The Ferrari 512 BB followed the 365 GTB/4 Berlinetta Boxer to market in 1976 after the original BB’s short production run. The 512 was largely the same, using the same mid-mounted flat-12 engine as its successor, only with a displacement bumped from 4.4L to 5.0L. It also carried the same wedge-shaped Pininfarina body that took many cues taken from the carrozzeria's striking P6 show car of 1968, only the 512 also gained a front spoiler and NACA ducts just ahead of the rear wheels. Body proportions were slightly larger, and the rear track was widened to aid handling. A dry sump was also a new addition, which helped lower the car’s center of gravity. Other than that, the 512 retained the car’s 5-speed transaxle and most all other components. It continued to be built upon a semimonocoque with fore and aft subframes.
The car's low profile and the longitudinally mounted, horizontally opposed engine suited one another quite well. The Berlinetta Boxer loved to rev and screamed all the way. And it was quick, too, with a claimed top end of 188 mph, though a 40/60 weight distribution could make handling tricky at high speeds.
Despite slightly less power, the 512 had a longer stroke and produced more torque, which allowed for better drivability and acceleration. Coupled with the added girth, the road manners of the 512 were a marked improvement.
The final iteration of the Berlinetta Boxer family arrived at the 1981 Frankfurt Auto Show with the 512 BBi, as in "i" for "injection." The Bosch fuel-injected 512 was the culmination of all Ferrari had learned from its boxer cars, and the cars were optimized for emissions—as optimized as early '80s Ferraris could be. When BB production ended in 1984, with it went the last links to the old-school Italian way of building Ferraris—entirely by hand.
For all their ferocity on the street, Ferrari Boxers never enjoyed much success on the race tracks of the world. Privateers had little luck with the 365, while factory-prepared 512 BB/LMs—elongated caricatures of the street cars—raced at Daytona, Le Mans, and elsewhere, to forgettable results.
In all, 1,926 Boxers (both BBs and BBis) were built over an eight-year run, none of which were officially imported to the U.S. Thanks to the miracles of creative modifications, they are here now. And they serve as reminders of a thrilling period in Ferrari history when Enzo loosened the reins just enough to produce something even more radical than a front-engined V12.