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January 16th

Ferrari 712 Can Am

Story and Photography by Alessandro Gerelli

A few years ago, I had to prepare the invitation cards for my 50th birthday party. As all my friends know I am a photography and a Ferrari fan, a proper subject would have been a picture of a Ferrari car, possibly with its racing number 50.

I had to check the documentation on my many Ferrari books and I finally found that the Ferrari 712 of 1971 had been raced by Andretti at Watkins Glen (where it finished fourth) with number “50”. While at the Nurburgring Oldtimer Gran Prix in 1997, I was surprised to see the 712, that was in A. Obrist’s collection, still with the “50” on its body.

And so finally I got the subject for my birthday party invitation, and took photos of the 712 at various classic race events over the next few years. The 712 was the largest capacity Ferrari ever constructed and therefore of unique interest.

A Brief History of the Biggest, Meanest, Wildest Ferrari ever Built

*The 712 was a one off, very special Ferrari built expressly for the Canadian American “Can Am” series of races in North America. The Canadian American Challenge Cup was created in 1966 and was open to two-seaters sport cars with unlimited engine capacity, just when the CSI decided to limit to 3 liters the capacity for the sport cars of the group 6 (prototypes) and to 5 liters the capacity for the sport cars produced in 50 models (group 4).

*The first Ferrari car to be raced in the CanAm series was the 412P (0844), that had run the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1967: Chinetti sent the car back to Maranello where the cars was stripped and modified in its body, according to the different rules of Group 7. The car was raced by Chris Amon and Jonathan Williams without results.

*In 1968 a new bigger engine was prepared to be competitive with McLaren sports cars. The new car, called 612 for its displacement of 6 liters with 12 cylinders, would only race in the last CanAm event driven by Amon who retired after few laps.

*In 1969 a lighter car (612 CanAm) again with a 6.2 litres engine, was ready in time, and, driven by Amon, achieved few positive results.

*Our subject car, serial number 1010, was originally one of twenty five 512 S Ferraris constructed for the 1970 European racing season.

*Ferrari wanted to used race car technology (and engines) for his road cars. In 1969-70 there were rumors that Ferrari would use the seven liter engine to power a huge new Ferrari road car, similar in concept to the Bugatti Royale. Rumor or not, the car never materialized.

*At Imola, on May 2, 1971, Arturo Merzario won the Interserie 300 Km race with chassis 1010, now in 512M form. It was thought it might have been equipped with the 7 liter engine. This, however, was stated as incorrect by Engineer Mauro Forghieri.

*Chassis number 1010 was then prepared with a 7 litres and 680 bhp engine: the body was basically an enlarged 312P , and the performances in line with competitors. The car received an uprated suspension and drive train to cope with the additional power of the 7 liter engine.

* On July 25th 1971, 1010, under the Scuderia Ferrari banner, was entered in the Watkins Glen Can Am race. Driven by Mario Andretti, it qualified fifth, and in the race Andretti was running third and finally finished fourth. The rear wing had come off and the car’s handling was affected, and the car desperately needed development. “It was one of the worst cars I ever drove,” said Andretti. Anthony Pritchard, Scarlet Passion.

*"The power unit was a supposedly 6.9 liter unit with a specially cast, aluminum-alloy block. When Peter Lyons asked Andretti about the engine dimensions, he said, “Oh, there are four different combinations, I don't quite know which this is.” Anthony Pritchard, Scarlet Passion.

*Ferrari decided to concentrate on other cars and issues, and sold the 7 liter monster to NART. Almost one year to the day the 712 was back at Watkins Glen as a NART entry. Sam Posey was asked to drive but declined. Jean-Pierre Jarier drove the still underdeveloped car to a tenth place. At Daytona he finished the six hour event in 6th place with Greg Young.

*Jarier was retained to drive the 712 at Road America on August 27th 1972. “I made some suggestions to increase down force,” said Jarier. “The 712 really deserved some time in a wind tunnel.” Despite this, Jarier brought the 712 home in fourth place.

*The 712 sat in a corner for the next two years. In July of 1974 the 712 again Again Sam Posey was asked to drive, but the brakes failed in practice resulting in a broken foot for Sam. Brian Redman took over and finished second in the first heat but retired in the second. It was then retired and eventually passed to the Obrist collection.

*Jarier told Cavallino’s Marc Sonnery about the positive side: “It (the engine) was very reliable and was twenty five years ahead of its time. (in the 1990s) in the FIA GT series, you see cost no-object six and seven liter V12s with the same architecture and rpm bands. It’s the same concept, excepting, of course, the electronic mapping/cartography; amazing, when you think about it.”

*Today the car is one of the attractions of the Ferrari Historic Challenge and is now driven by Paul Knapfield and prepared by Roelofs Eng.

More details on the Ferrari CanAm cars can be found in:

Cavallino number 102
Scarlet Passion, Anthony Pritchard (2004)
Ferrari by Tanner and Nye (Guild 1985)
Ferrari by Fitzgerald, Merritt and Thompson (Sthephens 1979)
Ferrari Sports et Prototypes by Prunet (EPA 1978)
Ferrari Catalogue raisonne 1946-1981 (Automobilia 1981)
Ferrari Fifty Years on the Track by Starkey, Renwick and Olczyk (Renwick and Starkey 1998)

P. Knapfield driving 1010 at the Nurburgring, 2007.

The steering wheel and the essential instrumentation, Nurburgring 2005.

The 512M rear suspension was upgraded to take the power of the 7 liter. Nurburgring 2005.

The white cap for the intake pipes. Nurburgring 2007. The car was fuel injected.

Details of the V12 engine. Nurburgring 2007.

P. Knapfield ready to start Nurburgring 2007.

P. Knapfield preceeding a Lola T70 Nurburgring 2007.

D. Franklin's trophy at Misano 2002.

Details of the front spoilers Nurburgring 2007.

Rear view mirror shot.

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