Few remember the 712 Can Am. Why should they? It never won a race and barely competed in two seasons of competition here in America. It does, however, have one thing going for it: the largest engine Ferrari ever built.
The 712 Can Am followed a pretty straightforward naming scheme. Can Am pointed out that the car ran in the barely regulated/completely unhinged Canadian/American sports prototype racing championship from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The 12 stood for the number of cylinders. (Twelve.) The seven was a bit of a misnomer, actually.
This car houses a 6.9-liter (it’s precisely 6860cc) naturally aspirated V12. Ferrari had never built a V12 so large, and it never did again. We’ve seen a number of 6.0-liter and 6.3-liter 12s in the meantime, but never one quite so voluminous as this one. In Ferrari’s own words it is “its biggest ever engine.”
The reason why it was built was because Can Am back in 1971 was dominated by absolutely huge displacement engines, like the 8.0-liter and 8.3-liter Chevy V8s that McLaren was running at the time. Ferrari wanted to compete, and it made an engine presumably as big as it could.
The chassis, if you’re curious, was fairly standard fare for Ferrari. The 712 was a one-off modified from an existing 512 endurance racing car, chopped down for better speed on short sprint races.
The problem was in spite of making 680 horsepower according to Ferrari, the car couldn’t quite hang with the competition. Mario Andretti ran it to fourth place once in 1971, and by 1972 the car was totally outclassed by Porsche. The Germans has started running turbocharged engines in the 917 and outpowered the rest of the field.
So the 712 quietly faded into the history books. Well, not exactly quietly. This thing absolutely screams.
Listen to the thing run in some recent vintage races and you’ll know what I mean.