GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

1976 Ferrari 512 BB
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Year: 1976
Class: Sports Car
Type: Coupe
 
Host: GT5
Country: Italy
 
Price: $102,500
 
Mileage: 0.0 from dealer, 230.0 miles to engine break-in
 
Construction: steel, aluminum, and fiberglass body on steel tube frame
 
Length: 173.2" // Width: 72.0" // Height: 44.1"
Wheelbase: 98.4"
Overhang: 6 feet 3 inches
Track: 59.1" [F], 61.5" [R]
Gnd. Clear: 4.9"
 
Weight: 3,085 pounds
Wgt dist: 40/60
Steering: unassisted worm & roller (some sites say rack & pinion)
Layout: Mid Engine / Rear-Drive
Tires: 215/70VR-15 [F], 225/70VR-15 [R]
 
F. Suspension: wishbones, coils, shox
R. Suspension: coils
Brakes: vented discs
 
The test car was not given oil change or other maintenance, it was merely driven until engine break-in was achieved, meaning that dealer-quoted horsepower was also achieved. 
 
Engine: 4.9 liter DOHC flat-12
Construction: light alloy block & heads
Aspiration: natural
Fuel Syst: 4 dual-barrel carbs
Valves / Cyl: 2
Bore x Stroke: 3.23 x 3.07"
Compression: 9.2:1
 
Starting hp: 343 @ 7,000
Strting torq: 322 @ 4,500
 
Final hp: 359 @ 7,000
Fnl torq:  332 @ 4,500
 
Credits per HP: 289.55
Pounds per HP: 8.71
Pnds per Torque: 9.29 
HP per Liter:    71.6
 
Idle Speed: 800 // Redline: 7,000 // RPM Limit: 7,500
 
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Differential type: ?
 
0-60 mph: 4.978 seconds
0-100 mph: 10.386 seconds
0-150 mph: 24.866 seconds
 
0-400 M: 13.212 @ 113 mph
0-1 Kilom: 23.346 @ 147 mph
 
Test Track X Lap: 6:14.673
Daytona Lap Time:
 
Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph
 
100-zero mph: 4.939 seconds
 
Top Speed at Redline:
1st: 52.0 mph
2nd: 79.0
3rd: 106.2
4th: 142.0
5th: 187.8 mph @ 7,050 rpm
 
 
 
 
 

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----------HISTORY / EXTEIOR / INTERIOR----------

The Ferrari 512 BB shall be the next car review, and what a review this shall be. Like the Lamborghini Countach, the 512 BB (along with a slew of other Italians) is a vehicle we've all been waiting to drive ever since GT2's day (late 1999). But Ferraris did not legally make an appearance in the GT series until GT5, so here we are.
 
When we think of certain cars, they trigger certain images. Early '70s Dodge Chargers might make us think of the Dukes of Hazzard. AE86-era Toyota Corollas, Levins, and Trueno Sprinters might make us think of the Initial D series. The Ferrari 512 BB makes me think of ... Miami Vice. This was a show which started in the mid-'80s featuring two undercover detectives (one black and one white) respectively named Philip Michael Thomas and Don Johnson. Miami Vice ran for a few seasons, and although I personally never  watched it, it had plenty of flashy material to carry it. Pastel-shaded clothing, skinny ties, drugs, bombs, and plenty of stunts. And for some reason, I've always thought of Miami Vice when seeing a 512 BB.
 
....which is odd because the 512 BB was actually not the car used by the two main detectives on this show; a Ferrari Daytona Spider 365 GTS/4 kit car was the main non-human star, not the 512 BB. Well like I said, I probably never watched Miami Vice back in the day. Interestingly, after the first two seasons Ferrari was threatening to sue Miami Vice's producers, crying that the 'Ferrari' on the show was not an official Ferrari, it was a kit based on a Corvette C3 chassis!  At the beginning of Season 3, a solution was found: the fake Daytona was destroyed in some sort of explosion!  After this, Ferrari actually provided not one but TWO brand-new Ferrari Testarossas for the show, and a third Testarossa which was used for stunts. This third car was not a full Testarossa, probably did not have all the perks the real cars had. I am guessing no cruise control, no heating or air-conditioning, that sort of thing was most likely left out.
 
"BB" stands for "Berlinetta Boxer", and the number 512 designates this car's engine size (5 liters) and number of cylinders (12). Get it?  The Berlinetta Boxer 512 was in production for a rather long time, considering it was a hand-built exotic: 1973 through 1984. 2,323 of them were made, 929 of which were original 512 BBs with carbureted engines. Before 1976, the 512 had a predecessor named the 365 GT4 BB, a car which looked similar to the 512, yet did not sell quite as fluently. 387 cars in this case over a 3-year period, versus 929 over 5 years. Starting in 1981, there was also the 512i BB, which featured a fuel-injected engine instead of carbs. 
 
 Like many other supercars of its day, the 512 BB had a mid-engine / rear-drive layout and striking Italian looks, yet somehow this particular model looks much different from any other Italian car of its day. It stands out. The 512 BB is like a popular movie star we've all seen before, and anybody with an average knowledge of cars can distinguish. Even somebody who knows very little about cars (not to mention supercars) will have some sort of memory triggered when they see the 512. I imagine that the average slacker college student loser can tell this car from a Lamborghini Countach, for instance. In my country, the 512 BB was never officially imported, yet numerous examples can be seen here in America, some of which are real (imported by third parties), and some of which are fake.  
 
Before the 512 BB, Enzo Ferrari was completely uninterested in unleashing a mid-engine sports car; the Daytona which appears on Miami Vice was a front-engine / rear-drive, for instance. Ferrari's Dino, which was a sleek auto produced during the '60s, was mid-engined, however Enzo wanted "Dino" to be its own brand-name and model name; it was not officially known as a Ferrari. Weird, huh? The Dino also did not use a 12-cylinder engine; it was specifically designed to carry either a V6 or a V8. The success of upstart Lamborghini's 12-cylinder Miura (and later the Countach) changed Enzo's mind. He was not about to be 1-upped by a former tractor manufacturer, and the 512 BB was the result.
 
Unlike the Countach, the 512 is a rather personable sports car; not quite as alien and otherworldly as the radically-designed Countach. Rather than otherworldly, the Ferrari is simply sexy. Too sexy for its own shirt. It's a beautiful yet distinctive-looking automobile. Agreed?  While Lamborghini was on a crusade to go for an outrageous design which would make people go 'wow!', Enzo wanted them to merely fall in love (or lust) it seems, and he achieved this goal 100%. 
 
All Ferraris are Premium models in Gran Turismo 5, which means we get to drool over yet another handsome dashboard most of us will never get to see in person. We've got eight gauges in total, all of them include red numbering with orange needles, while the dash itself is probably made of black .. leather? Nahh, can't be leather, can it?  I tell you what: I doubt it's any sort of plastic, Ferrari would have only gone for the best. Anyways, this car has just one windshield wiper, and it's a flimsy-looking piece at that; a far cry from today's aerodynamic Rain-X installations. 
 
Looking at those gauges, we've got (from left to right) a voltmeter, a gauge which is blocked by the driver's left hand, a speedometer, a gauge which I can't identify, oil pressure, tachometer, engine temperature, and finally, a fuel monitor. There is also an odometer located in the central instrument cluster, and it appears to be functional. Actually, the speedo, tach, and oil pressure gauges are all functional. Speedo & tach are both easy to read, and the tach in particular can be glimpsed at-a-glance for those who are too busy driving and racing. 
 
We've also got three mirrors and a rather wimpy-sounding horn. The center mirror is large and useful, while both side mirrors are rather small and not quite as valuable for lane-changing, or for seeing who's about to try to pit-maneuver us. Again, as mentioned in other car reviews, the mentality back then seems to be "well this car's faster than all the others, why would anybody want to see behind?"
 
The interior seems cramped but not entirely claustrophobic; by the time the '70s rolled around, most sports car makers were changing from spartan to comfort, and the 512 BB seems obviously targeted towards the rich rock star who wants to be even better-looking and more egotistical than usual, the wealthy businessman who wants to be noticed, but also wants to be comfortable. Lots of sports cars from the '50s and '60s were taciturn, featureless, and difficult to drive. They were not as interested in catering to wealthy cream-puff drivers, instead they demanded mastery. While the 512 might also demand some decent driving skills, it's obviously aimed towards pleasing the driver in more superficial ways.
 
The Ferrari Daytona was not only a proven road car, it was also a proven race car. The 512 BB on the other hand was much more of a road car; its racing version (512 BB LM) barely resembled its road-going cousins. 
 
Back in the day, the 512 BB sold for about $85,000 in an era when the average JoeMobile was going for $5,418, according to www.ask.com The car in our game can be had for $102,500, which is about the average price of what these Italian Stallions are going for these days at auctions. We've got a weight of 3,085 pounds, which is (at the least) 300 pounds lighter than the specs listed by real-life internet sites. Carfolio.com has this one weighing-in at 3,340, while Supercars.net claims 3,600!  3,600 pounds seems way too much for any 1970s sports car, but it's possible PD is quoting this car's dry weight, while Carfolio is quoting curb weight, which means it's fully gassed-up, has engine coolant, transmission oil, etc. 
 
But enough of the history lesson, eh?, and enough of the specs. Let's get to driving goshdarnit.
 

 

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----------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN----------

Is life moving a little slow?  Ever wanted to take a coffee break from your coffee break? .. Ever needed a vacation from your vacation?  Well here is just the thing for you. And me.   
 
I've been driving and racing a lot of GT5's better models in the Supercar Festival, and the 512 is not excluded from this venture, so prepare for driving impressions from these races. But for now, let's gaze upon that engine, while hoping not to die of a jealous heart-attack.
 
This car (oddly) featured a flat-12 engine, rather than the Daytona's 4.4 liter V12. The car before the 512 BB (the 365 GT4) actually had a larger, more powerful flat engine than the 512 itself, and these flat-12s were derived (drool) from Ferrari's racing involvements. Yes, this means they've got ties to the infamous, Porsche-rivaling Ferrari 917. Flat-12 engines were solely used in Ferrari's mid-engine autos, the theory being that with a flat engine's lower center of gravity the rear of these cars might handle better. Problem was, the transmission was located directly underneath this engine, which means that most of the weight (60% of it) was in the rear. And we'll discover what this means soon enough in the next chapter. Heh heh. ... 
 
From a cold start the engine grumbles at lower revs, as though it seems to have been wakened from a slumber. Traction, of course, is complete, no matter how much gas we give there'll be absolutely zero wheelspinnage. When RPMs get about mid-range (4,000 or so) suddenly it starts roaring to life as torque kicks-in. There's a rasp and a zing, both of which are delicious as Italian pasta, and these extra noises (plus an unidentifiable whistle from this non-turbo) begin as we near redline. Redline is unfortunately exactly where peak horsepower also is, and there's a mere 500 RPMs before the limiter cuts off all the fun. This engine is rather like a BMW straight 6 then; lots and lots of useful revs before redline, but peak power is also at redline. 
 
Still, that's nothing to be bummed about. Just like in a Beemer, it's not often that the rev-limiter gets us. Not only does this one have a decent tach to warn us, after awhile experienced drivers can also learn when to shift just by listening to the engine itself, which makes things very aurally obvious. 
 
Real-life testing has this macho machine doing zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds, and the quarter-mile in 14.2 at 103.2 mph. This one also had a claimed 188 mph top speed. I had to wait 230 miles before the flat-12 broke in as far as it would go, its horsepower raising from 343 to 354, and as we can see, the virtual Ferrari actually does better than the real-life one. Zero to sixty was accomplished in 4.978, while the quarter mile an entire second faster. Only top speed was just about matched: 188 in real-life compared to 187.8 in the game.
 
Top power rates as follows:
 
                      HP                                TQ
Stage 1: 492 @ 7,500               420 @ 5,200
Stage 2: 550 @ 7,600                463 @ 5,300
Stage 3: 581 @ 7,600                483 @ 5,400
 
And one of the only unfortunate things to mention is that there are no turbos to be had for this car. Honestly I am not sure if there should be, the 512 BB is quite a bear to handle with just the power mentioned above.
 
The transmission is also no slacker, not that I assumed it would be. We've got a 5-speed manual, which is as good as it got in 1976, and though these gears are tall, this horsepower-happy engine has no problem walking through them. Ferrari allows us a close-ratio tranny too, for shorter, more technical tracks. I couldn't find any info on this car's differential, whether it's open or a limited-slip, but the game has slight default settings we can see (7-20-) so obviously PD configured this one's transaxle pretty light.
 
The name 'Italian Stallion' was given to Sylvester Stallone for his role in Rocky, a movie which was released at about the time as the '76 512 BB began to gain traction, but as we'll soon see, Sly wasn't the only one who deserved such a name.  
 

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----------CHASSIS / HANDLING----------

The gold-colored test car seen in a couple pictures was driven by me around Test Track X, High Speed Ring II, Daytona Superspeedway, Nürburgring GP/F, and Rome. It was also driven by F. Harrington, a hot-headed B-spec driver, for the B-spec Supercar Nostalgia Cup.
 
But I got to drive before Mr. Harrington!  :-p I mean c'mon, I've been waiting for years to drive a virtual Ferrari in Gran Turismo.
 
Around High Speed Ring II, this car manages to approach the first bend at 163 miles per hour, and since it's got old-fashioned brakes without any ABS system (other than our foot doing some multi-managing), the main fear was that the 512 would be as slippery as an Italian ice on-entry. Although braking can be tricky, and braking-while-turning also twitchy, this is actually not the worst of our concerns, at least not at this track. Start early, nose-in carefully, and the Prancing Horse is fine. 
 
It's actually throttlesteer, pure and simple, that's this machine's most dangerous trait. This is not a brand-new Ferrari California, not a 2000s-era Enzo, nor is it a modern Scuderia. The 512 BB hasn't got massive rear tires; instead it's only sporting 225s back there, with a sidewall of 70%. That's nearly the same size tire which might appear on a Subaru Outback!  Such a tire might be fine on an all-wheel drive Outback, but on a rear-drive, 350 horsepower Ferrari, we've got problems. Often, all it takes is a momentary lapse of judgment, a slight bit of extra throttle, and we can say goodbye to a prim & pristine lap time. This is a car from the 'who cares' era (well, assuming you were the type of person who could afford not to care). Gasoline in the 512's day averaged about 60 cents a gallon here in the States, and safety measures weren't nearly as considered as they are now. All of this shows.  
 
Earlier in this review I mentioned something about sports cars from the '50s and '60s being difficult (but ultimately rewarding) to drive. Well, the same goes for this Ferrari, difference is rarely would those earlier sports cars have more than 100 horses. We've now got 350 to tame.
 
On the other hand, there are some good things to mention. Lift-off oversteer always is a given, and it's never too violent or difficult to use, assuming we're all done with braking. At this track, anyways. Lift-off can begin to feel dangerous again at a track like Grand Valley or Rome: the slightest change in throttle, brake, or steering position can mean the difference between a smooth turn-in or a messy one. But at High Speed Ring, the car steers from its rear helpfully, with almost zero understeer, and we can give all the throttle we've got assuming the car's now in 3rd or 4th gear. At a track with unbanked curves, 3rd or 4th might need some babying though. High-speed stability feels great at first in this Ferrari, then it starts getting shoddy. Typical Italian firey drama moments, followed by the 'cold shoulder' or the 'silent treatment' in other words. Hot / cold.  
 
Then the parts man comes, bringing us a much-needed limited-slip differential and softer-grade tires. I actually tried a combination of medium sport tires up front with soft ones in the rear at first, hoping to make the front-end not quite as precise with twitchiness, and the rear-end not quite as swingy, swishy, and soupy. With these parts & settings in place the car saw 2.622 entire seconds vanish from the lap time at High Speed Ring II, which felt like getting out of jail early. The front-end now understeered lightly, while the rear could handle more punishment without consequences. Honestly, this Horse now felt rather boring to drive, but I'll take boring over 'so dangerous this one should have been banned at any sort of circuit races' anytime.     
 
Oh, and I managed a 1:16.309, making 2nd place behind the leading Nissan GT-R, and in front of a slew of Viper, Camaro, M3, and IS F times saved during the Modern Muscle and Luxury Auto comparisons. Let's keep in mind that those muscle cars and Euro/JDM coupes made their 1:17s and 1:18s after being heavily modified with well over 400 horses in some cases, and had ABS braking systems. I just used the word 'boring' to describe my newly-tuned Ferrari, which is a bit unfair. The car's still twitchy and still tricky, and there are plenty of moments which will keep us occupied once we begin to push this one to its further limits. Rear-end wheelspin and sliding-under-throttle is gone, but it's still possible to make the rear swing outwards way too far if we're not careful.
 
The front-end understeers on-entry (due to that medium/soft tire combo) yet with old-fashioned brakes, never can we fully trail-brake in a 512 BB and live to tell about it. But still, this one manages to offer plenty of options, even with such antiquated brakes and too-narrow tires. At THIS track. Again, at more technical places we can never get too confident in this car, limited-slip tuning or not.    
 
Before the HSR-II race itself there was a rather big question mark. Should the Sports Car class be used? Or the more horsepower-intensive Tuned Car?  Would the Ferrari be the first to define its own class? .. blowing all the other supercars away?  Turns out, this could have happened, only problem was this car's non-ABS braking system. This is what prevented us from pure pwndom at this juncture. The very first race was a win, yet towards the end a Corvette Z06 was angrily creeping from behind. There's a chance that if this was a 4-lapper instead of 3, the 'Vette might have won. 
 
At Nürburgring GP/F, this Ferrari was simply too dangerous, and yeah, I tried racing it anyways. But there are too many 'don'ts' that occur at this track, mostly concerning this car's inefficient, old-fashioned brakes. Don't start turning-in (at all) unless all the braking is done. Don't consider braking while turning (at all). And don't don't don't even bother to race this car until it's entire braking system is upgraded to ABS. I refused to do this, which resulted in a Ferrari that feels tricky (yet able) while it's leaving turns, but disastrous while approaching them. The rears in particular seem as though they're about to lock up, engine revs always take a serious nose-dive as this car's slowing down. Never do those brakes actually lock, but this doesn't matter. Still a rambunctious, dangerous machine.   
 
But driving around an empty track is rather fun and challenging. ABS brakes or not, never can the driver feel certain about the Ferrari 512 BB. It was a car ahead of its time in certain ways, a beautiful Pininfarina design, but modern racing is definitely a no-no unless the car's brakes are also modernized.
 
But what did I expect? 
 
The bottom line is it's taken many years for a Ferrari (any Ferrari) to make an appearance in Gran Turismo. The 512 BB definitely fits the billfold. Now, let's go find a fake badge and some pastel-colored suits so we can play Miami Vice as we cruise Côte d'Azur.
 

PROS---------------------------------------
 
1). OH yea, it's a Ferrari!
 
2). So deliciously sexy. Really, one of the best-looking cars EVER. Those who disagree are in a very small minority.
 
3). Loud, snarly, whistley engine.
 
4). Lots of power from the get-go, and even more on the aftermarket.
 
5). Fun to drive, for those of us who don't mind surprises.
 
6). Fun (and also rather easy) to tune, especially since we can't get power stratospherically high.
 
7). 5-speed transmission geared for killer acceleration, but also massive speed.
 
8). Decent visibility for a sports car (the hood is long, yet it also slopes downwards immediately, giving us plenty of road visibility). A rather large center rearview mirror as well.
 
9). Lots of colors to try & buy.      
 
 
CONS---------------------------------------
 
1). Typical pricey sports car. And with its outdated OE parts and mannerisms, the question gets raised: is this one worth it?
 
2). GT Auto offers nothing for the 512 BB so far as aero parts go. No wings. No spoilers. Nada, nil, and zip.
 
3). Absolutely dangerous, especially while untuned. Enzo Ferrari was rather worried about unleashing a mid-engine sports car to the world of automobiles, and we can now see why. This one's not for the novice, nor plenty of intermediates.
 
4). Say it with me: No turbos.
 
5). Sideview mirrors too small. Looking out the back window is not very helpful with those two engine covers blocking most of the view.
 
6). Twitchy braking. Slamming them fully pretty much guarantees some near-locks or sliding will occur.
 
7). Difficult to point and shoot without some sort of rear-end malaise ready to destroy.
   
 
Published: February 9, 2014

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