“It is not the most powerful sports model sold today,” we said. “That distinction probably belongs to the 4.1-litre America Ferrari which is just going into production – but its high speed acceleration exceeds anything previously recorded in The Autocar road tests.”
We found the 212 Export’s 140bhp V12 could propel it from 0-80mph in an average of 16.2sec, and 0-100mph in 22.5sec. And even then, our test car was limited – having just 400km on the clock, it was limited to 6500rpm – “the peak of its power curve, but not the absolute limit of its capabilities.” We also had to be kind to the gearbox, which included not maxing out first gear.
“Ferrari’s chief tester accelerated smoothly away from 10mph up to over 90mph, still in fifth gear, as though he were driving the most tractable of family cars, but at a pace which few cars could equal even when driven flat out through the gears.”
We also said that the smooth progression in gear from 1000 up to 6500rpm “brings to mind the gas turbine cars of the future”. Eh?
Due to a near-flat torque curve from 3000 to 5000rpm, “the rate of acceleration on each gear is maintained over a wide range of speed.” This meant that despite being as fast as previous 2.0 and 2.3-litre Ferraris, the 212 Export could be driven much more “lazily” while still giving “all the performance that most people can use”.
“However,” we said, “there are subtleties in food, wine, painting and music, which only the initiated can savour fully, and the same applies in motoring. There are few machines which have a capacity for brilliant performance and instant response to the will of the driver, but yield their best only to the skilful hand which controls them with sensitive appreciation, and the Ferrari is one of them.”
We certainly didn’t find the gearbox easy to use; of the five gears (a novel concept at the time), fourth gave direct drive, while second, third and fifth were in constant mesh, with fifth being geared up. “The box has to be learned, but it yields rewards in a complete mastery over the vehicle which is not at present to be enjoyed by any driver who hands over control of his transmission to a series of oil pumps and electrical relays”.
You needed a flick of the throttle if you wanted to shift, but the instant response from the 212 Export’s 2.5-litre engine made this no problem at all.
“The hardened car critic will carry in his memory for years those first few moments of acceleration, with the wind howling, the engine screaming and the horizon rushing to meet him. He is happy just to hurtle down a straight stretch of road and enjoy the strange intoxication of speed. Cornering, he tells himself, can come later, and then he realizes that he has just swept through an S-bend at 80mph instinctively, safely, and almost without noticing it.”