This week’s article is about a range of fabulous engines – the Ferrari V12s. It has been known for decades that a V12 configuration is a smooth number of cylinders and manufacturers like Jaguar, Aston, Ferrari and Lamborghini have all had V12 motors in their sports cars.
Ferrari distinguish their engines by name and number and we’ll start the article with a description of the Ferrari Colombo motors, named after the engineer Gioacchino Colombo. When Enzo Ferrari created his iconic company after the Second World War, he asked Colombo to create a new V12 engine for him. Colombo had designed the engine for the race winning Alfa Romeo 158 so he had a good reputation to keep going and he did this by developing a 1.5 litre V12 for the Ferrari 125S. The engine was great for road use but wasn’t so successful on the track.
The engine was a 60 degree V12 with a single overhead cam on each bank of cylinders and produced 118hp. Grand Prix regulations allowed superchargers, so Ferrari added a Roots type to increase power to 230hp and had moderate success during the 1948 season. The following year, they turned it into a double overhead cam and increased the size of the supercharger to get 280hp and several race wins.
The engine was fitted to the 166, 195 and 212 models with varying size displacements from 2-2.5 litres and was fitted to cars throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Interestingly, after the engine was replaced by a new design, Ferrari still returned to the base Colombo motor for several models like the 1960s 400 SuperAmerica and the 275 GTB/4 in 1967. It finally went into the Daytona and 400/412 saloons with later cars using a flat 12 design. Just like the Jaguar XK motor, the Colombo engine showed what a great design it was, lasting nearly 40 years!
With limited success with the Colombo engine for racing, Ferrari engaged Aurelio Lampredi to build some out-and-out racing motors starting with 4 and 6 cylinders. He also produced a 3.3 litre naturally aspirated V12 for racing that found their way into road cars during the early 1950s. The 342 had a 4.1 litre version fitted producing between 200 and 300hp based on tuning. This motor was increased to a 5 litre for the 1956 410 SuperAmerica with 340hp on tap and it ended its life in the 500 during 1964.
Vittorio Jano, a protege of Colombo also produced a V12 for Ferrari. He had designed the Dino engine during the 1950s as a V6 and then stretched it first to a V8 and then finally in 1992 it debuted as a V12 in the 456 road car using 65 degree banks providing 430hp from 5.5 litres. This motor was also found in the 550, 575M and 612 and was increased to 6 litres for the 599 GTB, Enzo and Maserati MC12. Again like the Colombo engine, the foundation design was good enough for a 60 year life!
Ferrari have used the V12 in Formula One for decades starting with the 125 and then switching to Lampredi’s design for the 275, 340 and 375 during the early 1950s. The rules were changed in 1954 and Ferrari used the V12 exclusively for sports car racing.
With more F1 rule changes in the mid 1960s to a 3 litre Formula – Ferrari developed a V12 for the 312 series of cars. Initially, the Cosworth V8 dominated Formula 1 with Matra and Repco taking at least one title each along the way and it was not until the mid 1970s 312T that Ferrari scored fresh world championships with Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter.
The F1 V12 survived until 1996 when they switched to a more competitive V10 but not before another championship came their way through good team work in 1983 – no drivers title but solid results to take the constructors title.
To close this article, you have to admire the engine designers of the 1940s and 1950s, their ground breaking work created an amazing foundation for later engineers to build on, using newer, lighter materials and new concepts to increase power and extend reliability. The Ferrari V12 in its many variants is a classic example of such a foundation.