Monterey | Lot 321
1981 Ferrari 512 BB/LM
$3,000,000 - $3,500,000 USD
| Monterey, California
14 August 2021
- 12% of the hammer price up to and including $250,000
- 10% of the hammer price in excess of $250,000
- The final and most highly developed iteration of Ferrari’s BB/LM racing platform
- The 10th of 16 “Series 3” BB/LM examples produced by Ferrari
- Delivered new to Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team
- Raced by NART at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1981 and 1982
- Finished 9th overall at the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans
- A competitive entry in many seasons of Shell Historic racing by the consignor and previous owners; one of the fastest eligible models
- Benefits from a complete and meticulous restoration finished in late 2017; $330,000 USD of accompanying invoices on file
Apart from Enzo Ferrari himself, no single person was so critical to Ferrari’s global cachet as Luigi Chinetti. In 1949, Chinetti earned the marque’s first outright win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, thereby cementing the reliability and sporting capabilities of Ferrari’s earliest post-war catalog. That same year, he received Enzo’s blessing to operate as Ferrari’s sole distributor within the United States.
In 1958, Chinetti founded the North American Racing Team (NART), which competed exclusively in the world’s marquee endurance events. Throughout his career, Chinetti was a tremendous proselytizer for multiple iterations of factory-supported customer racing programs. The 512 BB/LM offered here is a testament to the last of these programs tied directly to Chinetti prior to NART’s dissolution in late 1982.
DEVELOPING THE 512 BB/LM
The genesis of Ferrari’s small series of 512 BB/LM race cars is, rather naturally, due to Luigi Chinetti. Between 1975 and 1977, NART ran a heavily modified 365 GT4/BB in competition. Meanwhile, Chinetti was lobbying Ferrari to step in with a run of works-prepared cars based on the 512 BB platform. Maranello acquiesced in 1978, and provided four examples of the "Series 1" BB/LM to privateers; one for NART/Chinetti, one for Ecurie Francorchamps/Swaters, and two for the eponymous Ecurie Charles Pozzi. The 512 BB/LMs immediately proved to be remarkably quick due to their severely reduced weight, exaggerated aerodynamics, and increased power.
By 1981, the factory-prepared 512 BB/LM had been thoroughly refined as an even sleeker and quicker model, the "Series 3." The thin bodywork features extremely wide arches, revised intake ducts on the skirts and front fascia, and an extended, aerodynamic nose with low, gentle lines that taper rearward into the car’s dramatically elongated tail section. The mechanicals of the 5.0-liter F102B flat-twelve engine were similarly upgraded with forged internals and high compression pistons. In this final form, the Series 3 BB/LM boasted a factory rating of 480 horsepower.
THE NART BB/LM: CHASSIS NUMBER 35527
Research by marque historians Marcel Massini and Keith Bluemel indicate that chassis number 35527, offered here, is the tenth of 16 factory-built BB/LM Series 3 examples; it is also reportedly the last Ferrari ever sold to, or raced by, Chinetti’s team. Delivered new to NART in April 1981, 35527 debuted at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 13 June wearing #49 and driven by the team of Alain Cudini, John Morton, and Philippe Gurdjian. It proved the fastest of all five 512 BB/LMs present, securing a qualifying lap time of 3:52.
Cudini started the race 29th overall and had improved to 4th by 8:00 PM. 35527 floated between 4th and 8th overall through the night thanks to a steady effort from Morton. After an early Sunday morning puncture which damaged the rear bodywork and cost the team valuable time, Gurdjian’s crash on the 247th lap dashed NART’s increasingly faint hope of class victory. Chinetti later learned that this entry had posted the fastest lap of any Ferrari during the race, with a best time of 3:56.
The next year, 35527 returned to Le Mans—this time wearing the NART #72 livery and assigned to the trio of Cudini, Morton, and John Paul Jr. With Cudini at the wheel, 35527 again proved the fastest qualifier among five BB/LMs entered, and also the fastest Ferrari during the race. Paul Jr. started the race from the 37th position and outlasted several other 512 BB/LM entrants going into Saturday night. Morton provided another trouble-free overnight shift which saw him peak at 3rd place overall. Gearbox problems began around 11:00 AM on Sunday morning, but a very conservative strategy allowed Cudini to stave off complete gearbox failure while securing a 9th overall finish, and 4th in class.
NART registered the car for Le Mans 1983, but the team ultimately went defunct in December 1982, following the death of Marion Chinetti. Cudini’s masterful poise behind the wheel of 35527 at Le Mans 1982 was NART’s last race entry. As such, this 512 BB/LM is a notable bookend to one of the most famous racing teams in motorsports history.
35527 was retained by NART until 1984, then passed through several collections in Europe and the United States prior to acquisition by Todd Morici of Clifton, New Jersey. In 1999, its original F102B engine (F102B 0000.23) was replaced by a period-correct F110A V-12 (number 00682) modified by Motion Products of Neenah, Wisconsin, for use in historic racing. The original engine, stamped “Marion,” was rebuilt in 2001 and bench tested, and it accompanies the sale.
Morici then entered the car in several Shell Historic events between 2000 and 2003, prior to acquisition by Jean Guikas via broker Michael Sheehan. By 2006, Guikas had sold 35527 to noted collector Charles Wegner of West Chicago, Illinois.
Wegner drove this BB/LM with blistering success in several seasons of the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge Series across North America. In late 2010, Wegner sold 35527 back to Guikas; this proved to be a regretful sale and Wegner reacquired it in February 2016.
Upon receipt, Wegner commissioned a complete restoration from Dugan Motorsports in Oceanside, California. Nearly $330,000 USD of accompanying invoices document this restoration and illustrate a meticulous, total redress of 35527’s mechanical and cosmetic needs. As an illustrative example of this “at any cost" approach, consider that the chassis was entirely disassembled and tested for structural cracks via ultrasonic and X-ray imaging. In late 2017, 35527 emerged from Dugan’s care entirely refreshed and refinished in its 1982 NART Le Mans livery, complete with its Marion Chinetti memorial tailgate applique.
In 2018, it was invited to the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance as part of that year’s focus on NART Ferraris; an Amelia Award was provided to each of these storied race cars. 35527’s last historic race outing came during the Sonoma Speed Festival on 31 May 2019, where it competed in the Group 10 IMSA class.
Now presented with just under 10 operating hours since the completion of its restoration, this exceptionally sorted and well-documented 512 BB/LM would be an alluring acquisition for the most discerning of historic racers. With its Le Mans history and unique status as the last car ever delivered to and raced by Chinetti’s NART, 35527 offers a wonderfully symbolic pedigree which cannot be replicated.