Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: Why is Ferrari’s Berlinetta Boxer not really a boxer?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you’re right.
Enzo Ferrari founded his eponymous auto company in 1947, however his racing concern, Scuderia Ferrari traces its lineage all the way back to 1929. Racing was Ferrari’s raison d’etre and the main reason for building road cars was to make money to support the highly expensive sport. In all that time, the twelve-cylinder engine featured prominently in both Ferrari’s racing efforts and its road cars. In fact, it wasn’t until 1975 that the company allowed the venerated Prancing Horse badge and Ferrari name to be featured on a road car with fewer cylinder, that being the 308 GTB4.
Around the same time that the company was dipping its toes into small cylinder counts, it was also looking at variations on the twelve-cylinder engine. It was during the mid-Sixties that racing took a major leap to mid-engine placement in many series, and road cars soon followed. Ferrari sought to improve the handling of both their race and road cars thus equipped by attempting to lower the center of gravity of their engine by way of flattening it out.
Now, there have been many “Boxer” style engines throughout history. They offer a low center of gravity and simplistic balance control. While laid out in a horizontally-opposed format, the Ferrari “Boxer” wasn’t really a boxer by the literal description. It was in fact a 180° V12.
Designed by Fioravanti under the umbrella of Pininfarina, the BB was a huge step not only technologically, but also stylistically, as it bore virtually no resemblance in either category to its predecessor, the legendary and gorgeous, front-mounted V12 Daytona. “BB” designated “Berlinetta Boxer”, though technically the new 12-cylinder was no more a boxer than it was a Dalmatian—the term “boxer” refers to a flat engine with opposed pistons that run on separate crank pins, a layout which results in said pistons meeting in the middle at bottom dead center, or “boxing” each other once every engine revolution—think VW, Porsche, and Subaru, their distinct offbeat exhaust notes born of this unique configuration. Ferrari’s flat 12, on the other hand, used common crank pins for opposing cylinders resulting in what is more correctly termed a 180 degree V12… all of which is more than a little bit pedantic, so go ahead and call it a “boxer”, I still do.
The flat twelve would make its debut in a road-going Ferrari in the 1971 365 GT4 BB (Berlinetta Boxer) and would see its final iteration leave the factory as an F512M in 1996. Today all Ferrari V12s feature a less severe 65° angle, and those appear in both front-engine and mid-engine cars.