Ferrari's 312 Race Cars
story by David Cook
images by David Cook and Doug Breithaupt

Efsi - V12 (1966-1969)

Matchbox - 312B

Hot Wheels - 312PB
Hot Wheels - 312PB
Hot Wheels - 312PB

Polistil - 312PB Le Mans

Polistil - 312PB

Mario Andretti driving the Ferrari 312PB

It's the mid '70's at a Grand Prix venue in Europe; exotic sights and sounds are everywhere. Practice begins with British designed and built cars powered by Cosworth-Ford V-8 engines that represent most of the field. Suddenly a sound erupts over the track that is hard to describe, but impossible to escape; it's like a buzz saw cutting logs with nails in them! The 12-cylinder Ferrari's are revved-up and roll out onto the track!

The 312 family of Ferrari race car models pictured here represent a long period of success for the premier Italian marque with their common feature being the 3-liter, flat-12 engine. This "boxer" configuration grew out of a desire for a lower center of gravity and a cleaner airflow over the back of the car to the large rear wings that had recently sprouted.

The Efsi car pictured here is a good representation of the 60-degree V-12 models from 1966-69. These cars achieved a notable lack of victories that resulted in a higher than normal rate of turnover among drivers and engineers on the team. The usual Ferrari pressure-cooker was working overtime!

The answer to the problem was the 312B ("boxer") engine. First introduced in 1970, 312 engined cars had enough power to win some races but more often broke down. The yellow Matchbox model pictured here is a fairly good representation of these early 312B's.

In parallel to its F1 efforts, Ferrari saw an opportunity in sports cars with the new engine. The sporting authority had decreed a 3-liter limit to top-class prototype sports racers and the 312B just fit the bill. The result was the 312PB (prototype-boxer). After entering selected events in 1971 as a test, the PB won almost every race in 1972.The driver roster was a who's who of top F1 talent and the constructor's cup a foregone conclusion. The PB continued to win races in 1973 but lost the cup to newer model Matras and Alfa Romeos.

The several models shown here represent various configurations of this popular car. Hot Wheels made a zillion of these in many different colors; shown here are my well-used #30 and a beater that I repainted and decaled using techniques suggested in this publication by master modeler Tim Phelps! Next up is Doug's clean-looking #60, then a Politoys model showing the coupe version used at some longer distance races like LeMans. Shown last is the mother of them all, a Polistil in what it says is 1/55 scale, but it looks larger and dwarfs all the others. The paint, decals and other details are super, like most Polistil models.

With the sports car program becoming an expensive distraction, it was dropped in favor of total concentration on Formula One. The F1-312B breakthrough year was 1974; Clay Regazzoni and young sensation Niki Lauda each won races in B3 models; Regazzoni barely lost the Championship to Fittipaldi's Lotus 72. Doug's B3 by Polistil is beautiful, as usual. My well-worn Yatming is a cheap knock-off of the same model!

1975 was Lauda's first championship year in the new T (transverse gearbox) models. The best-looking T2 model is again the Polistil version of this car. The Majorette is slightly less detailed and sports a driver who is a bit conspicuous in bright blue plastic.

1976 saw both T2 and T3 (here by Tomica) models active in a Grand Prix year that featured just about everything in a titanic struggle between Lauda and James Hunt in a McLaren. While Lauda lost that year, he came back to win again in 1977. Ferrari won the F1 constructors cup three years in a row, 1975-77.

Our final diecast picture is the Polistil version of a T4, almost the end of the line for this species of Ferrari. Enzo Ferrari himself called this "the ugliest race car I ever built" but it's purposeful looks brought the factory the last driver's championship (1979 for Jody Scheckter) they would see for over 20 years. Below is a slot-car version of the T4. The 312 engine was abandoned after 1980 but had run up a most impressive record: 4 constructors and 3 drivers championships in a decade.

The Ferrari 312 established a great record for a team that manufactures both engine and chassis. The success of these wonderful race cars helped Ferrari sell their production cars and build on the reputation of the cars of the Prancing Horse.

312T4 in slot-car form

Polistil - 312B3

Yat Ming - 312B3

Polistil - 312T2

Majorette - 312T2

Tomica - 312T3

Polistil - 312T4

Ferrari's beautiful Boxer from the 312PB