Several years ago, I owned a pair of Ferrari Berlinetta Boxers. These were the 2ndand 4thof the sixteen Ferraris we have owned to date. If the F355 GTS was the car that introduced me to the world of Ferrari, it was the Berlinetta Boxers that cemented a long relationship with the cars from Maranello. It’s hard to beat a carbureted V12 sitting behind your head for sensory stimulation. While not the easiest cars to master, they reward tremendously when you take the time to learn how to drive one properly. They are a true Grand Tourer and can devour huge highway mileage effortlessly. The race track however is not a friend and driving one on in that environment is only for the brave. The following are two of my more memorable stories from my Boxer days.
I picked up my 365 GT4 BB from the workshop where it had been for the better part of the last two months having a few age-related issues attended to. At 30 years old, all the rubber bits and a lot of the wiring were in need of attention. The workshop did a great job and came in at the agreed budget.
What happened next was not at all fun. Upon leaving for the roughly 40-mile drive back, I hit a major traffic jam. Later I found out that a truck had crashed and caught fire, shutting down the major highway back towards London. It was now Friday late afternoon, rush hour starting, dusk descending rapidly, and I am sitting in a 30-year-old Ferrari barely moving. Over the next two hours of crawling along detours in bumper to bumper traffic I came the following conclusions:
– the 365BB is not designed for inching forward. Try this for over an hour and your left leg will just about fall off. The large single plate clutch is a beast to manage at low speed
– the side mirrors on a 512BB are just about useless, but useless is still much better than no side mirrors at all
– having to do a 3 point turn, in the dark, with not exactly outstanding rear three quarters visibility, is both an outstanding upper body workout, and involves a lot of praying that you are not about to back over something short or hidden
– 30 year old headlights, even if in perfect working order, are pretty pathetic
– the normal 12-14 miles to a gallon drops to 12-14 gallons to the mile when you are not moving
despite all this the car behaved impeccably. Oil temp & pressure, and water temp all stayed right at normal throughout the whole ordeal. The driver’s blood pressure was another story.
The 365BB is clearly a car for sunny days and open roads. However, the 365BB can handle trying of situations if it has to.
It started on a beautiful fall day, bright blue sky, crisp air, and as it was early, not a lot of people on the road. Perfect driving conditions. It had been about a month since I had driven the 512BB. It was an angry beast when I first starting pumping fuel through the Webers and demanded that it wake up. After a bit of a fight the engine finally came to life and settled into a low annoyed rumble. There we sat for about five minutes until the water temp gauge started the long slow journey to 90 degrees C. As soon as we started moving, oil pressure read a perfect 6.
It is interesting how soon you forget things. The 512BB’s steering is very heavy at low speeds and turning around in the driveway today was a full cardio vascular work out. It might have been easier to try to pick up the front end and walk it around. That completed we were off first to the highway for some high-speed cruising to warm up and then into the mountains for a proper work out. After about 10 minutes on the highway the engine temperature gauge actually started to move. Sometimes this takes half an hour and if you cruise at under 3000 RPMS it may never move. With basically no traffic on the highway though, we were in triple digit territory once everything had fully warmed up. At speed, the 512BB forgave me for ignoring it for the past couple of weeks and became a completely different car. The steering transforms itself to become perfectly weighted and highly responsive. It is a much better car at 100 than at 50 mph. At low speed it was rough, barking, with a lot of different noises filling the back of your head. Over 4000 rpm, it is all in harmony. I rarely use the stereo, in fact, not sure it even works. We cruised for about 20 minutes before exiting onto the more mountainous portion of the drive.
After navigating quickly through 2 little towns we were in the foothills on a great windy road. Lots of fast long sweepers that the 512BB is well set up for. The car was really running well at this point and everything flowed smoothly. Getting the corners right I find highly rewarding as you can feel the rear snap into line through the back of the seat. On these roads the 512BB seems to shrink and become more agile than it should be. We did this for about another 30 minutes before heading back. It was a great run and I love the feeling when everything is in sync between man and machine.
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