The day that Enzo Ferrari stops building cars will be a sad one indeed, not only for prospective customers, but for everyone interested in high performance cars. His latest offering, which has appeared as a “one-off” on the Pininfarina stand at various motor shows, is now going into production. This is the Ferrari BB or Berlinetta Boxer and can be traced directly back to the Ferrari Grand Prix and Sports Car racing programme, for it is a mid-engined coupé-with a flat-12 cylinder engine. Whereas the racing engines have been limited to 3-litres capacity by International rules the BB has an engine of 4.4-litres capacity. The two banks of six-cylinders are horizontally opposed, each bank having two overhead camshafts and the bore and stroke are 81 x 71 mm., giving 4,390 c.c. At 7,500 r.p.m. the quoted horsepower is 380, breathing through four triple-choke Weber 40 IF3C carburetters. The drive is through an all-synchromesh 5-speed and reverse gearbox in unit with the differential, and suspension is independent all round. It has everything that a high performance car born of racing would inherit, like cast alloy wheels, ventilated disc brakes, 120-litre fuel tank, rack and pinion steering, self-locking differential and so on. A speed of 302 k.p.h. (187 m.p.h.) is quoted and this road equipped racing car heads the list of Ferrari production models at an astronomical price figure that is rather academic to all but a handful of people.
It is quite obvious that the real reason behind putting the BB into production is so that the Scuderia Ferrari will be ready for the next change in sports car regulations for long distance racing. It is almost certain that the CSI will soon be announcing steps to try and deflect the trend of sports car racing from detuned Grand Prix cars, which is the situation at present, to something more akin to a road car or a production car of the GT variety. In the 4.4-litre Ferrari BB the Maranello team have a ready-made car that will take a lot of beating, and if the rules are not changed to give GT cars complete control of long-distance racing, then it can still run in the existing GT category once sufficient have been made and it has been homologated, and no 3-litre prototype sports car is likely to keep up with it.
The Ferrari production car list at the present time makes pretty impressive reading, starting with the Dino in 246 GTS Spider form, followed by the Dino 246 GT coupé. Then comes the 365 GTB4 Berlinetta, the front-engined coupe Daytona, the more luxurious 365 GTC4 and the coupé 365 GT4/2 + 2, and the pinnacle of them all, the new BB mid-engined coupe. To buy a full set of Ferraris for 1973 would cost in the region of £60,000!
One of the things that happened in racing during 1972 was the entry of de Tomaso Pantera coupés in the GT category of long-distance racing. They were continually beset by homologation problems, especially after the first four races where they stole the GT thunder from Porsche, and even looked like winning outright when the Ferrari prototype team got in a muddle. With Ford backing, the de Tomaso factory has gone from strength to strength, the road-going version of the Pantera, with its mid-mounted Ford V8 engine being made in ever increasing numbers. The man behind it all is Alessandro de Tomaso, and some while ago he bought up the Benelli motorcycle firm, which is based at Pesaro, not too far from the de Tomaso home town which is Modena. In a local motorcycle race meeting a works Benelli actually beat the all-conquering MV-Agusta and de Tomaso’s enthusiasm almost ran riot. The Benelli motorcycle factory has always had the ability and facilities to produce interesting racing motorcycle engines, and way back in 1938/39 they built a supercharged 4-cylinder 250 c.c. racing bike, long before the Japanese had learnt what a motorcycle was. Benelli’s latest effort is a remarkable six cylinder engine of 750 c.c. capacity, mounted transversely in a road-going motorcycle, in order to join in the Super-bike market. Like Ferrari and his BB coupé, the price of the six-cylinder Benelli is pretty academic, but also like Ferrari there is the thought that this is a project with an ulterior motive, for in the motorcycle racing world there is a 750 c.c. Formula that is gaining impetus in spite of officialdom trying to hold it back. The very fine looking all-alloy air-cooled six-cylinder Benelli engine is quoted as giving 76 b.h.p. at 9,000 r.p.m., which is a lot of horsepower to have in a road-going motorcycle. Apart from de Tomato being closely tied with the Benelli development and its racing involvement it is also interesting that some engineers left the Maserati firm when the Citroën engineers moved in, and they joined de Tomaso, and are now deeply involved with Benelli.
Although Citroën own the Maserati firm and control their activities with the production of the V6 engine for the Citroën SM, the Maserati still exists as a separate and independent make. Like Aston Martin they struggled to hold on to past glories, with large ungainly front-engined GT cars, the Indy and the Ghibli being the last of the Dinosaurs. Eventually Maserati succumbed to the race-bred way of thinking and produced the Maserati “Bora”, a mid-engined coupé using the 4.7-litre V8 engine from the front-engined cars. Somehow one got the feeling that the Maserati management were not really convinced about the “Bora”, and though it went into production there was a lack of seriousness about it. It seemed to be the last dying gasp of an era that was gone, rather than a brave step into the future. Maserati have now come out with an entirely new mid-engined coupé, called the “Merak”, and this makes a lot of sense. In effect it is the Citroën SM turned through 180-degrees. While the SM uses the 4-camshaft V6 Maserati engine and 5-speed Citroën gearbox to drive the front wheels, with the whole power-pack just in front of the cockpit, the “Merak” uses the same mechanical components mounted just behind the cockpit. Because Italy does not have the arbitary 2.8-litre limit involved with taxation, the engine in the “Merak” has been brought up to 2,965 c.c., or a nice round 3-litres. It does not use the advanced hydropneumatic suspension, power braking and power-steering of the SM, being content with orthodox wishbone and coil-spring all-round independent wheel suspension, but it does use the instrumentation and interior scuttle layout of the SM. Clearly much of the knowledge gained with the mid-engined V8 “Bora” has been passed on to the mid-engined V6 “Merak”, especially as regards the front luggage compartment and the interior layout to achieve a compromise between the ideal and the practical, but the impression is that the V8 “Bora” was the end of the pure Maserati line and the “Merak” is the beginning of a new Citroën influenced Maserati line, and of the two the “new” looks the most encouraging.
Grand Prix International
Yet another association has been formed, this time by the Grand Prix race organisers and circuit managements, and it is called “Grand Prix International”. In spite of flowey words and political phraseology this is yet another Trade Union, formed so that its Shop Steward can attend meetings of the CSI and combat the activities of the other powerful Unions, such as the Formula One Constructors Union and the Grand Prix Drivers Union. Of course, it could happen that all these specialist groups could work together for the overall benefit of the sport, but it is unlikely, and the words boycott, strike, industrial action and bloody-mindedness will no doubt figure high on the Agenda. It is only fair that the Grand Prix organisers should have their own man on the spot, for in the past decisions have been made by Constructors and Drivers groups and the race organisers or the circuit management have been presented with a fait accompli, which they did not always agree with. Eventually, there will be so many committees, associations and unions, that meetings will occupy everyone full time and there will not be any time for actual racing, and that could solve a lot of the problems of today — D. S. J.