Legends are never made on their own; they’re written with the help of rivals. This is the case with the Ferrari 512S, a car that existed in the shadow of the mighty Porsche 917 but became a legend in its own right.
Built for the 1970 season, the Italian beast was developed by Ferrari to fight against Porsche for victory in Le Mans and other endurance races around the world, a rivalry made famous by Steve McQueen in his film ‘Le Mans’.
The Ferrari 512S was 100 kilograms heavier than the Porsche 917 but on paper this seemed to be offset by the power of its naturally-aspirated 4.993-litre 60° V12 engine.
Unfortunately, the first race of the Ferrari at the 1970 Daytona 24 Hours was not the debut the team had dreamed of, as the highest classified car of the Scuderia Enzo Ferrari Automobili Corsa finished third at a whopping 48 laps behind John Wyer Automotive Engineering’s winning Porsche 917, leading a triumphant 1-2 for the Gulf team.
In fact, the 1970 World Sportscar Championship season was a disappointment for Ferrari: the Italians saw Porsche claim victory in nine out of ten races with their 917 and 908 models. However, in nothing more than a consolation prize, Ferrari did win the legendary Sebring 12 Hours in March, the only win for the 512S.
Sadly, the 512S suffered from reliability issues from the start and particularly at the Circuit de la Sarthe during the 24 hours of Le Mans where it finished in fourth place far behind the podium-sweeping Porsches, although the pace of the Ferrari appeared well enough to compete with its German counterpart.
Development continued on the 512, however, its new name would reflect the changes made. The Ferrari 512 M, with ‘M’ standing for ‘Modificata’, would slowly begin to resemble the Porsche 917 more and more.
Two Ferrari 512S are still regularly making the rounds around the European racetracks, each sporting two different body kits.
Chassis number 1004 (#62 and #74, photos taken two years apart), the short tail version, has a complex story. Having among others raced at Daytona in 1970 and finished 3rd at Sebring that same year, Ferrari sold the car to Garage Francorchamps under a wrong chassis number 1024. Recently, Ferrari recognised their mistake when its Ferrari Classiche Department restored the car and found the true chassis number in the car: “The car we had sold to [Garage Francorchamps owner] Swaters as 1024 was in reality number 1004. Apparently, we made a mistake,” Ferrari famously stated.
Chassis 1016 was reconverted recently to a magnificent ‘Coda Longa’ bodywork which was worn at Le Mans by Scuderia Filipinetti’s #15 Ferrari.
Photos by Erwan Seite.