BB at first, but a race-spec model was developed in 1974 by Luigi Chinetti for the North American Racing Team (NART) outfit. Chinetti raced track-spec versions of the 365 GT4 BB in the U.S. until 1978 when Ferrari had begun working on a racing variant of the 512 BB.
Maranello’s take on the flat-12 racer debuted as the BB LM (also known as the Competizione) with aggressive bodywork and a rear wing from the 312T Formula One car. Ferrari revised the engine to deliver up to 440 horsepower. A second version was introduced in 1979 with more radical bodywork by Pininfarina and a fuel-injected flat-twelve with 470 horsepower.
Overall, Ferrari built and raced around 29 track-spec BBs through 1982. However, the 512 failed to match the success of its predecessor, the iconic “Daytona,” scoring only a few class wins. The BB LM’s most important success came at the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it won the GTX class and finished fifth overall.
A somewhat obscure race car compared to the 250 GTO and the “Daytona,” the BB LM/Competizione is arguably one of the sexiest track-ready models ever built by Maranello, especially in its final, third-gen iteration. It’s also one of the best-sounding classic race cars out there thanks to its naturally aspirated flat-12 mill.
I’m almost tempted to say that the BB LM sounds better than the Porsche 917, also powered by a flat-twelve and the German sports prototype is among my all-time favorite racers. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s a video of a 512 BB LM lapping Red Bull Ring during a track day event for historic Ferrari cars.