Thursday, 22 March 2012

Eric Clapton's Ferrari SP12 Is A Modern 512BB Without The 12

If you're super-mega-rich, and if Ferrari really like you, then you can go over there and ask them to build the car of your dreams. Music legend and massive Ferrari fan Eric Clapton happens to be super-mega-rich, so he did just that and asked them to make a special version of the 458 Italia that pays homage to the 512BB of the 1970s with retro touches, two-tone paint and Enzo headlights. One word - YUMMY.

After a launch event at snazzy prestige car dealer HR Owen to celebrate the UK launch of the 458 Spider, these pictures started appearing on Ferrari collector Jim Glickenhaus's Facebook page and in a few other places, depicting a 458-shaped car with clear references to the 512 Berlinetta Boxer, which featured a 5-litre 12-cylinder engine. Originally, two years ago, Mr. Clapton commissioned this car to have a V12 engine in it for the full effect, but in the end Ferrari couldn't bend that way, so it still has the 458's 4.5-litre 8-cylinder engine, which makes a healthy 562bhp and 398lb/ft of torque. Perhaps an MR V12 would've been too Enzo-ish for them after Glickenhaus's P4/5.

At the front there's a simple '70s grille instead of the demented smiley face of modern Fezzas and gills on the bonnet, which all looks great to my eyes. While the 512BB had pop-up headlights, the modern Ferrari aren't really that keen to put what's effectively a pair of retractable air-brakes on the front, hence the Enzo F60 lights, which fit the car better than the 458's usual LED-covered ones, if only because they're simpler and less showy. The two-tone colour scheme references the 512's best-known look, as do the scoop/vent things on the engine cover. Normally I would say Ferrari should leave Lamborghini to do the matte black bodykits, but actually this looks pretty good IMO. At the back, the triple exhaust (an homage to the F40) and the tail lights are still where they are on the normal 458 Italia, as are the 19" wheels. To me, that rear bumper is a little chunky, but the rest of it, still clearly based on the 458, has a simplicity in that works really well with the slinky athleticism of the rest of the car.

It makes me think: the mantra of "More is better" has moved into the styling department of cars these days, which is why Ferrari's "mass-production" V12 cars look so overstyled, because in a way they sort of have to be to stand out. Sure, the F12's side vents do something clever, but why does the front of it (and the FF) have to look like a big Pokémon? And what use is the uter-arse on the rear bumper? That just doesn't make any sense unless it's a subliminal message to tell nearby women you're the right guy to have babies with...

McLaren went with a clean, functional, uncluttered design for the MP4-12C and got criticised for being boring (unfairly, in my opinion), just because it doesn't have creases all over it. I think, with the influence Ferrari must surely have, even outside of F1, they should try to balance MP4-12C and F12 to make something similar to this SP12 (God these all have such boring names...), without necessarily making it retro, as apparently Ferrari hate that. If they got this balance right and it caught on, which there's every chance of happening, we could go back to having gorgeous cars again like we had even in the 1990s at Ferrari, instead of great-but-overstyled cars like we're getting now. A man can dream.

Anyway, one can only go on about some pictures of a rebodied Ferrari 458 for so long, so I'll finish up by saying it has a personalised number plate, before posting all the pictures I can find of it below (some of them are blurry). So it's registered SP12 EPC. For those of you that don't know how British number plates work, the first two letters are an area code, the number refers to a period of 6 months it was registered in (12 = 1st March - 1st September 2012) and the last three letters are any letters you want, to make the plate unique. Obviously, as it's called the SP12, Ferrari (or Mr. Clapton) may well have paid extra for SP, rather than going to Dundee in Scotland to register it. EPC on the end stands for Eric Patrick Clapton. Initials are normally a good way to choose your last letters, especially when the entire body has been personalised as well. Interesting titbit: Eric Clapton once had a 512BB in dark grey, but crashed it. You can see the wreckage on the cover of Slowhand.

So yes. No word on what it cost, but this will forever be the only one, so watch out for it at his next concert. Here's a collection of pictures from the HR Owen launch event, in no particular order:

Just there at the top, above the small picture of a woman in a hat.
Black plastic roof spoiler is yet another nod to the 512BB
I like the old mixed with new, especially when both sets of elements are from Ferrari
Even a retro door handle and fuel cap have been added
From this angle it's still very 458-ish. You can also see the shift paddles for the DCT just behind the steering wheel
A view down the side. Now that's a nice shape. The lines of the 512BB made modern
The rear bumper looks chunkier from this angle, but it might be the lighting
The paint looks like a special finish of Rosso Corsa, but it might just be AutoGlym at work...
Can you commit identity fraud with a number plate? I sincerely hope not...
I'm not sure those gills are actually functional, but they sure look pretty.
I'm pretty sure that's all of them. But what would you ask for? A 458 with styling from the F355? Now that would play Layla on my heartstrings...

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