Myths and Legends Episode II. Whether it has been due to racing purposes, or for the different needs of an exotic clientele, Ferrari built a wide array of engine displacements, going from the IL4 “bastard child” of solely 850cc, for the Ferrarina, to the big and heavy V12, 7-Litre, made just for Can-Am racing. We all know the latter to be the biggest engine ever built by the Prancing Horse. This was so, until an article wrote during previous summer by former racing driver Arturo Merzario for an illustrious Italian magazine made public the existence of an even bigger engine in the history of the brand: the 8.5-litre V12. Merzario claims in fact that during the Interseries race hosted at Imola in 1971, the modified 512M that we all know to have been the testbed for the 7-litre engine that would have raced in North America was instead fitted with a prototype 8.5-litre V12. That is not all; the engine according to Merzario was capable of delivering 1100 hp! It is enough information to shake the ground, to shed light into an incredible revelation about the, by far, biggest and more powerful engine ever built by Ferrari. Merzario tells that the new engine was so strong that he burned the clutch almost immediately going out of the pits, getting the gearbox stuck in between first and second gear. After being gently compared to a donkey for his finesse by Forghieri, the gearbox was then brought back to Maranello on a Fiat 124 Familiare for repair. After some quick fix, it was ready to race again and Merzario just dominated the race, giving almost 2 seconds in qualifying to Chris Craft on his McLaren M8E, and concluding both heats more than 30 seconds ahead of him, outpacing everyone else on the field. At this point, according to the Italian driver, Ferrari had proven his point against the competition. The engine was sealed and never brought back on the racetrack again. It is an incredible story. It would explain even more the staggering victory in that race, and it would be something very Ferrari-like to do: to just race an engine once and then abandon it when it has proven his clear superiority to the adversaries. Moreover, an 1100hp Ferrari engine, built in 1971, would be a massive revolution in the history of motor racing. However, could it really be so? Some things do not quite add up to this account. First, let us put everything into context. It is the beginning of 1971. The 512 has been evolved into the M specifications, much more competitive than the S model, but the production line has been entirely sold to customers. Ferrari will not officially race the car for the ’71 World Sportscar Championship and will instead focus all of its resources on the new-born 312P, with the innovative “boxer” engine that shows much more promise. The 312B in F1 has been evolved into the B2, and expectations are high for it to win the new championship. This is where the development of a new engine for the Can-Am series falls. Ferrari races on and off in this championship since 1967 with poor results. In 1971, he has drivers like Mario Andretti and Jackie Ickx, both free from commitment to the European WSC, to contest the wealthy series. What they need is a truly competitive car. Enzo then decides to build a monster engine, which should be ready for April. Now, what we know so far is that this engine would have been the 7-litre, which was first raced at Imola on May 2. There have been rumours that the engine was not yet ready for the race, and the old 6.3-litre from the 612P was used instead. This is not particularly important now in our investigation. What is, is that the new engine was then actually brought in summer to North America to run, where, however, competed only mid-season in one race at Watkins Glen. Here Andretti managed to qualify fifth, and despite losing the rear wing and spun he still got the car fourth on the finishing line. Not the best result, but the car showed promise. Still, the project was suddenly abandoned. First, Ickx was no longer available since the dramatic death of Giunti at Buenos Aires required him to take his place on the 312P development. Second, the 712 needed much more development while McLaren proved again to have in the M8F a car able to easily trump the competition, winning eight out of ten races at the end of that season. The 712 was just sold to the NART team and left to their care. At this point, if really an 8.5-litre engine existed in Ferrari and proved so strong at Imola, why not take it to the Can-Am championship. Why seal it after the 300km race? Merzario says that Ferrari had proven his point already. Did he really? The Imola race was only a minor one. Just a quick look at the entries proves that none of the big teams, like Porsche from WSC and McLaren and Lola from Can-Am, really entered in strong forces to contest the race. The modified 512M driven by Merzario was almost on a class of its own, where the only real competition came from Craft, who in those days was not still an experienced driver. Moreover, while Merzario improved his old 512S lap time of about half a second compared to the 500km race hosted at Imola in September 1970, he was still slower than Rodriguez’ Porsche 917. Therefore, what did really Enzo prove by winning that race? In addition, developing an 8.5-litre engine, which surely would not have had any application on road cars produced by Ferrari, was a tremendous investment, both time wise and economic wise. Why then waste all of that to just win an obscure race? Lastly, when the 7-litre engine brought to Watkins Glen showed it was not enough against Lola and McLaren, why not retain the car, take the 8.5L big brother at that point, and give it another try, impressing the competitors. Winning the Can-Am season would really have proven the point, not just Imola. Another problem is the power output declared by Merzario. It is hard to believe that the engine was actually capable of delivering 1100 hp. That kind of power delivery was matched only by the Porsche 917/30, which had two big turbos to help with. Aspirated engine in those days could not really achieve those figures. The 712 itself showed a steep fall in the hp/litre ratio, falling from the 122hp/l of the 512M to 99hp/l of the 712, which is an enormous difference given that the latter is an evolution of the former. Moreover, the 512M with its 5-litre engine was capable of delivering 610 hp at 9000 rpm. The 712 was stuck at 680 hp at barely 7000 rpm. If we imagine the displacement to have been raised then at 8.5-litre, we cannot credit the engine more than 800 hp at best, although a range of 700 to 750 hp is much more believable. Italian journalists from Autosprint magazine, back in 1971 during the Imola weekend, were able to make some close up photographs of the new engine, and while they testify the clutch fail story of Merzario, they tell a different truth about the engine. One of the photographers was in fact able to snatch a picture from the engine after it was taken down the transporter bay. A tag was still attached on the fuel injection distribution, which said “Eng. 7000” (translated). While this may prove that at Imola it was the brand 7L engine that was actually raced and not the old 6.3L, it proves also that it was not an 8.5L. If Ferrari was in fact there to make a point, to prove how strong their engines could be and not just for testing, why lie to everyone and even deliberately put a wrong tag? Who would they trick, their own mechanics, since the tag was meant to be removed immediately before warm-up procedures? Therefore, in the end, we are left with a question: did this 8.5-Litre engine, the biggest ever produced by the Prancing Horse, really exist, or it has been just one of the usual infamous pranks from Forghieri to his drivers, which started a myth? Like what you see at RaceDepartment? Follow us on social media! Instagram Twitter Facebook Youtube Twitch Notes:  A. Merzario, Meteora Rossa, «Ruoteclassiche», July Issue, 2017, p. 19.  Merzario clocked a 1’34’’ lap time back in September 1970 at Imola with a 512S, while doing a 1’33’’420 in May with the 512M fitted with the Can-Am engine the year later. Rodriguez in a Porsche 917 did 1’33’’400 in September 1970.