The difficult two-year period 1962-1963 soon led Enzo Ferrari to put aside the Dino V6 engine, to try a completely new car. The Maranello team, however, does not limit itself to designing a single engine from scratch, but gets to work on both a 90° V8 and a 180° twelve cylinder.
Subsequently, on the basis of the results obtained, a final choice should have been made on which motor to use. The decision to design not one, but two completely new engines is undoubtedly a rather courageous choice, as Ferrari is well aware of the fact that it could have used these engines for only two seasons, given that starting from 1966 the Formula 1 would be raised to three liters by regulation.
Both engines represent an unprecedented choice: in fact, the V8 on a Formula 1 Ferrari had only been seen on the 801, but it was nothing more than the Lancia engine that fitted the slightly modified D50.
The 180° twelve-cylinder is also a singular choice, as it has never been seen on a racing car before, except for a couple of Alfa Romeo and Cisitalia prototypes; the latter engine will still serve as the basis for all the Ferrari Formula 1s that followed, at least until the advent of the era of turbo engines.
For the design of the 158 F1, Ferrari takes the revolutionary Lotus 25 as a model: in fact, it replicates the monocoque lattice structure in steel tubes, onto which aluminum panels are riveted on both sides which increase the overall rigidity of the car, while at the same time containing the weight.
The placement of the fuel tanks on the sides and in front of the driver's seat allows to reduce the front section by only one centimeter more than the car designed by Colin Chapman, and improves the distribution of weights, as well as the suspensions mounted inside the body and rear brakes located at the exit of the differential.
Another innovation concerns the introduction of fifteen inches five-spoke magnesium alloy wheels.
The engine also has a load-bearing function, and in its first version, that of 1963, it is powered by four Weber carburettors, for a total displacement of 1.487 cm³, while the power is equal to 190 horsepower at 10.700 rpm.
In 1964, to increase the engine speed, the stroke was reduced and the bore increased for a total displacement of 1.489 cm³, with the adoption of the new direct injection supplied by Bosch and designed by Michael May, which allows to bring the power overall at around 210 horsepower at 11.000 rpm.
Ferrari 512 F1, the twin sister
Simultaneously with the development of the V eight-cylinder , the path of the twelve-cylinder 180° was also undertaken, to create a car to be placed alongside the 158 F1, and possibly replace it.
Technically the 158 and 512 F1 are practically identical, except for the engine, the two centimeter higher wheelbase, and a slight increase in weight.
Aesthetically, too, it is very difficult to distinguish them, given that the only substantial difference between the two cars is the number of intake manifolds, ie eight for the 158 and twelve for the 512.
The gestation of this new engine is quite long, which is why the 512 will be used for the first time in the last two races of the 1964 season, thus contributing to the conquest of the constructors' title.
The twelve-cylinder is conceived in the unprecedented 180° configuration, to make it as compact as possible, placing the alternator, the fuel pump and the power supply at its top, consequently lowering the center of gravity of the car. Initially made with Lucas indirect injection, this will soon be equipped with Bosch direct injection, simultaneously with the adoption of the two spark plugs per cylinder. In its final version this engine will be able to deliver 225 horsepower at 11.500 rpm.
The 1964 season
The new 158 debuts in the second race of the season, more precisely at the Dutch Grand Prix, where John Surtees takes second place.
In the rest of the season, John Surtees wins two more victories at the German Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix, two second places, and a third place which, despite the four retirements suffered, allow him to win the drivers' championship with just one point ahead of Graham Hill.
Surtees becomes the only driver to date to have won the world title with both in motorcycles and cars.
The other Ferrari home driver, Lorenzo Bandini, who on many occasions drives the old 156 F1-63, ranks fourth in the world championship standings, contributing to the constructors' championship with several placings.
Moreover Bandini, who in the last two races pilots the new 512 F1, with him will give a decisive tribute to Surtees' final victory, when at the Mexican Grand Prix he slows down to be overtaken by Surtees, who thus arrives second at the finish line and wins the points necessary to become World Champion.
In general, the 158 proves to be a very competitive car and superior to the competition: the authoritative victory at the German Grand Prix with Surtees is the demonstration of this superiority, recognized by the press and by direct competitors.
Curiously, the Ferrari 158 wins the 1964 championship not in the traditional red livery, but in the white-blue color scheme. In fact, in the last two races of the season, the United States Grand Prix and the Mexican Grand Prix, the 158 is lined up with the colors of the North American Racing Team, with which Ferrari has a technical collaboration.
Ferrari proposes this color as a sign of protest against the ACI (Automobile Club of Italy), for the lack of homologation of the 250 LM.
The 158 will continue to compete in the following season, but will be joined from the beginning by the new 512 F1. After a good start, with a second place at the South African Grand Prix taken by John Surtees, and in Monaco by Lorenzo Bandini, the rest of the season will be lacking in satisfactions.
The English teams will regain the upper hand by placing their drivers in the first four places in the world championship, ahead of the drivers of the Maranello team, who will remain stationary in fifth and sixth position. In addition to Bandini and Surtees, several drivers from sports cars will alternate driving the Ferrari, including Nino Vaccarella and Bob Bondurant.
At the end of the 1965 season, the Ferrari 158 F1 will be officially abandoned, as it would already be considered as obsolete. The car will therefore end its Formula 1 adventure with a record of two pole positions, two victories and two fastest laps in the race: apparently these results may not seem very exciting, but thanks to the constancy of the drivers and the mechanical reliability, the Ferrari won both the drivers 'title and the constructors' team title, scoring seventy-one world championship points in the two-year period 1964-1965.