Koenig Specials Ferrari BB: Remembering the 650-HP Tuning Legend From the 1980s

Arguably the world’s most popular tuning house during the 1980s and 1990s, Koenig Specials started making a name for itself by offering slight modifications for the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer (BB). The tuning project was a success from the get-go and, in a few years, BB owners with deep pockets could transform their exotic sports cars into legitimate supercars.
Koenig Specials Ferrari 512 BBi 10 photos
Photo: Gooding & Company
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The story starts with Willy Koenig, who was passionate about cars from an early age. Part of a wealthy German family, he began racing an Alfa Romeo Giulietta soon after turning 20 but would go on to do so under the pseudonym Robert Frank so that his parents didn’t find out what he was up to.

Koenig progressed through the country’s amateur ranks and months before celebrating his 25th birthday, he won the German Hillclimbing Championship (Deutsche Bergmeisterschaft) driving a Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta that he purchased a year earlier.

Although he turned pro and competed in various competitions across Europe, Koenig was forced to take a break from racing on two occasions to focus on his family’s printing and publishing business. During the second hiatus, which occurred in the early-1970s, he contemplated a return to the amateur racing circuit and chose the Ferrari 365 GT4 BB as his weapon. However, the publishing mogul was dissatisfied with the performance of the mid-engine sports car and began modifying it.

With his tuned BB, Koning began competing in amateur races and frequently attended Ferrari club events. Soon, other Ferrari owners started asking him to modify their cars, putting loads of cash on the table to make it happen.

The birth of Koenig Specials and the first BB mods

Koenig Specials Ferrari 512 BBi
Photo: Collecting Cars
Encouraged by the growing interest in his work, the German businessman decided to resign from the helm of his publishing company and focus on his hobby. Thus, in 1977, he founded Koenig Specials with the initial goal of turning Ferrari’s boxer-powered sports car into a thoroughbred supercar.

During the early years, the tuning house located in Munich offered only a few mods for BB owners who wanted to beef up their precious rides.

The first was purely cosmetic, adding wider wheels wrapped in semi-slick tires, wheel arch extensions, as well as a front spoiler. In addition to this, performance was slightly increased with a bespoke, competition-spec exhaust system and a reinforced clutch.

Taking performance to a whole new level

Koenig Specials Ferrari 512 BBi
Photo: Koenig Specials
By the early 1980s, the company grew into Europe’s premier tuning house. Operations were moved from the small workshop in downtown Munich to a larger facility, and Koenig began offering mods for other models from local carmakers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Porsche.

The tuner also brought high-profile engineer Franz Albert to head the engineering department, while design duties were headed to Vittorio Strosek, a prominent German stylist.

Tuning the BB continued to be Koenig’s primary focus. With the new additions to the team, the company began offering extensive mods, including a spectacular fiberglass body kit that turned the somewhat outdated mid-engine Ferrari into a modern, race car-inspired beast.

In terms of mechanical upgrades, customers were now spoiled for choice. The list included larger brakes, adjustable Koni shocks, as well as engine improvements like hot cams, stronger pistons, and rods, redesigned cylinder heads with larger valves and enhanced combustion chambers, and two types of exhaust systems.

Those who opted for all those mods received a BB that not only handled much better than it ever did in stock form but was also more powerful. With up to 450 hp (456 PS) on tap, the Koenig Specials Ferrari BB became one of the fastest, most capable supercars available at the time.

Making it even more outlandish with the use of forced induction

Koenig Specials Ferrari 512 BBi
Photo: Koenig Specials
In 1981, Ferrari introduced the third and last iteration of the Berlinetta Boxer – the 512 BBi. Boosted to 340 hp (345 ps) and equipped with electronic fuel injection, the reworked twelve-cylinder gave Koenig engineers a better platform for a new mod that would almost double the factory output.

In 1983, after two years of development and rigorous testing, the tuners introduced a new kit that added a pair of turbochargers to the comprehensive list of engine upgrades. The Rajay units originally created for light aircraft were modified by Franz Albert to harness more power out of the Ferrari flat-twelve. When combining this kit with all other Koenig engine mods, the BB was transformed into a tire-shredding monster capable of up to 650 hp (660 ps).

The body kid was also upgraded with newer Kevlar body panels that helped improve aerodynamics. With all these upgrades, the prancing horse on steroids could accelerate from 0 to 62 mph (100 kph) in about 3.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 205 mph (330 kph). These figures are impressive by today’s standards but in 1983, they were mind-blowing, especially for a road-legal vehicle.

Though no official figures exist, several sources point out that only three 512 BBi received the twin-turbo kit as well as all the body mods available. I suspect that the exorbitant price for the full package is the main reason why the company didn’t transform more cars into this insane setup. Moreover, the limits of the 1970s-designed chassis and the raw nature of the twin-turbo system made the car dangerous, so even if they had the funds, few Ferrari owners had the courage to try to tame such a beast.

Although Koenig Specials continued to modify stock Ferraris, going as far as unleashing a 750-hp (760 ps) F40, or an 850-hp (862 PS), twin-turbo F50 in the years that followed, the series of tuned BBs remains one of their most famous projects. With the twin-turbo 512 BBi, it gave birth to a tuning legend and the most insane supercar of the early-1980s. You can see footage of one of these ultra-rare beasts in the YouTube video below by R-34.takasugi.

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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