The initial reluctance by Enzo Ferrari to develop a mid-engined race car is well documented. After Cooper's mid-engined car dominated the 1959 Formula One season, Ferrari finally conceded to the superior layout by 1960. It paid dividends quickly, with Ferrari winning the Formula One Championship in 1961 through the driving of the exceptionally talented Phil Hill.
By 1963, Ferrari decided to enter sports car racing. Their initial attempt was the 250P, with it's purpose-built 3.0 liter V12. Utilizing what they had learned from the mid engined Formula One layout, they immediately found victory. In 1963, they won the 12 hours of Sebring, the Nürburgring 1000 km, and the 24 Hours of LeMans.
The success of the 250P inspired Ferrari to evolve the car into the 250 LeMans – a race car available for sale to the public. One of those privately purchased cars, entered by the North American Racing Team, won the 1965 24 Hours of LeMans, piloted by Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory.
For 1965, Ferrari developed an entirely new car with the 330P2. They started with a lighter weight and lower profile chassis, which allowed for a more aerodynamic body, although the car's roof was open. The chassis housed a 410 hp version of the 330 engine. The 330 designation was named for the displacement of a single cylinder in cubic centimeters. This translates to a 4.0 liter V12 engine. The new car won Ferrari several races, including the Monza 1000 km race, the Targa Florio, The Nürburgring 1000 km, and the Reims 12 hour race.
The 330 P3 made it's debut in 1966. It was Ferrari's first attempt at fuel injection. They also developed a new transmission, which was ultimately prone to failure. In the literal sense of the word, there are no 330P3 models left in existence. They have all been destroyed, or converted to either 412P models or 330P3/4 version.
Still reeling from the historic 1-2-3 photo finish of Ford GT40s at the 1966 24 Hours of LeMans, Ferrari produced the 330P3/4 and P4 for 1967. The P4 designation describes the 4th iteration, which included three valve per cylinder heads on the 4.0 liter V12. The 330P3/4 designation is attached to P3 cars that were retrofitted with the P4 motor.
A 412P designation was given to customer versions of the 330 P3 race car. Only two were built originally. They were not literally P3s with a different name - they had a very slightly longer wheelbase (12 mm), and were carbureted instead of fuel injected. Visually, there are very nuanced differences, but at a quick glance, it is very difficult to discern the 330 P3, the 412 P, and the 330 P3/4 models. Many consider the design and appearance of these models to be one of the most visually beautiful Ferrari racers ever created.
1967 was largely a good year for the 330. A P4 won the Monza 1000 km race, they swept the podium at the 1967 Daytona 24 hour race, countering Ford's image from the 1966 LeMans race. But despite their success in these races, Ferrari could not overcome the MkIV version of the GT40 driven by Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt. Ford finished four laps ahead of the 2nd place factory Ferrari 330 P4 factory car at LeMans that year. A privately-entered 330P4 took the last podium spot.
The new rules for 1968 meant new groupings. The new classes required that Ferrari develop a 3.0 liter engine, or build at least 50 units for homologation to enter the 5.0 liter group. They decided to do neither, and instead exited the series for a year. To this day, the Ferrari victory at the 1966 LeMans race remains their last victory at the legendary circuit's endurance race.
Ferrari attempted to race prototypes again in 1969, and campaigned the 312P. It was essentially a version of their Formula One car with a prototype body laying over the chassis. The car had moderate success, but never reclaimed the sports car world's attention anywhere near the same degree as the 330P3/4. By 1970, Ferrari would focus their attention on the 5.0 liter class with the 512 S.
Today, the location and condition of several of these cars is a highly controversial topic. With the subtle differences between different model types, poorly documented year-over-year evolutions, and customer cars that can be hard to verify, there is a lot of opportunity for speculation.
There are only four 412 Ps, and four of the 330 P3/4 that are definitively documented, and even one of those is in question.
The aesthetic elegance, the unmistakable Ferrari sound, combined with the successful racing pedigree of the car make the Ferrari 330 P3/4 and 412P some of Ferrari's most desirable cars.