1979 Ferrari 512 BB LM Silhouette
1979 Ferrari 512 BB LM Silhouette
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Following the 1976 development of the original 365 GT4 BB into the 5-liter Berlinetta Boxer, speculation surged about the model’s competition potential. Enzo Ferrari approved four examples to be prepared for the 1978 24 Hours of Le Mans, henceforth known as the 512 BB/LM. These cars were powered by a more highly developed version of the 5-liter flat-12, featured reduced curb weight, and were crowned with a chin spoiler and a large rear wing to improve downforce.
Unfortunately, the 512’s transaxle was no match for the uprated engine, forcing four early retirements, but clientele were sufficiently intrigued to justify further development. A second series of BB/LM examples was approved that featured Lucas fuel injection, boosting output to 480 horsepower with improved mid-range torque. The transaxle was strengthened, oil-cooling radiators were added, and the brakes and suspension were upgraded. Weight was further reduced to 2,370 pounds, and the chassis were mounted with new Pininfarina coachwork developed in a wind tunnel, referred to as the “Silhouette.”
After three examples debuted at the 1979 24 Hours of Daytona (including an entry by Luigi Chinetti’s NART), the new 512 BB/LM went on to finish 10th overall at Le Mans in 1980, and 5th a year later. The short production run of 29 cars was enjoyed by preferred clients at various circuits through the mid-1980s, remaining surprisingly competitive for several years.
A PARTICULARLY DISTINGUISHED ‘SILHOUETTE’
This beautifully presented 512 BB/LM is a particularly important example of the potent competition car, claiming the most successful vintage racing career of any of its brethren, as well as matching-numbers authenticity. According to the research of marque expert Marcel Massini, and as confirmed by a Ferrari Classiche Red Book, chassis number 29511 completed assembly in November 1979, finished in Rosso paint and trimmed with a Nero cloth interior. The 13th of 29 examples built, the 512 was distributed to the Wide World of Cars in Spring Valley, New York, accompanied by a spare racing engine (internal number 034).
In early 1980, the Ferrari was sold to John Gelles of Chappaqua, New York, and under the watchful eyes of Gelles and his brother William (competition Ferrari collectors who also owned a short-wheelbase 250 GT California Spider Competizione, a 250 LM, a 250 GTO, a Dino 206 S, and a 312 Formula One car), the 512 commenced a long record of racing use, starting with the Ferrari Club of America regional meet at Bridgehampton in May 1982. Two years later the car was race-prepared with suspension and steering modifications conducted by Lee Dykstra of Fabcar in Atlanta.
In May 1984 the BB/LM was entered by Equipco as race #21 at the IMSA GTP Coca Cola 500 at Lime Rock, finishing 13th overall while driven by a team of Bill Gelles, Steve Cohen, and Enzo De Pasquale. Two months later the Silhouette finished 17th overall at the Camel Continental Double 3-Hour event at Watkins Glen, and in September 1984 the car finished 20th at the New York 500 KM at Watkins Glen.
Pleased with the BB/LM’s initial performances, the Gelles brothers decided to enter a more significant race with upgraded driving talent, retaining the more experienced IMSA driver Don Walker to temporarily join the team for what was undoubtedly the car’s most important accomplishment. At the 24 Hours of Daytona in February 1985 the Ferrari finished an impressive 16th overall and 9th in class, the best finish ever recorded at Daytona by a 512 BB/LM. Attempting to follow up on this success, the 512 was entered at the 12 Hours of Sebring a month later, but Gelles and Cohen were only able to keep the car in the race through the 54th lap before mechanical issues forced an early retirement.
In the mid-1980s the Gelles brother sold the Ferrari to marque collector Anthony Wang of Lloyd Harbor, New York, and he had the 512 repainted in French Blue, while entrusting Frank Kehr and Shoreland Racing Ltd to oversee the car’s maintenance. Mr. Wang drove the car in several vintage events, including Joe Marchetti’s Chicago International Historic Races at Road America in July 1988, and the FCA National Meeting at Road America a week later. In June 1989 the BB/LM was driven at the FCA National Meeting and NART Reunion held at Stouffer’s Pine Isle Resort at Lake Lanier and Road Atlanta, after which it was reportedly placed in storage for the following decade.
By 2000 the Ferrari was sold to Leigh and Leslie Keno, identical twins residing in New York. Leigh Keno is perhaps best known as the creative force behind the well-known PBS program Antiques Roadshow. During this ownership the 512 was exhibited at the Tutto Italiano meeting held in May 2005 at the Larz Anderson Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts. The car was also enjoyed in vintage racing at the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge at Road America in August 2000, and consecutive appearances at the Monterey Historic Races in 2008 and 2009. At the latter of the two Monterey appearances the Silhouette was fitted with its spare engine, internal number 034.
In late 2011 the Ferrari was acquired by the consignor, and shortly after acquiring the 512 the owner applied for certification from Ferrari Classiche. The car was soon issued a Red Book that confirms the continued presence of all the major factory-equipped matching-numbers mechanical components. Following certification, the consignor submitted the car to the respected Dennison International in Seattle, Washington, for a comprehensive restoration to original standards by the company’s racing division, including a full cosmetic refinish in the original color combination.
Over the last 11 years the 512 has been presented four times at the Cavallino Classic, and at the 2014 Cavallino the BB/LM won the Trofeo di Florida at the associated race. The Ferrari has also been exhibited at two major events celebrating marque anniversaries, participating in the 60th anniversary celebration of Ferrari North America in Beverly Hills in October 2014, and the Ferrari 70th Anniversary Celebration at Pebble Beach in August 2017.
Fitted today with its matching-numbers engine and transaxle (which have been rebuilt by respected specialist Chris Dugan, of Dugan Enterprises in Oceanside, California), and accompanied by the correct spare motor (which was recently rebuilt by Butch Dennison, prepared for further racing use), this Maranello speed machine is furthermore offered with an extra set of BBS racing wheels, and an extra racing nose. Claiming the fastidious care of just four documented caretakers throughout its lifetime, the outstanding 512 BB/LM makes a strong case as being the most significant example of the competition-engineered model. It invites the next caretaker to indulge in hot laps or vintage racing at major events, or it may be presented with confidence on important concours fields.
Regardless of application, chassis number 29511 is sure to thrill race participants and admirers alike, as a superlative example of one of Maranello’s fiercest modern competition cars.