In 1967, the 512 was born out of a series of bad decisions by racing’s ruling body, the CSI, that were aimed at slowing down the 7-liter monsters like the Ford Mk IVs, which were dominating sports car racing. So the prototype class had a 3-liter limit imposed on it while the sports cars could do almost anything they liked up to 5-liters, provided 50 cars had been built. This figure was later reduced to 25 examples. In 1968, the CSI thought they had managed to control the growth of racing engines, but in early 1969, Porsche unveiled the 917 and immediately it was evident that the 3-liter prototypes were in trouble. Some four weeks later, Ferrari announced that it too had 25 new cars, designated the 512S – 5 for 5 liters, 12 for the number of cylinders and S for Sport. As the story goes, when the man from the CSI came to see the 25 cars, Enzo Ferrari pulled a fast one on him. Whereas at Porsche, all 25 cars were neatly parked in a row, at Maranello, the CSI rep was taken to see the first 13 cars and was then escorted to lunch before they would trek over to Modena to see the other 12. Of course, during the long lunch, 12 of the first 13 were trucked over to Modena for the afternoon inspection!
It was against the backdrop of Fiat support, and with a 6-liter engine already in use in Can-Am, that the 512 rapidly developed into an attempt to challenge Porsche supremacy. The 512 was based largely on the design layout of the successful P4, and the 4993 cc engine was derived from the 612’s 6.2-liter power plant, with a new crankshaft and a reduction in the bore and stroke to 87 x 70 mm. Many standard Ferrari sports car traditions found their way into the 512, including the single-piece crankcase sump, the Borg and Beck clutch and 5-speed Ferrari gearbox with ZF limited slip differential.