Over the past few years, Ferrari has made big strides in performance improvement. Just look at the development of front-engine V12 cars. The 2006 599 GTB had 612 bhp and the 2012 F12berlinetta produced 730 bhp – an increase of 118 bhp in just 6 years. While doing the math, I wanted to find out how long it took them to get 600 bhp in their latest Grand Tourer, the Portofino. Here’s the timeline…

Photography: RM Sotheby’sRainer SchlegelmilchJames Mann, Honest John Classics, Scuderia Ferrari, Max Lammers

1953 – Timossi-Ferrari ‘Arno XI’ Racing Hydroplane (600 bhp)

1953 Timossi Ferrari Arno XI Racing Hydroplane

1953 Timossi Ferrari Arno XI Racing Hydroplane

Achille Castoldi, an Italian speedboat racer, aspired to break the World Speed Record on water back in the early 1950s. He got in touch with Formula 1 drivers Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi and they managed to persuade Enzo Ferrari to offer a 4.5-L V12 engine for Castoldi’s boat. This was the same engine Ferrari used in the 1950 Ferrari 375 F1 – the car that gave Scuderia Ferrari their first ever Grand Prix victory.

The standard engine produced roughly 335 bhp, so Castoldi had to increase the power to make it competitive on water. He attached twin superchargers and twin four-choke carburettors to make the 600 bhp power output reality. On 15 October 1953, he set a new World Speed Record on water: 241.708 km/h (150.190 mph). This remains the record for an 800 kg boat to this day.

1969 – Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale (620 bhp)

1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta by Pininfarina

1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta by Pininfarina

Filippo Sapino, designer at Ghia for over three decades, might be most remembered by this 1969 Ferrari 512S Berlinetta Speciale, which he designed during his short tenure at Pininfarina. Ferrari placed a 6.0-L V12 from a 612 Can-Am in the back. Sadly, it was a block placed for the sake of having a filled engine bay. The car wasn’t able to move itself; it was purely used to introduce a new design language further developed in the 1970s. Still though, a great thought to have access to over 600 bhp with your right foot in such a ‘’wedge’’ car.

1970 – Ferrari 512M (610 bhp)

1970 Ferrari 512M

1970 Ferrari 512M

From 1953 to 1992, the FIA ran the World Sportscar Championship. Notable races in this Championship were the 24 Hours of Daytona and 1000 km of the Nürburgring. The 512M, an upgraded version of the Ferrari 512S, debuted at the 1970 1000 km of Zeltweg. Ferrari also entered the 1971 Championship with the 512M. The car was powered by a 5.0-L V12 producing 610 bhp.

1983 – Ferrari 126 C3 (591 bhp)

1983 Ferrari 126 C3 Formula 1

1983 Ferrari 126 C3 Formula 1

The first Formula 1 car in this list is the 1983 Ferrari 126 C3. Scuderia Ferrari is the oldest surviving Formula 1 team, having competed in every championship since the 1950 season. The heritage of Ferrari in the highest racing championship is noticeable when you wander through its history. It all started in 1950 with the 275 F1 with 300 bhp and now we have the SF71H with over 1000 bhp.

The Ferrari 126 C3 was introduced at the 1983 British Grand Prix with Patrick Tambay behind the wheel. René Arnoux got to drive the car at the next race, which was the German Grand Prix that he managed to win. He also won the Canadian and Dutch Grand Prix of that year. Tambay finished first in the Italian Grand Prix. The 1.5-L V6 produced a total output of 591 bhp at 10500 rpm.

2003 – Ferrari 575 GTC (597 bhp)

2003 Ferrari 575 GTC

2003 Ferrari 575 GTC

The Ferrari 575 GTC was a development of the 550 GTS. The 550 GTS was a very successful competitor in the GT Championships and Ferrari wanted to offer such a car to close customers. The car featured a 6.0-L V12 pushing out 597 bhp, and is one of the best-sounding engines ever to appear in a race car.

2017 – Ferrari Portofino (591 bhp)

Ferrari Portofino

This is the fun part, where you realize how far Ferrari has come. From 600 bhp in a custom boat, Formula 1 cars, concept cars and race cars, the same power output ended up in their current grand tourer, a car that is used to comfortably get from A to B. This list shows how quick the progress of cars can be and it also shows why I personally love Ferrari. They may not aspire to be the best in the market, nor to be the fastest, but they aspire to better themselves with every new car they introduce. Ferrari clearly uses Enzo’s ‘’I don’t sell cars, I sell engines’’ philosophy, since numerous engines have won several awards in their respective categories.

One of the marketing expressions for the Ferrari Portofino read: ‘’This is the Ferrari you drive back to your summer or weekend villa, top down, with a cigar in one hand, your family and a grin on your face as you think about how sweet life is.’’. It shows how radically our perception of 600 bhp has changed throughout the years.

%d bloggers like this: