The Ferrari 712 was very likely one of the most unsuccessful racing cars to ever pass through the Maranello gates. Developed for the highly lucrative and publicity-rich (and just plain rich too) no-holds-barred Can-Am racing series of North America, the 712 competed over two seasons in 1971 and 1972, and won no pole positions, no fastest laps, no outright victories, and not even a single podium placing.
So what makes it a legend? Well, sometimes just having a go is worthy enough, but most of all the 712 is a legend because it’s the biggest-engined Ferrari racecar of all time. The reasoning was simple: Maranello wanted to compete in Can-Am because the series’ racecars were regularly slashing the lap records set by Formula 1 Grand Prix cars — Can-Am closed-bodied prototype racers were the fastest machines on the planet at the time.
Ferrari obviously had to prove itself. The only problem was it didn’t have a car suitable for rivalling Chevrolet and Ford big-blocks (V8 engines with over 8.0 litres of displacement), so they took a Ferrari 512, developed for the popular five-litre class at the time, and dropped in a massive 7.0-litre V12 engine, hence the 712 denomination following Maranello’s tagging tradition.
Even with evolved bodywork from the 512 sports racing car and masters behind the wheel such as Mario Andretti and Jean-Pierre Jarier, the 712 couldn’t keep up with the dominant McLarens, Lolas and Shadows. Rumour was that old man Enzo didn’t care about Can-Am either, since he didn’t have any use of a gigantic 7.0-litre engine in his road cars, and quickly lost interest, while the 712 continued to try with the help of Luigi Chinetti’s influence, the legendary North American Ferrari importer.
It may not have won much, if anything at all, but the 712 is still a racing Ferrari with a 7.0-litre V12. And that’s the stuff of legends.