Remember when Clarkson told us all that the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta was too powerful
? Yeah, we thought you might.
While it might be the first car to cause the lanky, curly-haired one to espouse such an irrational viewpoint, the F12 is just the latest in a long line of 12-pot powered Ferraris
. In fact, the very earliest examples of Enzo’s finest work were powered by such a configuration, and through the intervening years, V12s have been under the bonnet of some of the most iconic
cars ever to wear the prancing horse badge. And that sounds like a damn good reason for a flick through the history books, to find the greatest of the greats:
1. Ferrari 166
The 166 wasn’t just Ferrari’s first V12-powered road car; it was in fact the first road-going Ferrari
, full stop. While most 166s were racers, like the preceding 125 and 159, the 166 Inter was a coach-built road-going derivative that was powered by an early version of the Colombo V12, an engine which has given life to a whole succession of legendary Ferrari models ever since. Here in 2.0-litre street form
, it kicked out 115bhp, or if outfitted with the race-spec triple Weber setup, 140bhp.
2. Ferrari 250 GTO
For many, the 250 GTO is still the most desirable car Ferrari ever made. Indeed, it’s a 250 GTO that currently holds the world record for the most expensive car ever sold – a 1962 example built specially for Stirling Moss that went for a cool £23 million
back in 2012, to be precise. Why? As Ferrari puts it: “this was the car that summed up Ferrari philosophy best: the highest levels of performance and styling.” The latter was dealt with by a Bizzarrini-developed shell
that was honed in the wind tunnel for ultimate aerodynamic performance; the former by a 3.0-litre evolution of the Colombo V12 developing around 300bhp, and which, as this video will ably demonstrate, sounded pretty damn good too.
3. Ferrari 365 GTB4 ‘Daytona’
The unmistakeable shape of the 365 GTB4 – the ‘Daytona’ nickname is unofficial – clothed the latest evolution of the Colombo V12
, this time a 352bhp 4.4-litre with six – that’s right, six – twin-choke Weber carbs. 0-60 took just 5.4 seconds, which was blisteringly fast in 1968, when the GTB4 made its debut, and from the the menacing, barely-concealed pop-ups to the delectably sculpted tail it was drop-dead gorgeous. No wonder it became a legend in its own time – enough to guarantee it (or, more accurately, its GTS4 drop-top sibling) a place in one of the coolest bits of 1980s television
you’ll ever see.
4. Ferrari Testarossa
In the ’80s, excess was king – and the Testarossa pandered to that in every which way. Excessively wide, excessively low, excessively styled
– and excessively fast, too. 385bhp came from a 4.9-litre powerplant, still based around the Colombo engine but this time with its cylinders laid horizonally to form a flat 12 (or, to be completely precise, a 180-degree V12). The outlandish styling – a riposte to Lamborghini’s mad, bad Countach
– has earned it as many enemies as friends over the years, but no ’80s schoolboy’s bedroom wall was complete without a Testarossa poster, and for that reason, it’s a legend in our eyes. And of course, when Crockett and Tubbs came to replace their Daytona, it was just the thing.
5. Ferrari 456 GT Venice
Now, the standard Ferrari 456 GT was a lovely thing, and we could have included it here and been perfectly content. But to do that would deprive you of the unutterably wonderful 456 GT Venice
, arguably the most stunning-looking estate car ever to grace God’s green earth. Seven were built, six of which were purchased by the Sultan of Brunei’s brother, so much did he like them, and we can see why. Under the skin, it was all standard 456 GT – no bad thing, as that meant 436bhp and a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds.
6. Ferrari 575M Maranello
When the 550 Maranello was introduced in 1996, people weren’t complimentary about its styling, some going as far as to compare it with the Toyota Supra. We’re not entirely sure what they were complaining about, as today its shape looks rather fine to our eyes. The 575M was the ultimate evolution
of the 550 line, the ‘M’ standing for ‘Modificato’ which, somewhat unsurprisingly, translates to ‘modified’. Engine size was enlarged to 5.75 litres - hence the name - with 515bhp on tap and thoroughly revised suspension and brakes. We always love a car that’s been honed to become the best it can be, and when that car happens to wear a prancing horse, it can only be a good thing
. Here's Clarkson pitting one against an Aston Vanquish S.
7. Ferrari Enzo
...Or ‘the Enzo Ferrari’, as Ferrari itself would have you say it. There’s more of this naming tomfoolery to come later, but for now put up with the marketing bollocks
and enjoy one of Ferrari’s most successful hypercar efforts. Named, as you’ll have guessed, after Ferrari’s illustrious founder, the Enzo was, Ferrari said, about as close as it was possible to get to driving a Ferrari F1 car on the road. With a 6.0-litre V12 running the show and 60mph coming up in around 3.4 seconds, we’ve no reason to disbelieve that that was the case at the time. The F40 was arguably prettier
, but there’s no doubting the Enzo’s drama – or its insane turn of speed.
8. Ferrari FXX
This really was Ferrari at its most idiosyncratic. With the FXX, the company offered people of unspeakable wealth
the chance to own an experimental prototype. But they wouldn’t be able to keep it at home; no, every FXX was, and still is kept at Ferrari’s HQ. Want to use your FXX? You’ll have to wait till Ferrari say you can, at a specially-organised track day with other FXX owners, where Ferrari technicians will record your lap data and use it to help improve the FXX as well as future roadgoing Ferrari models. Power is a mindblowing 790bhp
, 60mph comes up in 2.5 seconds, and top-in-top is 243mph. Oh, and it sounds utterly, utterly bonkers.
9. Ferrari F12berlinetta
How could a car so powerful as to give Clarkson the jitters not feature in our top 10? Reflecting Ferrari’s recent penchant for affected names
, the F12berlinetta (we’ll call it the F12 for short) is home to Ferrari’s latest V12, a 6.3-litre effort now kicking out a startling 730bhp. 62mph, therefore, comes up in just 3.1 seconds – remember, that’s 0.3 seconds faster than the Enzo, which was considered a hypercar a mere 11 years ago. And the spec list read’s like something from a science fiction novel
: F1-Trac; E-Diff 3; SCM-E with dual coil; active aerodynamics. The result is a car which stupefies the senses. And ‘too powerful’ or not, we wouldn’t turn one down.
10. Ferrari LaFerrari
But the F12 isn’t the future of Ferrari V12s. This, however, is. Continuing Ferrari’s trend for silly names, the TheFerrari is Maranello’s next big hypercar
. And, frankly, it’s going to be Ferrari’s most advanced creation yet. HY-KERS, a new hybrid system, gives a 163bhp boost to an 800bhp version of the F12’s V12, bringing total power up to 963bhp. Four different kinds of carbon fibre will go into its construction, too. And just look at the thing. Pretty special, no? Ferrari tells us that the future of its V12 engines is assured
with projects like this paving the way. We hope they speak the truth – as a world without a Ferrari V12 in it would surely be a very sad thing indeed.