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It seems like Ferrari has once again found a dreamlike stride with its newest cars. Not like Ferrari ever really lost it, but turbocharged V8s only have so much character compared to the naturally aspirated ones of old. Its latest car in the Icona (Italian parlance for icon) series of racing heritage-inspired road cars is the Ferrari Daytona SP3, a callback to the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona, where Ferrari won the top three spots.

For this car, Ferrari decided to do a targa top with a stunning Flavio Manzoni body that is less Daytona 1967 and more Miami 1986, though hints of the 330 P4 exist in the architecture of the car. The exterior isn’t the most special thing about it, though. No, that is the engine. Let’s dig in.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.

What Happened

Ferrari released the Daytona SP3, its second release in the Icona series of limited production hypercars after the Monza SP1 and SP2 (the Monzas count as one). Dedicated to the historic racecars of Ferrari’s past, the Daytona celebrates the 1-2-3 finish at the 1967 Daytona 24 Hour that defeated Ford in its own territory. 

Ferrari claims stunning specifications for this limited-production machine and only 599 will be made at $2.5 million per unit. It will be powered by the usual suspect F140 naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine with serious tweaks for more power but with an unusual feature: no hybridization. Those tweaks mean the engine is called the F140HC, and it makes a ridiculous 840 horsepower at 9,250 rpm, with the rev limiter set at a stratospheric 9,500 rpm. 

By my calculations that results in an 129.2hp/L specific output that only falls shy of another last hurrah naturally aspirated Ferrari: the 458 Speciale. It is an achievement of an engine and even more special for not having any electric assist to help make that astronomical horsepower. It is still backed up by the charismatic 7-speed Ferrari dual-clutch gearbox.

All of that goodness is wrapped up in a Manzoni-designed body inspired by several historic Ferrari race cars. It is the first Icona car to have a removable hardtop with a targa body and is a real knuckle-biter of a design.  

Why It Matters

All of us have aspirations, and Ferrari is one of the ultimate aspirational brands, whether regarding the automotive industry or life in general. Ask anyone what a fast car is, they will say Ferrari. 

It’s important for the car world to have good Ferraris. That’s not to say most Ferrari’s aren’t good, what I mean is Ferraris that inspire emotional reactions. That is what Rosso Corsa is all about, beyond anything else. It’s the seduction, the speed, the romance of Ferrari that makes it special and accessible to anybody, even if they can’t afford the cars.

The Daytona SP3 is one of those prancing horses. Like the 812 Competizione that recently debuted with a similarly absurd V12 engine, it is one of the first cars in a long time that gave me a feeling, a feeling that I have missed dearly. It’s the kind of feeling that reminds us all of the first time we saw a Lamborghini in the wild, the first time we felt the thrum of a 911’s exhaust in our chests, and the striking visual of a little red sports car gallivanting about the pacific coast. 

Most of us could never afford this, but for once, I’m not particularly mad about that. Some things need to stay mystical and unattainable to retain the magic of what used to be. Admittedly, the stock of 599 cars priced at $2.5 million each means I’m probably going to see them littered about in Los Angeles, but I’m sure it will stop me in my tracks every time. It’s also another step in small automakers making incredibly expensive limited-run cars that clear more profit than “normal” production supercars. Those numbers translate to $1.5 billion in sales from this model alone. That’s nuts.

This is the sort of a car that feels like a last hurrah for Ferrari’s most iconic engine: the V12. Limited-production cars like these could extend the life of that sweet F140 for a bit longer, but who knows how long it really will be. Until then, this is something to celebrate.

What To Look For Next

It’s a certainty that all 599 cars will sell, so all that’s really left is seeing and hearing the car in the wild and on track. With a more useful body compared to the Monza SP, namely a windshield and roof, this car will be able to be driven more regularly. We can only hope that they will be driven to redline regularly, because poors like yours truly can only ever dream of such a thing.

Expect to see more of these Icona cars in the relatively near future. It will be interesting to see the racecars and history Ferrari chooses to honor next.

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