First produced in 1981, the Ferrari 512 BBi represented the final version of the Berlinetta Boxer (BB) platform. These BB cars – from the 365 GT4 BB to the BBi – all share a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. This is notable primarily because it was such a major departure from the front-engine design of its predecessor: the Ferrari Daytona. While the new design surprised some Ferrari fans, the automaker was simply doing what it needed to in order to stay competitive in the new supercar world. What differentiated the 512 BBi from the other “BB” cars, however, is a much smaller detail – fuel injection.
An Emissions-Focused Supercar
As the “’i” in the model name indicates, the Ferrari 512 BBi uses fuel injection on its big 4.9-litre flat-12. While this gave the model cleaner emissions than the previous carburetted BBs, it also resulted in a 20-bhp power drop. With 340 horses on tap, however, the 512 BBi was still plenty formidable. Sure, it couldn’t hit the 300 km/h mark like the 512 BB could, but its 280 km/h top speed was nothing to laugh at back in 1981. Keep in mind, every other carmaker was dealing with similar emissions compliance headaches at the same time.
To visually separate the BBi from its predecessor, Ferrari gave it some minor cosmetic updates. The grille received small white running lights, while red rectangular lights were situated on either side of the exhaust out back. Few other changes were made as the 512 BB transitioned to the 512 BBi, other than a different wheel size. Clearly, Ferrari’s main focus here was on complying with the ever-stricter emissions regulations of this era.
Surprising Sales Success
So, what can we make of the Ferrari 512 BBi? A cleaner-burning yet slower V12 supercar with no other improvements to speak of. If you assume that Ferrari customers declined to purchase this model, you would be wrong. Even with the mighty Testarossa looming on the horizon, 512 BBi sales were strong. In fact, the 512 BBi sold in better numbers than any other Berlinetta Boxer model. An impressive 1,007 were produced between 1981 and 1984.