The 1973 365 GT4 Berlinetta Boxer was the first mid-engine car from Ferrari to wear the prestigious Cavallino Rampante, or prancing horse, badge designating true Ferraris. Enzo Ferrari was late to adopt a mid-engine layout for his road cars, which by the early 1970s dominated Grand Prix and sports car racing, but the success of the Miura, the mid-engined road car from his competitor Lamborghini, left Ferrari with little choice. After all, there was room for only one car at the top of the Italian GT pecking order, and Enzo was determined that it would always be a Ferrari.
First mid-engined Ferrari road car
Ferrari traditionally gave their top GT a front-mounted V12 engine. The 365 GT4 Berlinetta Boxer took those traditions, tore them into tiny pieces and threw them out the window into the prevailing breeze. For the new Pininfarina-designed GT4 BB, Ferrari’s V12 engine was simply too big to fit within the confines of the body. With the transmission attached to the rear of the engine as usual, the unit would simply not fit in the body either longitudinally or transversely.
At the time, Ferrari’s Grand Prix cars were using flat, horizontally-opposed, or boxer, engines and the lessons learned at the race track helped Ferrari to design a horizontally-opposed engine with the pistons located on opposite sides of the crankshaft centerline. One of the advantages of this engine layout is a reduced engine height. Ferrari’s flat, twelve-cylinder engine was low enough to be mounted above the five-speed transmission so that the engine/transmission package could be accommodated longitudinally behind the passenger compartment of the GT4 BB, but ahead of the rear wheels in a classic mid-engine layout.
Berlinetta Boxer performance and pedigree
The 365 GT4 body was designed by Leonardo Fioravanti and Pininfarina, and was based on their Ferrari P6 show car, a research prototype first shown to the public in 1968 at the Turin Salon. The 365 GT4 BB made its debut as a prototype in 1971 at the Turin Motor Show and was released for sale in 1973 at the Paris Motor Show. Ferrari made 387 GT4 BBs through 1976, but none were officially imported into the U.S. as the car did not meet the safety regulations and emission standards then in force.
Producing 360 horsepower, the 4.4-liter, 12-cylinder, double overhead cam Boxer engine could propel the 2,470 pound GT4 BB from 0 to 100 km/hr (62 mph) in about 5.5 seconds with a claimed top speed of 188 mph, although later road tests gave the top speed as around 175 mph. This was the first Ferrari engine to drive the overhead cams with belts instead of cam chains, making the engine, as one reviewer put it, “a bit of a mechanical diva.” With a wheelbase of 98.4 inches and an overall length of 172 inches, the GT4 BB could accommodate two people, but little else. Front and rear disc brakes provided the stopping power.
365 GT4 BB racing
The very capable road performance of the 365 GT4 BB didn’t translate into much racing success. Experts believe that the weight of the engine and transmission centered over the rear axle, giving the GT4 BB a front-to-rear weight balance ratio of 40:60, did not give the car sufficient cornering power to run ahead of the competition at the track.
Two competition 365 GT4 BBs were built in 1974 by Luigi Chinetti’s semi-factory racing organization, the North American Racing Team (NART). Chassis 18139 first entered the 1975 Daytona 24 Hours, but failed to finish. The next raced proved to be its best finish ever, a sixth place overall and sixth in GTO Class at the 1975 Twelve Hours of Sebring. NART continued racing the 365 GT4 BB at Le Mans in 1977 and 1978, the 1978 Daytona 24 Hours, and the 1978 Watkins Glen 6 Hours. To its credit, the car finished each race, with a best finish of third in class at Le Mans in ’78. The second chassis, 18095, was withdrawn from the 1975 Le Mans following practice, along with all of the other NART cars. The chassis was converted back to road use and was damaged in a garage fire in the early 1980s.
GT4 Berlinetta Boxer values
Hagerty estimates the average value of a 1975 365 GT4 BB to be about $640,000, with a range of $758,000 for one in #1 concours condition to $580,000 for one in #4 fair condition. Values increased 33% to 45% from May 2015 to September 2015, but have been flat since then.
If you are looking for a 365 GT4 BB, remember that only 387 were ever made. In addition to the small overall number, none were officially imported into the U.S. as Ferrari didn’t certify the engine to meet U.S. emission standards. Some cars were imported and converted to meet U.S. safety and emission regulations, but beware of these cars, since the conversion work was largely undocumented and may not have achieved the highest quality standards.
Of course, experts differ on the investment potential of the 365 GT4 BB as they do about many other Ferraris. Some believe that the BB is undervalued and, if so, this makes it currently a good investment. Even if the values should stay flat, the 365 GT4 BB is rare, great-looking, and has a Ferrari twelve-cylinder engine howl that’ll raise the hackles on every animal within a hundred yards. What’s not to like?
Ferrari 1973 Catalog – http://www.classiccarcatalogue.com/FERRARI%201973.html
Ultimate Car Page – http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/1639/Ferrari-365-GT4-BB.html
Car Styling – http://www.carstyling.ru/en/car/1968_ferrari_p6/
QV500.com Car Guides – http://web.archive.org/web/20081008041831/http://www.qv500.com/ferrariboxerp4.php