Dream Deferred

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I’ve driven several Boxers, and am always amazed at what an evocative experience these beasts offer: The smell of leather mixed with an occasional whiff of fuel, the wide, raked windshield’s CinemaScope perspective of the oncoming road, the sound of the snarling engine sitting so close behind the cockpit, the click-clack of the gated shifter…. Let’s just say I’m tempted to put the pedal to the metal and disappear into the New Mexico desert, never to return.

When I punch the throttle, the flat-12 revs quickly, slinging the Boxer down the road with a deliciously hair-raising howl that transforms into a demonic shriek as the tachometer needle swings past 5,000 rpm. Peak torque arrives at 5,200 rpm, but the engine screams on with unabated urgency to its 7,100-rpm power peak. Even then, the flat-12 feels like it wants to keep spinning faster.

Straight-line acceleration is significantly stronger than in a stock 512, with knife-edged throttle response compared to the relatively lazy reactions of an injected Boxer engine. Aside from a slight flat-spot around 3,500 rpm (the engine is running a little rich because the carbs are jetted for sea level in Costa Mesa, not New Mexico’s altitudes), power output is incredibly linear, building like an express elevator as the engine rockets up the power band. The clutch is stout but the shift effort is pleasantly light, so it’s easy to clack into the next gear and start the show all over again.

The Ferrari’s performance is as addictive as it is impressive. Every clear length of road becomes another opportunity to take the engine to redline. And on a deserted stretch where I can see for miles ahead, it’s not long before I’m exploring triple-digit speeds, the Boxer hunkering down on its fat alloys and straining enthusiastically towards the horizon.

I had expected great things from the engine, but I wasn’t sure how the suspension changes would pan out. A stock 512 can be a scary car to drive quickly, its heavy lump of an engine, mounted high in the chassis, conspiring with a tall ride height to make fast sweepers a white-knuckled experience.

Happily, this is not the case with Jolley’s Ferrari. While it’s not nimble, this Boxer handles significantly better than stock, with less squat under hard acceleration and less dive under braking. Weight transfer is also far more controlled, eliminating the fear factor in fast bends. But the Boxer remains a relatively heavy car with a high center of gravity, and the mostly stock brakes, which are not great on a standard 512, are no match for this car’s newfound power.

These factors don’t diminish the thrill as the Boxer launches out of the bends on a euphoric wave of torque; the combination of power, noise and road feel is truly magnificent. Respect its limits, and this car delivers one of the most emotionally satisfying driving experiences I’ve had in a Ferrari.

Owner Jolley agrees. “When I get in it, I feel like I’m in my own world,” he says. “When you drive it, you realize it’s a really great machine. I’m really proud to have it. I waited 27 years to get it and had to make some sacrifices, but I’m glad I got it when I did.”

Also from Issue 105

  • 156 Sharknose re-creation
  • F1 race report
  • Driving a California at Goodwood
  • 512 BB
  • 458 Italia, Italian ceramics
  • ALMS: Season to date, test session
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