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The Magic of M

25 gennaio 2021

Ben Pulman

Modificata: to modify, enhance and evolve, in the continuous pursuit of improving overall performance. That is the ethos of the letter ‘M’ when applied to a Ferrari, and this is its story at the House of Maranello

The first Modificata Ferrari was, fittingly, a race car – the 512 M. A development of the 512 S, racing experience led our engineers to introduce new suspension and more powerful brakes. The lighter, more powerful V12 engine featured higher efficiency cylinder heads, and the aerodynamics evolved with sleeker bodywork.

The 512 M took to the track at the end of the 1970 season, racing for the first time at the Zeltweg circuit in Austria. A month later, at the 9 Hours of Kyalami in South, the 512 M took its inaugural victory, proving the merit of the modifications.

The first road-going Ferrari to wear the Modificata moniker was the most highly developed – and rarest – of the Testarossa models. Revealed at the 1994 Paris Motor Show, the F512 M featured faired-in headlights, upgraded braking and suspension systems, and the cabin was more elegant.

Just as with the 512 TR predecessor, the name referred to the 5-litre engine and the number of cylinders, in this case a 180-degree flat-12 – but a lightened crankshaft, titanium alloy conrods and new pistons increased power to 440cv.

A second road-going V12 Ferrari was subjected to the Modificata treatment in 1998, when Ferrari unveiled the 456M GT. A true four-seat coupé, the luxurious 456 GT was the first modern Ferrari to revert to a front engine and rear-wheel drive layout since the 1985 412.

The evolved 456M gained revised suspension, together with delicate alterations to the exquisite design. Detailed changes were made around the radiator grille and indicator lights, as well as to the bonnet and shape of the pop-up headlights.

Early in the new millennium, Ferrari presented a V12 front-engined, rear-wheel drive berlinetta with the M moniker. The 575M Maranello was a substantial revision of the 550 Maranello, with the enlarged 5.75-litre engine marking the first time an F1-style gearbox had been used on a road-going Ferrari V12.

The design was altered only to meet the 575M’s technical demands: new intakes at the front improved the aerodynamics, and the air flow was honed around the wheels and underneath the car. A new high-performance adaptive damping system independently controlled all four wheels.

Most recently, and in the past 12 months no less, there have been two Modificata vehicles created by the House of Maranello, showcasing a mindset of constant evolution that comes from motorsport. One is the Portofino M, a 2+ spider with a host of new technical and design features, while the other, the 488 GT Modificata, is designed to excel on track – just as the 512 M did.

The Portofino M, as the legendary ‘M’ suffix suggests, is an evolution of the Ferrari Portofino, and most notable among the revision are an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and a five-position Manettino, an absolute first for a Ferrari GT convertible. Power from the twin-turbo engine is increased to 620cv, and the aerodynamic performance is improved while at the same time retaining a harmonious design that is both noble and assertive.

Bringing the Modificata name full circle is the 488 GT Modificata. A limited edition model, it incorporates technology developed for the 488 GT3 and 488 GTE race cars, but transcends the limits imposed by technical and sporting regulations to exploit its full potential. Freed from the FIA Balance of Performance, the twin-turbo V8 now produces in the region of 700cv, while intense development at the Nürburgring Nordschleife sees the carbon fibre body generate over 1000kg of downforce at 230km/h.

That is the history of Modificata so far, but precisely because it stands for the continuous pursuit of improving overall performance, it won’t be the end of the story.