Ferrari V12: Victim of Legislation or the Petrol Head’s Last Stand?

For a petrol head, the future has been looking bleak for some time now. Constant vilifying of the internal combustion engine has culminated in a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel-fuelled cars by 2030 onwards, at least in the UK. Who knows what the future holds after that. Will the seemingly illogical push for electric fully take over or will there be a mix including hydrogen and synthetic fuel? All I know is, that the death of the naturally aspirated Ferrari V12, will mark the end of cars as we know it and signal a new chapter of power units not based on enjoyment, emotion or historical significance but something that’s in place for a practical reason, to get the job done of moving a vehicle from A to B. A cold, sterile and possibly joyless future.

The History of the Ferrari V12

Whether you love them or loathe them, Ferrari is the most recognisable car brand in the world and one thing has been at the backbone of their success in both racing and production cars, the naturally aspirated V12. The story starts all the way back in 1947 with small capacity V12 engines designed by Gioacchino Colombo. The Colombo V12 sat in some of Enzo’s greatest cars (the 250 GTO, the world’s most expensive car being one of them) and powered many to victories in different race series across the globe, sending Ferrari from a small manufacturer in Modena to a worldwide powerhouse based out of Maranello. Over its production, the Colombo V12 was heavily reworked going from 1497cc to 4943cc when it was retired in 1988. It took both double and single overhead cam heads, carburettor and fuel injection and wet and dry sump oil systems.
In the 1950s, Ferrari also used the Lampredi designed V12’s and for only 2 years the Jano V12 with much success although by 1959, they were both replaced by developments of the earlier Colombo V12.

1992 saw the introduction of the Dino V12 with the F116 variant first seeing production in the 456GT and the F113 variant being fitted in the 550 Maranello, replacing the 180 degrees V12’s used by the Testarossa among others.

The F140 V12 takes us up to the present day, first seeing service in the Enzo and the still on sale 812 superfast. Some would argue this engine marks the pinnacle of current production engine technology with 789bhp at a stratospheric near 9000rpm making it the most powerful naturally aspirated engine on sale.

Having established Ferrari as the most desirable road car brand it’s only right that their flagship engine sits at the top of their lineup. For the last 3 generations of their hypercars (F50, Enzo, LaFerrari) the V12 has been the go-to power unit. Why is this? It goes back to Enzo Ferrari himself. It was whilst working at Alfa Romeo that he fell in love with their V12 and when he went it alone, it was his choice for the heart of his special creations. From F1, sports car racing and road cars the V12 has been at the centre of Ferrari’s success. In my personal opinion, this could be broken down further by saying the V12 has to be mounted in the front of the car driving the rear wheels (Enzo was quoted saying “the horse doesn’t push the cart”), I believe these to be the purest expression of the Ferrari ethos.

Okay, now I have you on board with a love of the Ferrari V12, you will understand the significance if it becomes no more. If the top dog buckles to tighter regulations then you can kiss goodbye to your Chevy V8’s, Audi V10’s and Alfa Romeo V6’s. If a company as influential and powerful as Ferrari have their hand forced to cancel the production of their backbone product, other companies that produce high-performance engines as a sideshow to their main money-making, small petrol, diesel and electric power trains will not flinch to cancel them as well. The day the prancing horse’s production of V12 cries its last 9000rpm howl will be a sad day indeed.

Why Ferrari Could Hold the Key to the Future

There is hope, however. Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri has stated that Ferrari will never become a solely electric car maker, not even 50% of their sales in his lifetime. Now, I’m just speculating here but with their 70-year relationship with oil company Shell, the Scuderia could lead the way in producing a synthetic fuel that could save the internal combustion engine. The oil companies have huge financial recourses and the motivation to provide a product that will stop the electric exodus and bring customers back to their forecourt pumps. Ferrari themselves may also have influence over the Italian government, who already have plans to ban diesel cars from Rome and Milan and if Italy follows the lead of the UK, it would be at odds with the Ferrari CEO. Can the prancing horse persuade the government that the ICE can continue with a synthetic clean-burning fuel? If they can it could lead to other countries taking notice and making new laws that take synthetic fuel into consideration. Ferrari is one of the Crown Jewels of Italian industry and to jeopardise the jobs and income tax revenue would be foolish. Let’s not forget the kind of people who buy Ferrari’s, wealthy and sometimes powerful people who could also help shift the complete ban deadline.

Whatever happens, emissions regulations will get tighter and more stringent up to the point of a complete ban, so Ferrari and Shell, if you’re listening, get a move on and let the legacy of the V12 continue into an environmentally friendly future.

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