1978 NART Ferrari 512 BB/LM

When Ferrari debuted the Berlinetta Boxer to replace the iconic Daytona in 1971, it was a revolutionary step forward. It was the first mid-engine Ferrari road car, and following hot on the heels of the Lamborghini Miura, one of the first mid-engined sports cars on the market. Unfortunately it was never homologated for the North American market, but every rule has its exceptions. And this is one of them.

After replacing the 4.4-liter flat-12 in the initial 365 GT4/BB with the 5.0-liter unit in the 512 BB, Ferrari got back into the endurance sports racing game with the 512 BB/LM. Of only 25 examples made, only 19 saw race action – 14 of those at Le Mans – including this particular example. One of the last to be made, this boxer was commissioned by Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team (NART).

Chassis 35527's bodywork features a longer tail to go with the extended nose of the existing 512 BB/LM – whose Pininfarina styling was aped by the 365 GT Speciale we reported on recently – and an engine tuned up to 560 horsepower to push a chassis parred down to less than 2,500 lbs. The transmission was also beefed up in response to the breakdowns suffered by previous examples, which unfortunately didn't prevent this car's gearbox from giving up the ghost at the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans while running 3rd overall – not just in its class – close to the end of the race.

The car has since had numerous owners, but is now going up for auction at Bonhams' Les Grandes Marques à Monaco this weekend, complete with spare parts and even an extra engine. Pre-sale estimates place its value at between €1,250,000 and €1,450,000 – about $2 million at today's rates. Follow the jump for more details of the car's considerable history and check out the trio of images in our high-resolution gallery.

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Lot No: 126
The Ex-North American Racing Team - Alain Cudini/John Morton/John Paul/Philippe Gurdjian
1981-82 Ferrari 512 BB/LM Berlinetta Le Mans 24-Hours Competition Coupe


Chassis no. 35527
Engine no. Type F102 B no. 000023 (original)- Type F110A no. 00682 (installed)

Ferrari established a landmark in its production road car design in 1973-74 with the release of its rear-engined flat-12 365 Boxer Berlinetta model.

The 365 Boxer reigned supreme for a period, as the fastest and most sensationally-specified 'supercar' anywhere on the world's markets, but increasingly restrictive pollution and noise legislation – particularly in the USA, meant the design had to be re-considered. Ferrari decided that the 4.4-litre engine should be enlarged to 4942 cc through increasing both the bore and stroke dimensions. The larger-capacity power unit could then provide the same power and torque levels at reduced engine revolutions, while the new 5-litre engine was also to use racing-style dry-sump lubrication to eradicate oil surge problems which might be caused by the increased cornering power and speeds of the more powerful car.

Ferrari began to consider a return to endurance racing competition with a version of their production Gran Turismo design. This was to be the first time the old front-engined 365GTB/C Daytona had been phased out and the 312PB works team sports-prototypes had completed the 1973 racing season, that Ferrari was seriously considering any other form of competition than Formula 1.

The move was made in preparation for the 1978 Le Mans 24-Hour race – and two special 512 Boxer Berlinetta/Le Mans (512BB/LM) cars were prepared by outside sub-contractors in Italy, to be campaigned by the company's long-faithful French concessionaire Charles Pozzi with another one prepared for American East Coast concessionaire Luigi Chinetti, and a fourth by the Belgian concessionaire Garage Francorchamps, for industrialist Jean Blaton – himself a Le Mans veteran racing under the pseudonym 'Beurlys'.

These cars were lightened and stripped down to around 2,425lbs weight while the flat-12 5-litre engines were developed to deliver around 460-horsepower. A larger nose spoiler was fitted; balanced out along the car's length by a rear aerodynamic wing.

These 1978 Ferrari 512BB/LM cars were faster through the Sarthe circuit's high-speed curves than the old Daytonas and so lapped faster, but the transmission in these rather hastily modified and undeveloped cars proved fragile, and the results were elusive.

The Fiat-Ferrari combine had been encouraged – however – and with noisy encouragement from their concessionaires and with racing customers willing to open their cheque books and pay hard cash for some sport, a second series of 512BB/LM cars, was developed to higher specification. Fuel injection helped raise power output to some 480 bhp at 7,200rpm while mid-range torque was boosted by an even greater proportion. The suspect transmission was developed and strengthened for racing, and oil cooling radiators were added to preserve it for a full 24-hour race distance. Brakes and suspension were also further refined and upgraded while the cars' aerodynamic bodyforms were improved through wind tunnel testing.

The new long-tailed 512BB/LMs emerged as really exotic-looking projectiles, and with their weight further reduced to around 2,370 lbs they were not only going to be very fast in a straight line, but also relatively nimble around the tighter corners.

Two of these new 512BB/LM cars were produced for the Pozzi team and one for Luigi Chinetti's NART organization. They made their racing debut in the 1979 Daytona 24-Hours in Florida but experienced severe tyre problems on the part-banked circuit and every one was forced to retire. At Le Mans the Belgian 'Beurlys' car joined the ex-Daytona trio, but Michel Leclere's Pozzi team entry collided with a slower car early on the Sunday morning while its sister, driven by Jean-Claude Andruet/Spartaco Dino, ran (extraordinarily) as high as third before succumbing to lubrication failure

Chassis 35527, a truly magnificent Le Mans 24-Hours race Ferrari Boxer Berlinetta is the 23rd of only 25 such cars built during the late 1970s/early 1980s. Of these ultra rare prototypes designed and built to race at Le Mans only 19 were to see track action and 14 race at the legendary La Sarthe circuit. Amongst these BB/LM speciale cars, this particular vehicle is a very special example indeed. Its original engine was developed to a very special state of tune. Today the car is offered with two flat-12 cylinder engines, both its original BBLM type F102B power unit, number '000023' (stamped Marion as in Marion Chinetti) and the one installed of Type F110A – number '00682' - which is described as being "a seriously sorted unit" which - as the previous owner's mechanic reports - has developed no less than 560bhp during dynamometer testing, at just 7,900 rpm. This power unit features titanium connecting rods new camshafts, and 13:1 compression pistons. Very considerable investment has been made in the car's technical specification and preparation through the past decade and it has achieved considerable success in Historic and Vintage races. Its gearbox is also understood to be the original, and the car is offered here with a number of racing-oriented spare parts of which a complete list is available to potentially interested parties.

The car was campaigned in period by the Chinetti family's celebrated North American Racing Team and backed by Mrs Marion Chinetti for its drivers, who included Alain Cudini, John Morton, John Paul and Philippe Gurdjian. This car weighed-in at just 1,100 kilogrammes rather than the normal BB/LM model's 1,200kg, and around the legendary Sarthe circuit outside Le Mans it proved to be the quickest of all BB/LMs competing in the International Grand Prix d'Endurance.

This particular car contested Le Mans twice, in 1981 – when it was driven by Cudini/Morton/Gurdjian, and 1982. During the latter year, this car was running in 3rd place overall until well within sight of the race finish when it developed a transmission problem, which slowed it in the final two hours. The car finally finished in ninth place overall.

At Le Mans in 1981 – running under race number 49 – the car failed to finish after a late-race accident, having completed no fewer than 247 laps. In the 1982 Le Mans 24-Hours, the car then appeared under race number 72, finishing ninth overall and fourth in its IMSA/GTX category.

In 1984 the car was then sold to prominent American Ferrari enthusiast Bob Donner, of Denver, Colorado. In 1989 it was sold in the Nurburgring Oldtimer Meeting auction sale, achieving a price of £677,420 plus 8 per cent buyer's premium. It had been acquired by the Swedish investor Hans Thulin, but during the recession year of 1990 it became available once more after Mr Thulin's bankruptcy, having been repossessed by the Swedish Nyckeln Bank.

In February 1993 it was acquired by Bernie Chase's Vintage Motors company in Encinitas, California, and the following month saw it re-sold through Ferrari of Los Gatos to Mr Tom Celani. In September 1996 dealer Mike Sheehan of Costa Mesa, California, re-sold the car to Steven Barney's Foreign Cars Italia company in Greensboro, North Carolina. Its next owner was Ferrari enthusiast Chris Cox of Prova International in Chapel Hill, NC, and by 1999 this outstanding ex-NART Ferrari was being cared for by Mitra Neumann, back in California. Subsequent owners include Todd Morici (2000), who invested lots of time and money on suspension, brake and cooling improvements, Jean Guikas of Marseilles, France (2003) and Charles T. Wegner of West Chicago, Illinois, USA (2006). In Mr Wegner's ownership the car has been not only magnificently restored but raced in the American Shell Ferrari Maserati Challenge race series.

By 1981-82 the Ferrari 512 Boxer Berlinetta/Le Mans projectiles were formidably exciting and dramatic-looking thoroughbred racing machines, and '35527' as offered here is a particular attractive, highly specified and potentially very competitive Vintage racing example of the genre. Bonhams recommend close inspection of this Boxer, which represents a rare opportunity of acquiring a continuous history and fully race ready ex-Le Mans Ferrari, eligible for many worldwide events including Le Mans Classic, where it has already run and shown its potential as a front runner.