Ferrari names… they might seem a bit controversial or randomly made-up from time to time, but there is a thought-out system behind these designations…

Photography: Mercedes-Benz, RM Sotheby’s, Michael Carrozzo, Khalid Bari, Scott McKellin, Max Lammers, Ferrari

But first, a bit of history

Let’s take a look at how it all began in the car industry. The first car was called the ‘’Benz Patent-Motorwagen’’, pictured on the left. Karl Benz, founder of Mercedes-Benz, applied for the patent of the automobile on the 29th of January 1886, so it was logical to name it after himself and his patent. He revealed it to the public in July of that year.

When Ford began production in 1903, they started with Model A, pictured on the right, and was followed by Model B and C. The next production Ford was the Model K. Henry Ford mainly used lettering designations between C and K for development and prototypes. Model N, R and S were also production cars and in 1908 the Model T was revealed, which was the first mass-production automobile.

Why Ferrari uses numbers to identify their cars

The reason why manufactures use a certain method is to keep the bloodline quite simple. The numbers mainly refer to engine characteristics such as cylinders and capacity. Because of the innovations in every Ferrari the names are easy to create but there are no fixed rules when it comes to numbers. The moment you discover a pattern or method, it’ll change. Below are some of the various methods used.

Engine capacity divided by the cylinders or 10

The first Ferrari, the 125 S, was named after its engine (a 1500 cc V12): if you divide 1500 cc with 12 you’ll get 125. Not only the V12 cars were designated by this method. The first four-cylinder Ferrari, the 500 Mondial, featured a 1985 cc 4-cylinder. You can do the math. It’s slightly unusual, but this type of designation was used until 2003, when the Ferrari 456 (5473 cc / 12-cylinders = 456) was replaced by the 612.

Most of the rounded designations, such as the 400 Superamerica or 500 Superfast received their name after the engine-capacity was divided by ten. The 550 and 575 also received their name after the Italians grabbed their calculator and divided the engine capacity (5500 cc and 5750 cc respectively) with ten. The 599 features a 5999 cc V12, hence its name.

Although you have to do some math, this method was all fine when Ferrari primarily produced race cars. The designation was designed to name the cars and it wasn’t created with marketing in mind. However, when Ferrari started building more road cars and needed to market them, a new system had to be designed.

Engine capacity plus amount of cylinders

This new method still consisted of three numbers, but the first two represented the engine-capacity and the third represented the amount of cylinders. The first mid-engine production Ferrari featured a 2.0-L V6 and was therefore named the Dino 206 GT. Its succesor, the 246 GT, was powered by a 2.4-L V6. Click on the blue words to learn more about the Dino marque.

This method continued until the Ferrari 348 and was also used for the 512 BB (5.0-L flat-12).

Engine capacity plus amount of valves

When the successor of the 348 arrived, called the 355, a new method arrived as well: the first two numbers refer to the capacity of the engine (3500 cc), but the second 5 refers to the amount of valves per cylinder. Its successors, the 360 and 430, were named after their capacity was divided by ten. The 458 was named after its engine capacity + the amount of cylinders and the 488 received its name from the capacity of one cylinder (488 cc).

Other naming methods

Ferrari cheated a little with the 612 Scaglietti. You would assume it’s powered by a 6.0-L V12, but it isn’t. It features a 5.8-L V12 and the reason why Ferrari named it 612 is simply because they rounded it up a bit higher than usual.

Both the GTC4Lusso and GTC4Lusso T just have one number referring to the amount of seats. The F in F12 refers to Ferrari and 12 refers to the amount of cylinders. The 812 Superfast is named after its rounded power output (789 bhp became 800) and the number of cylinders.

Ferrari revealed the Ferrari 275 GTB with a four-camshaft engine in the late 1960s and it became known as the 275 GTB/4. 275 refers to the capacity of one cylinder (275 cc) and 4 refers to the more powerful 4-camshaft engine.

Limited editions

Ferrari F40 and F50

Both the F40 (1987) and F50 (1995) refer to the 40th and 50th anniversary, respectively. The reason why Ferrari revealed the F50 for their 50th anniversary earlier, was because of upcoming plans to tighten the US emission laws. The Enzo was revealed in 2002 and wasn’t called the F60 because it was too much of a gap with 2007 (60th anniversary). The F60 name was used for a Formula 1 car and for the F60 America, which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Ferrari in America.

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