It marked a comeback of sorts for Ferrari.
In 1969, the Italian automaker was dipping a toe back into racing again after a short hiatus which followed a squabble over rules. With their 3000cc prototype, the Ferrari 312P, the company hit the grid once again at the 12 Hours of Sebring with Mario Andretti and Chris Amon behind the wheel.
The pair managed a second place finish, but it was soon eclipsed by designs which featured lower drag than the Berlinettas. While it was, and is, a beautiful and exceptionally rare automobile, more daunting competition led to a limited production run for the 312P and consigned it to the scrap heap of history in a racing sense.
When Porsche debuted their 917, it was clear Ferrari would need more muscle to compete. So, at the end of the 1969 season, the only two remaining 312 Ps were sold off to the North American Racing Team. The official Ferrari racing team moved on to running the Ferrari 512 in 1970, and while one of the pair of 312P models raced again at the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans (and was among the 16 cars to finish) it was a done deal for the model.
Racing aficionados believe that, given the proper factory support, the 312P may have eventually dominated with its agility and speed. Its race-tuned engine generated 450 hp through twin overhead camshafts in each bank, four valves per cylinder and Lucas indirect fuel injection.
The 312P's limited production also means it is extremely expensive and time consuming to maintain for posterity.
Or it once was.
Now the advent of additive manufacturing technology has made it considerably simpler and less expensive to refurbish vintage, one-off, examples of cars like the 312P.
Using reverse engineering, a team led by German firm Voxeljet generated 3D maps of the 312's cylinder heads to ultimately create precise sand casting molds of seven components; one each for the upper and lower boxes, and 5 sand cores, to build the necessary parts for the restoration.
"Reverse engineering with 3D printing is by far the most efficient method for reproducing components that are no longer available," said the CEO of Voxeljet, Dr. Ingo Ederer. "It's the only way to reproduce certain components quickly and at reasonable cost. There is considerable demand for 3D printing in this area. We are, of course, very pleased that our technology was a contributing factor in the successful engine overhaul of a Ferrari 312P."
The molds were eventually sent to Wilhelm Funke to be cast in a special aluminum alloy.