A Celebration Of The Front-Engine Ferrari V12

With the arrival of the naturally aspirated, front-engine V12 Ferrari 12Cilindri, this seems a fitting time to celebrate some of its illustrious predecessors…

A Celebration Of The Front-Engine Ferrari V12

The Ferrari V12 has always had near mythical status. Considered to be one of the finest engines ever produced, it has powered some of the greatest cars ever to emerge from Maranello, which in turn are considered as some of the greatest cars ever made.

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But while this fabled powerplant is well-known as the beating heart of Ferrari’s classic GT cars, the history of the Ferrari V12 engine goes back a little further. Indeed, the marque’s very first car, the 1947 Ferrari 125 S, boasted a Colombo V12 with a front-engined layout, but its capacity was limited to 1.5 litres and it put out just 118 cv. Engine capacity and power grew over the following 15 years as the V12 unit was tirelessly developed – becoming an essential ingredient as Ferrari became ever more successful in sports car racing – but it was with the 1962 debut of the legendary Ferrari 250 GTO that the V12 gained its true status as the flagship engine for Ferrari’s top-end performance models.

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The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was essentially a race car for the road, its 3.0 litre V12 producing 300 cv – an amazing figure for the time

As well as being one of the marque’s greatest ever road cars, the GTO was also a bona fide racecar with a number plate. It was the true encapsulation of Ferrari’s primary philosophy – performance and design excellence. The GTO’s front-mounted Colombo 3.0 litre V12 produced 300 cv, taking the car to a top speed of 280km/h and an electrifyingly successful run in the FIA’s International Championship for GT Manufacturers. Only 36 models were made between 1962 and 1964, and all are still in existence today.


The 1968 365 GTB4, also known as the Daytona, was as successful in racing as it was beautiful, winning its class in the Le Mans 24 hour race three years in a row

While the GTO is perhaps the most famous, the epitome of the classic front-engined V12 Ferrari is without doubt the 365 GTB4 – better known as the Daytona. Its impossibly long bonnet housed the latest Colombo V12, which had grown to 4.4 litres and delivered a muscular 352 cv and a top speed of 280 km/h. Astonishing figures for a car that made its debut in 1968. As well as being the conveyance of choice for the burgeoning late ‘60s jet-set, the Daytona went on to become a highly successful racing campaigner, with competition versions of the car winning their classes in the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

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1996 saw the launch of the 550 Maranello, the first flagship Ferrari to feature a front-engine layout in over twenty years

After over twenty years of flat-12 mid-engined supercars being the pinnacle of Ferrari’s production range, the 1996 550 Maranello re-introduced the front-mounted V12 as the marque’s high-performance layout of choice. This new flagship Ferrari, its 5.5 litre V12 putting out 485 cv, came with a traditional rear-mounted six-speed gearbox combined with a limited slip differential. Although thoroughly modern in its construction and technology, the 550 marked a return to the ‘classic’ Ferrari front-engined GT format. No wonder some deemed it a “Daytona reborn” at the time of its launch.


The Ferrari 599 GTO was a homologated version of the track-only 599XX. With a 6.0 litre V12 and a race-derived chassis set-up, this very special GTO offered an unrivalled driving experience

An altogether more furious V12-powered GT came in 2010 with the launch of the 599 GTO, a homologated version of the ferociously rapid track-only 599XX. The third Ferrari to wear the iconic GTO badge, this very special 599 adopted the XX car’s state-of-the-art chassis set-up, electronic driving controls and aerodynamic honing, resulting in a car that was incredibly responsive while remaining stable and controllable on the road and, of course, on the track. Its 6.0 litre engine produced 620 cv, while the driving experience was a beautifully balanced, wonderfully exhilarating affair.

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With a top speed of 340km/h and a zero to 100km/h time of just 2.9 seconds, the 812 Superfast was the quickest Ferrari ever made at its launch in 2017

Fast forward to 2017 and the Ferrari 812 Superfast offered a step change in pure driving thrills. The successor to the F12berlinetta of 2012, the 812 took its predecessor’s performance figures and track-derived engineering to the next level, resulting in an unrivalled driving experience for anyone lucky enough find themselves behind its wheel. With 800 cv on tap from its 6.5 litre V12, the 812 Superfast could reach 100km/h from zero in just 2.9 seconds, and go on to a bewildering top speed of 340km/h. Could it possibly get any better?


The latest 12Cilindri continues the long line of Ferrari’s front-engine V12 models

Well, yes. The launch of the 12Cilindri marks the latest chapter in Ferrari’s glorious V12 epoch. A technological masterpiece offering stratospheric levels of performance, the 12Cilindri continues the storied lineage of Ferrari’s front-mounted V12 models – surely the greatest cars ever made.

Report by Luke Ponsford for ferrari.com

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