Ferrari’s V12 F1 cars are remembered fondly, but in fact the Scuderia fared better with simpler concepts
My late, great photographer mate, Geoff Goddard, was renowned for being (when he felt like it) a curmudgeonly old git. I think that for once I was among a majority in thinking that the 1967-68 Formula 1 Ferraris, with their white-painted in-vee exhausts on top of the engine, looked just wonderful. Possibly out of sheer contrarianism, Geoff begged to differ – loudly.
“Looks like a bunch of old pipes on a plumber’s cart,” he’d moan, or “’Ullo – Steptoe & Son are here…”, plainly regarding Ferrari’s corner of the paddock as the place to find the rag-and-bone men collecting scrap. Well, if you’ve ever wondered how the Ferrari 312 might have looked without its in-vee exhausts, I’ve just happened upon this Franco Lini photograph of exactly that (above). The exhaust manifolds have been unbolted and removed, and apart from the fact it wouldn’t have run worth a damn it does look pretty slinky and surprisingly low built.
The 3-litre V12-powered Formula 1 Ferrari line saw frontline service between 1966 and ’69. There seems to be an entire generation of Ferrari fans today who regard the 12-cylinder as typifying Ferrari’s finest for decades until the modern V10s (and now V8s) came along. This might well be justified if one contemplates merely the sports and GT car line, but it certainly was never the case in Formula 1. While Ferrari entered the category from 1948 with V12 engines, initially supercharged, later unblown, its first two World Championship titles were achieved with Lampredi’s unblown 2-litre four-cylinder power unit in 1952-53, and it was the Lancia-derived V8 which carried Fangio to his Ferrari world title in 1956. Mike Hawthorn, 1958 World Champion, was propelled to those dizzy heights by the Jano-inspired 65-degree Dino V6, and Phil Hill in 1961 used mainly the Chiti-developed 120-degree V6. John Surtees in his successful 1964 championship season used the 1½-litre V8 which might be regarded as Vittorio Jano’s last hurrah. So until 1966 we hardly saw a successful Ferrari V12 at Formula 1 level. And after 1966, when John Surtees found his sports car-based four-cam V12 the subject of “…some very optimistic horsepower claims”, fortunes barely improved.
If Ferrari’s always quirky, inward-looking and often simply perverse management had not estranged John so seriously that he walked out mid-season in ’66, he should still probably have won them another world title that year. But team manager Eugenio Dragoni and others combined to torpedo that strong chance.
By the end of that season Ferrari’s F1 V12 still featured outside exhausts and centreline in-vee induction, though cylinder head development had introduced three-valves per cylinder instead of two, 36-valve engines replacing 24-valve. Four-valve per cylinder heads (48-valve V12s), outside induction and in-vee exhausts emerged for 1967, and were retained through ’68. By 1969 Ferrari was in deep financial pukky, virtually on its knees, and a much reduced programme saw Chris Amon struggling towards the end of his Ferrari career. The need to free airflow to a chassis-mounted rear wing contributed to the engine ports being reversed yet again, reverting to in-vee induction and outside exhaust manifolding. Power was claimed to be good – 435bhp – but Ferrari being Ferrari and Amon’s legendary bad luck conspired to ruin the year, again. Chris opted out after the replacement 312B flat-12 burst repeatedly in testing, and Vittorio Brambilla was given a drive in that year’s Italian Grand Prix. His best practice time was some six seconds slower than Pedro Rodríguez in the same car. A searing image of crushed pride is my memory of seeing Vitt, all alone, disconsolately stripping off his overalls in the back of the Ferrari pit, no longer the works’ Formula 2 Champion but a skinny, vulnerable little figure, grey-faced in his sagging fireproof long johns, with the thousand-mile stare of a man looking reality in the face…