Ferrari’s ugliest F1 car? The 1973 312B3S ‘Spazzaneve’

F1 pictures

Ferrari 312B3, 3, 470150

You don’t ordinarily think of Ferraris as being unattractive but this beast was certainly hit with the ugly stick.

The 312B3, called the ‘Spazzaneve’ (‘snowplough’) for its distinctive front end, made an appearance in last week’s Monaco Historic Grand Prix (see the gallery here) but I thought such an unusual machine deserves an article of its own.

The troubled tale of its the car that was canned, reworked and finally raced is a reminder of what a total shambles the Scuderia could be before it became the crack squad it is today.

Jacky Ickx triumphed the 1972 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring Nordschleife and team mate Clay Regazzoni followed him home for a Ferrari one-two the likes of which we are quite used to seeing today.

But the following year Ferrari never made it on the top of the rostrum as a fierce political row broke out over the winter concerning the new 312B3 chassis.

Designer Mauro Forghieri conceived a wholly unusual and decidedly unattractive machine. And early tests did little to persuade the team that it had speed.

Ferrari at the time was often rent by internal political squabbles and Forghieri fell victim to just such an affair, the designer finding himself shunted off the F1 team at the start of 1973.

With that the team reverted to the 312B2 cars last used in 1971 for the first three races of 1973. It proved slow but reliable, Ickx and Arturo Merzario taking advantage of retirements in front of them to pick up points.

A revised version of the 312B3, without the distinctive front nose, finally raced at Montjuic Parc for the Spanish Grand Prix. The first three monocoques were manufactured in Northamptonshire because of industrial disputes in Italy.

But the 312B3 fared little better than the car it replaced over the following races and Enzo Ferrari didn’t even bother sending his red cars to the Dutch and German Grands Prix.

The lack of results from Ferrari pressed Fiat, who had bought the company four years earlier, into making changes, starting with demanding the return of Forghieri.

He set about revising the B3 and when the team arrived at Buenos Aires for the first race of 1974 it was a changed outfit. With Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni at the wheel of the new 312B3s, outwardly very different to the original ‘Spazzaneve’ but internally very similar, they finished two-three.

Lauda won the fourth race from pole position and ended the year fourth in the championship race. Twelve months later, he was champion.

It was a radical reversal in fortunes, one the team repeated in the 1990s when the Jean Todt-Ross Brawn-Michael Schumacher triumvirate reinvented the Scuderia. But the team’s renaissance in the 1970s began with the ‘Spazzaneve’, an ugly duckling of a car that was written off too hastily.

Credit and thanks to Joris Meuffels for the excellent photographs

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13 comments on Ferrari’s ugliest F1 car? The 1973 312B3S ‘Spazzaneve’

  1. If that car rolls with the driver inside, then I’d imagine the impact would be quite fatal.

  2. Obster said on 21st May 2008, 17:24

    The development of this series of cars, from 1971 thru to 1975, is amazing-this car was just one chapter. What emerged at the end of this four year gestation period was an incredible car with a lot of sophisticated ideas that appeared to all work.
    I think this series of cars was the beginning of the type of non-stop development that we see today on F1 machinery.

  3. William Wilgus said on 21st May 2008, 20:57

    Ugly? Not in my estimation. Certainly today’s cars, with all those aero appendages, are less aesthetically attractive. Of course, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder!

  4. I think it is extremely ugly – looks like it was made out of leggo.

  5. Whewbacca the Cookie said on 22nd May 2008, 6:48

    Agreed, it is definitely the ugliest Ferrari F1 car ever. Apropos ugly: does anyone remember the 1976 Ligier JS5? A close second would be the March 711 (early seventies).

    Perhaps a new thread titled “the ugliest F1 cars ever” would be a neat idea :)

  6. George said on 22nd May 2008, 9:48

    Goodness knows why, but I actually quite like it! I actually think that the John Barnard designed F310 from 1996 is a contender for the ugliest Ferrari ever – especially as it came in the wake of its elegant predecessor, the 1995 412T2. And as for the ugliest F1 car ever (bearing in mind that any debate on aesthetics is such a subjective thing) one of my prime candidates would have to be the 1995 MP4/10 as first released, with the awful mid-wing assembly…

  7. qazuhb said on 22nd May 2008, 14:48

    my vote is for the 312-T4/T5 series (the nose seemed cut and stitched again…), although Gilles was sooo nice on them that he suppressed his ride’s ugliness…
    A good picture of a T5 here:
    http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/pic.php?imagenum=2&carnum=165

  8. George said on 22nd May 2008, 14:53

    It really is totally subjective – qazuhb, I LOVE the 312 T4/5! (Thanks for the link to the picture – it’s a really nice one). I wonder if it’s nostalgia – it’s what an F1 car looked like in my ‘youth’, it’s a car I had posters of on my bedroom walls, it’s a car my dad made a beautiful 1/12 model kit of when I was a kid – so I can’t help but love it. It’s interesting to see the different opinions. I’m sure we can agree on some things though – surely no one would suggest that, say, the Lotus 49 was an ugly car… lol.

  9. The only aspect I find ugly is the pl– I mean, front wing… but this car is definitely a product of its times: this is a ground-effect car.

    It is only a raised nose, smaller front surface, and Target Stores logo away from being the spec Dallara that IRL drivers are stuck with. Maybe that’s why I think Indy looks dated.

    • this car is development car from circa 1974 so it is pre ground effects. lotus 78 was beginning of ground effects. this car was response to Gardiner’s Tyrell 003 short wheel base car that was winning with Stewart.

  10. Come guys where is your sense of humour, this can e used in winter as well as the worlds fastest snow plough.

    But seriously as different design for a different era, I think the 2009 cars are going to be “ugly” but we will have to see.

  11. I agree James B, apart from being ugly; it is downright dangerous.

  12. I’ve always regarded this as the most beautiful F1 car in the history of the sport ! I only wish it had raced in this configuration. I can’t wait to build Tameo’s 1:43 scale kit when it becomes available.

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