Can a masterpiece be improved by a copy made years later? The answer may be yes, looking for example at the famous “Virgin of the Rocks” by Leonardo Da Vinci. The first version of this work, now kept in the Louvre, was painted some time between 1483 and 1486, while the second, found at the National Gallery in London, was completed between 1506 and 1508.
The differences between these two versions may seem imperceptible to a casual observer, but not when subject to in-depth analysis. Similarly, the F512 M is a reworking of the Testarossa from the 1980s, but an improvement on it in many important details. The F512 M is not only the most developed version of the Testarossa series, but is also the rarest. It was the last of the Ferraris with the centrally positioned twelve-cylinder boxer engine, derived from the famous 312 T that dominated Formula 1 in the 1970s. Obviously Ferrari technicians profoundly revised and optimised the unit fitted to the F512 M, particularly in terms of its thermodynamic characteristics and kinematics, with undoubted benefits for maximum power, now increased to 440 hp. The increase in power provided improved acceleration over the previous model and, because various parts of the car were now lighter, there was also a better power to weight ratio. The letter “M” that appears next to the F512, and that indicates the “Modified” version of the car, was no mere marketing operation, but emphasises the in-depth work carried out on every part of the model. This can be seen, for example, in the improved aerodynamic penetration, achieved through big changes to the lines and the shape both at the nose and the tail. However, the Pininfarina designers and Maranello engineers focussed mainly on the front.
The new nose line was closely related to that of the 355 model and with the style of the 456 GT 2 + 2. The most radical change in the appearance of the front, from the original Testarossa or the 512 TR was the disappearance of the double retractable headlamps, replaced by fixed omofocal type units protected by a glass cover. The bonnet was fitted with a pair of small NACA ducts, situated towards the windscreen, which convey air to the improved air conditioning system. The stain black full-width horizontal grille in the tail is smaller and its sides contain new circular twin rear lights, in stylistic homage to the history of the company. The F512 M, which replaced the 512 TR, was presented at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn of 1994 although it was shown in secret at Maranello to a number of foreign specialist magazines by official Scuderia driver, Jean Alesi. This car also uses an “F” (for Ferrari) as a prefix to the model numbers. In this case it indicates as previously on the 512 TR, its five-litre engine capacity and the number of cylinders.
However, the suffix “M”, in addition to indicating the “Modified” version, is itself a tribute to the letter that Ferrari used on the 512 S competition sports car prototypes of the early 1970s when they were updated to the 512 M.