Ferrari Names and Numbers explained
As it is Ferrari’s 70th anniversary I’ve been thinking about the various designations and naming conventions Ferrari has used over the years. To an outsider they can seem confusing and taken out of context names such as 275GTB/4 can seem as exciting as a photocopier. Here is a hopefully simple guide to how the designations work.
The original Ferrari number system was simple if slightly unusual. The three digit number represented the cubic capacity of one of the engine’s cylinders. Therefore the original 125 when multiplied by 12 cylinders = 1500cc yes a 1.5 liter V12. This system with a couple of exceptions was applied to every front engined V12 Ferrari up to and including the 456 (5.5 litre). It was also applied to the big banger 4 cylinder racers of the early 50's such as the 860 Monza (3.4 litre 4 cylinder anyone!). The couple of exceptions were the 400 Superamerica and 500 Superfast where the engine capacity in cubic centimetres was divided by ten (4000cc and 5000cc respectively).
This system was all fine when Ferrari made mostly race cars as it did not matter that a 500 Mondial (2.0 litre 4 cylinder) had a smaller engine than a 250 Mille Miglia (3.0 litre V12). However when it comes to road cars and the need to market them, a new system was needed for the smaller engined cars with less than 12 cylinders.
As a result the Dino series of road and race cars followed a different pattern. The first two digits represented the capacity and the last, the number of cylinders. Therefore the 246 is a 2.4 litre 6 cylinder. This format was continued into the V8 Ferraris up to the 348. The flat 12 (well 180 degree V12) cars also adopted this convention for the 512 Berlinetta Boxer. 512 = 5.0 litre 12 cylinders.
Once Ferrari got into what is now known as the Montezemolo era, after Ferrari’s new chief, it gets a bit more confusing. The 355 has a unique numbering system whereby the 5 at the end represents the number of valves per cylinder. The next V8’s (360, 430) and V12's (550, 575) follow a common numbering scheme of again dividing the cubic capacity by 10. For the 612 Scaglietti Ferrari changed again as it follows the Dino method except the engine is actually a 5.75 litre and not a 6.0 litre as the designation might indicate. The 599 mostly follows the divide by ten method although this time it is not rounded up to 600.
With the launch of the 458 Italia, the V8's reverted to the original Dino method as this indicates 4.5 litres and 8 cylinders. Confusingly the 488 follows the old method used for the V12’s as 488 represents the capacity of a single cylinder.
The FF and F12 do not follow any previous convention while the 8 in the new 812 Superfast now relates to the power output - 800ps and the number of cylinders.
So that's how the numbering systems work. How about Ferrari names? Back to the 50's again, when production road cars could be split by their engine capacity. Cars fitted with the short block Colombo V12 were usually identified as Europas while long block Lampredi V12 engined cars were usually known as Americas. Often the bodies would be the same and the difference would be the engine.
Racing sports cars in the 50's had a variety of names Mille Miglia, or MM for short, was a popular choice for open sports racers from the 166 through to the 375, while Monza and Mondial were used for the 4 cylinder cars. The most famous racing Ferrari name of the 50's is Testa Rossa or red head for the 250 Testa Rossa series. The name came from the red cam covers on the engine.
Early Ferrari 250GT Competizione often referred to as a Tour De France at RMSothebys sale Monterey CA
Towards the end of 50's Ferrari started to do away with official names for their regular road cars, preferring number and lettering, such as 250GT. However despite Ferrari not giving the cars names themselves owners, and the trade often gave unofficial names to the cars, in part to differentiate otherwise similar named models. Early long wheelbase 250GT's are known as Tour De France's after the models victories in that event (the car version not the bike one). The 250 GTL is almost universally known as the Lusso (the L in GTL) despite steel bodied versions of the earlier 250 GT Passo Corto being designated Lusso spec as well. So how many readers are wondering what a Passo Corto is? In the English speaking world they are known as SWB's for Short Wheel Base! The SWB was followed by the most iconic of Ferrari designations with the 250 GTO or Gran Turismo Omologato.
Later in the 60's the Ferrari 275GTB gained a 4 camshaft engine and became known as the 275GTB/4 not exactly a name that rolls off the tongue easily which is probably why they are usually known simply as 4 cams'.
The 4 cam was replaced by another car with a mouthful of a name the 365GTB/4 which is almost universally known as the Daytona. The story goes that Ferrari was going to name this car Daytona after Ferrari's 1-2-3 finish in the 1967 Daytona 24 hours. The Daytona name was leaked to the press and Enzo so incensed dropped the name. Not sure if this is true although some of the design drawings and early stampings have the name Daitona stamped on them (there is no y in the Italian alphabet).
Of the same era as the Daytona is the Ferrari 365GT 2+2, this wins the prize for the most bizarre unofficial name. Due to its large size relative to the rest of the range they are often known as Queen Mary's after the passenger cruise liner.
Through the 70's the premier berlinetta Ferrari was the 365GT4 BB (and later 512 BB) the BB stood for Berlinetta Boxer on account of the Flat 12 engine, although the firing order means it is not actually a boxer engine. Not surprisingly these are usually known as Boxers.
In the 80's Ferrari went retro with its names and revived the Mondial and Testarossa names, the latter now concatenated from the two separate words used on the 250. The most famous Ferrari moniker was also revived with the ‘288’ GTO although the 288 part is another unofficial addition as to Ferrari the car is simply the Ferrari GTO
In the nineties and noughties there has been a bit of a role reversal. Ferrari's have names again but most seemed to be referred to by their 3 digit number only. How many people refer to the 360 as the Modena and the 550/575 as the Maranello? I bet most people have even forgotten that the 599 is actually officially known as the 599 GTB Fiorano.
In more recent times Ferrari also revived some more names from the past starting with the California. This is the third time Ferrari have used this name firstly with the famous 250 California derivatives of the 250 GT's and later the very rare (14 made) 365 California, a luxurious 2+2 cabriolet for the super-rich made in the mid-sixties. Ferrari have also portmanteau'd GTC4 from the 365GTC/4 and Lusso from the 250 Lusso to make GTC4Lusso Most recently the Superfast name was revived for the 812.
Finally let’s look at the names of Ferrari’s limited edition supercars. The F40 was named to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the company in 1987 and the F50 to celebrate the 50th even though it was launched two years before the anniversary in 1995 (apparently to ensure that US examples could be sold before tighter emission laws were introduced in the US). The follow up was launched in 2003 far too early to be called the F60 (that tag was applied to an F1 car and a recent limited edition F12 Spyder for the American market) and was instead named the Enzo Ferrari. Unsurprisingly this is universally shortened to Enzo. How do you follow a car named after the company’s legendary founder, you name it after the company itself with the Ferrari LaFerrari or in English, Ferrari the Ferrari. You have to wonder what the next limited edition Ferrari will be called?
All pictures by author