Marlborough House
5 November 2022
Lot 150

1981 Ferrari 512 BBi


£258,125 GBP | Sold

United Kingdom | London, United Kingdom



Chassis No.
Engine No.
  • One of just 1,007 examples of the 512 BBi constructed between 1981 and 1984
  • Presented in the attractive colour scheme of Rosso Corsa with cream and red leather interior
  • Retaining its matching-numbers fuel injected, 4.9-litre flat-12 engine
  • Odometer reads just 25,964 kilometres at the time of cataloguing
  • Serviced by Ferrari specialist, H.R. Owen, in February 2022, at a cost exceeding £4,000
  • Ferrari Classiche-certified and accompanied by selected handbooks with jack and tools

The Ferrari 512 BBi shared the same intricate flat-12 engine configuration as some of the marque’s most accomplished racing designs. This notably included contemporary stablemates such as the 312B2 and 312B3 Formula 1 cars. This model came after Ferrari’s 365 GT4 BB, distinguished as the Prancing Horse’s first-ever mid-engined, 12-cylinder production car. Yet this innovative architecture continued with its power unit placed atop its five-speed gearbox in the interests of minimising wheelbase length and maximising cabin comfort. The 512 BBi boasted trendsetting Pininfarina styling, with formidable handling capabilities and spectacular 175-mph performance to match its attractive looks.

After the earlier 365 model platform made way for the 512 BB in 1976, the nomenclature of the new model eschewed Ferrari’s tradition of noting cylinder capacity in favour of a more transparent reference to the car’s 5.0-litre, 12-cylinder credentials. This had previously been employed with the fearsome 512S and 512M Group 5 Sports Prototypes. Although retaining the same chassis as the 365 BB and similar exterior styling, the new car’s 5.0-litre engine was renewed with dry-sump lubrication and a noticeably longer stroke, achieving significantly improved driveability as a result.

In 1981, the third and final iteration of the BB series was introduced. The newly designated 512 BBi abandoned the four triple-barrel Weber 40 IF3C carburettors and replaced them with cutting edge Bosch K-Jetronic ignition—adding the “i” to the model name. Significantly, while the modification had negligible effect on absolute performance, mid-range torque was boosted by around 20 lb ft, rendering the 512 BBi more tractable and yet more driveable still than its carburettor-fed equivalent. The BBi was blessed with performance figures of 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 179 mph. This was impressive by today’s standards, but truly otherworldly by those of the early-1980s.

This example, chassis 39725, is one of just 1,007 of the 512 BBi constructed between 1981 and 1984. Consequently, it is a rare and highly sought-after early model originating from the first year of BBi production. Subsequently delivered in January 1982 via the prominent German Ferrari agent, Auto Becker of Düsseldorf, it was unsurprisingly configured in left-hand drive and finished in the classic Ferrari colour scheme of Rosso Corsa with Black leather interior. The car was curiously specified, with body-coloured induction intakes and spoilers preferred over the more commonplace satin black items. These distinctive features are retained to this day.

Imported into the UK in 2009, where it has remained ever since, chassis 39725 passed through the hands of two owners prior to its acquisition by the consigning owner. Its most recent keeper acquired the 512 BBi through the renowned London Ferrari specialist, H.R. Owen, in 2017. As a condition of the purchase, the car was subject to a comprehensive service and partial restoration by H.R. Owen, the total cost of which exceeded some £24,000 and included the fitment of a new exhaust system, new shock absorbers and an all-important cam belt replacement. Furthermore, following an exhaustive two-year application process, the car was granted coveted Ferrari Classiche certification in March 2019.

The car has been used sparingly during its current ownership yet has continued to be serviced at H.R. Owen, the most recent instance being in February 2022, at a cost of £4,008. Despite the passage of some 41 years, the car retains its matching-numbers engine, while the replacement of its original black leather interior with Daytona-style seats of a corresponding cream and red hue is the only significant aesthetic departure from factory specification. At the time of cataloguing, the odometer read just 25,964 kilometres.

Enthusiasts would argue that recent years have resulted in a new-found and entirely justified appreciation of BB-series Ferraris. Their race-developed technical specification, era-defining Pininfarina styling, spectacular performance and indisputable position as the first of the mid-engined “modern era” road-going Ferraris all prove to be contributory factors. Furthermore, as the half-centenary approaches of the launch of the 365 GT4 BB at the 1973 Paris Motor Show, this represents both an ideal time and an exciting opportunity to enter BB-series ownership for a relatively modest outlay.