The Ferrari 812 GTS marks a triumphant return for a model type that has played a pivotal role in the marque’s history, 50 years on from the debut of the last spider to sport a front-mounted V12.

It all started in 1948 with the 166 MM, an authentic thoroughbred competition GT that won the two most prestigious endurance races in the world in 1949: the Mille Miglia and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The last in that long lineage was the 1969 365 GTS4, also known as the Daytona Spider because of Ferrari’s legendary victory in the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona when two works 330 P4s and the NART-entered 412 P took the chequered flag side-by-side to occupy the top three places.

The front-mounted V12 architecture has not been used in a Ferrari series-production spider since the 365 GTS4.

That said, four special series limited editions have been launched: the 550 Barchetta Pininfarina in 2000, the Superamerica in 2005, the SA Aperta in 2010 and, most recently, the F60 America of which just 10 were built to celebrate Ferrari’s 60th year on the American market in 2014.

Designed by the Ferrari Styling Centre and based on the 812 Superfast, the 812 GTS sets a new benchmark in terms of performance and exclusivity.

The 6.5-litre V12 pumps out 588kW at 8500rpm and 718Nm of torque at 7000rpm, with 0 to 100km/h taking less than 3.0 seconds and a top speed of 340km/h.

It is not merely the most powerful production spider on the market, but also the most versatile, thanks to its retractable hard top — a unique feature in this segment which also guarantees a larger boot capacity.

The retractable hard top opens in just 14 seconds at speeds of up to 45 km/h and does not impinge upon the interior dimensions, thus maintaining the donor car’s roomy cockpit.

The electric rear screen, which acts as a wind-stop, makes the car truly useable with the top down while, with the top up, it can be left open to allow occupants to continue to luxuriate in the naturally-aspirated V12’s unique soundtrack.

CHECKOUT: Police get 305km/h Ferrari chaser

CHECKOUT: $8 million payday for Lauda’s Ferrari

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.