I was lucky enough to complete a pilgrimage this year, but not a religious one like Mecca.
I was in Italy during the Summer, and aside the blissful mountains, countryside and little villages, I had ended up in a rough industrial town away from all the picturesque glory.
This all sounds like I’ve wasted my time- until I say that the rough industrial town was called Maranello. Home of Ferrari!
If you ever get the chance to go there, anyone dressed in Rosso Corsa t-shirts will smile and sing all that is passionate about this glorious brand. It’s like visiting an opera-style promenade theatre, only with cars as the stars.
Ferrari is so special, that even we on R.I.D worked together to knit together this special article commemorating their greatest machines.
Ferrari is so special, that if tribes in the Amazon river told you what an Italian supercar should look like. They’ll probably describe a bright red Fezza.
So what is it about Ferrari which makes them this symbol of automotive greatness?
Early Life And Career
Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena on the 18th February 1898. And was brought up with a family business which fabricated metal at the family home.
At just 10 years old, young Enzo went to a motor racing event in 1908 and saw Felice Nazzaro’s Grand Prix win at the Circuit de Bologna- this inspired him to become a racing driver. (And rightfully so)
When the First World War came around in 1914, Enzo Ferrari was sent to work in the Italian army, where he served in the 3rd Mountain Artillery Regiment.
In 1916 however, Ferrari’s father Alfredo and older brother Alfredo Jr had died in a dramatic flu outbreak. By the time Enzo himself became sick from the outbreak in 1918, he was withdrawn from military service.
Alfa Romeo Friendship
Following on from the Ferrari family’s business collapsing, Enzo searched for a job in the car industry. After not quite making the cut with Fiat, he settled himself as a test driver at the racing firm; C.M.N (Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali).
He was then promoted to a racing driver and competed at the 1919 Parma-Poggio di Berceto hill-climb- where he ended up finishing in 4th place in his class. The same 2.3 litre car suffered a fuel leak at the Targa Florio in the same year, which wrapped up his career at C.M.N.
He then joined Alfa Romeo’s racing team in 1920, but it wasn’t until 1924 where he won the Coppa Acerbo race at Perscara, Alfa were so impressed that they offered Enzo to race in more prestigious events!
And having loyally raced for Alfa Romeo, he founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929, which included great drivers like Tazio Nuvolari. The team consisted of over 40 drivers throughout the different departments. But once Enzo’s son, Dino was born in 1932, he decided to pull out of racing and focus on management and development of Alfa itself.
If you ever wondered what the Ferrari logo was doing on Alfas, it was because a black prancing horse was famously painted on a WW1 Biplane flown by Francesco Baracca- who was shot down and killed.
Nevertheless, it was his mother Countess Paulina who once said to Enzo; “put my son’s prancing horse on your cars, it will bring you good luck.” And my lord it did! Well at least up until 1932, when financial constraints forced Alfa to back down on their support. Simply because the Silver Arrows out-classed everyone…
Alfa Romeo picked up countless victories in a variety of Motorsports throughout the 1930s, the P3 Grand Prix car for example had won 16 out of 39 races in the 1935 season alone! And even Louis Chiron piloted one in 1934.
That’s nothing though: in the 1936 Mille Miglia, Enzo entered three 8C 2900A roadsters which ended up taking the top 3 positions. Even in 1937, the very same cars finished in the top 2!
While the Scuderia team was gone by 1937, Enzo was positioned as Sporting Director for the new team; Alfa Corse.
Still, Enzo was still competitive. Because Alfa won again in 1938 with the new 2900B. The straight eight engines were tuned up to 225bhp. And they had finished in the top two positions!
Whilst Alfa Romeo was on a roll, not all was brilliant. At the 1938 Le Mans 24 hours, a coupe version of the 2900B bodied by Carrozzeria Touring had failed to finish due to valve problems and a blown tyre.
By 1939, Ferrari had disagreements with Alfa’s managing director; Ugo Gobbato. So, he decided to leave altogether.
Still though, despite the Alfa team’s hiccups, it’s fair to say that Enzo had established himself as an automotive great.
And he hadn’t even founded Ferrari itself yet!
Founding a Legend
After Enzo’s departure from Alfa Romeo, he founded Auto-Avio Construzioni- which by 1940 had entered two sleek prototypes into the gruelling Mille Miglia (during the War!!).
These new Tipo 815s were driven by Alberto Ascari (who became an icon) and Lotario Rangoni, but it was BMW which won it with the aerodynamically improved 328.
After the Second World War- which saw Mussolini’s fascist government being overthrown, Enzo had founded Ferrari S.p.A in 1947 with a new factory in Maranello. And churned out the 125S!
The 125S was powered by a small 1.5 litre 60° V12, which was designed by a man called Gioacchino Colombo, who caught the eye of Enzo Ferrari after he designed the supercharged straight 8 in the Alfa Romeo 158 Alfetta.
Colombo continued to work for Ferrari, despite Aurelio Lampredi and Vittorio Jano designing various other engines for Ferrari including the Dino V6, V8 and Lampredi’s very own V12 designed for racing.
Even Lampredi’s engines sat in significant Ferrari race cars such as the 375 MM, he even designed a 4 cylinder for Formula One, Two and the 500 Mondial racing cars- so there was some experiment!
Nevertheless, Columbo’s V12 engine remained a strong one for Ferrari- especially in the 1960s. In fact, it’s probably good to point out that the Lampredi V12 remained in use for a while, even after he pulled out of Ferrari in 1955.
Building a Pedigree
While the 125S wasn’t that much of a success, due to it not being able to finish the Mille Miglia. It was 1949 when the achingly pretty 166 MM Barchetta was made to compete at Le Mans.
And it won! Luigi Chinetti piloted the car to victory, and that wasn’t all for the 166. The S version also bagged a trophy at the Targa Florio and at the Spa 24 hours in the very same year. Nice work, Colombo.
The V12 engine was expanded to 2 litres for added power and torque, yet that engine was to expand even further throughout the 1950s.
Le Mans victories for Enzo’s Scuderia Ferrari team was solid, despite heavy competition from Jaguar, Mercedes, Maserati and Aston Martin. The 375 Plus driven by José Froilán González and Maurice Trintignant had dominated the endurance race in 1954.
1958 saw the beginning of domination for Ferrari at Le Mans with the glorious 250 Testa Rossa, the very next year, Carroll Shelby had driven to victory in an Aston Martin DBR1. But between 1960 and 1965, Enzo was sitting in deep joy!
The 250 TRs won again in 1960 and 1961! The 330 TRI/LM won in 1962 thanks to it’s clever independent rear suspension setup. And then the last two years were dominated by the 250P, 275P and then a 250 LM.
Ferrari’s Le Mans victories were one thing, Mille Miglia and Formula One victories were another.
Scuderia Ferrari has won 16 constructors’ championships in F1 between 1958 and 2017, and in the Mille Miglia, Enzo Ferrari made sure that his cars would pretty much win as much as possible.
In the space of just 10 years, Ferraris had won 8 Mille Miglia victories! Anything from a 166 S to a 340 America Vignale would cross the finishing line in Brescia first!
The fact that these Colombo and Lampredi-built cars could survive thorough, high speed thrashing for a distance of 1000 miles is simply mind-boggling. Only skilled drivers like Stirling Moss in a 300 SLR could beat a Ferrari in Italy!
As impressive as it sounds, Enzo himself wasn’t what you’d call a lenient boss.
Critics have come up with the idea that Enzo Ferrari would deliberately increase psychological pressure on his drivers, which in turn, encouraged intense passion amongst names like Phil Hill, Mike Hawthorn and even Fangio! This was so the drivers would work harder towards making Ferrari the first to finish.
This method of management caused Enzo himself to keep out of developing an emotional relationship with any of his drivers. As he feared this would cause emotional damage. He adopted this social approach after the death of Alberto Ascari in 1955- whom he had a close relationship with.
Nevertheless, Enzo’s arrogant passion towards winning caused many controversies amongst other teams…. and even the law (believe it or not).
Such behaviour was reinforced in Formula One’s 1976 season, where McLaren were endlessly accused of cheating every time James Hunt had beaten Niki Lauda. Anyone aside the guys in Maranello feared that Ferrari would be the snitch.
1957 Mille Miglia Disaster
During the 1957 1000 mile race, 2 separate drivers (both of which in Ferraris) were battling it out towards the closing stages of the Mille Miglia.
Piero Taruffi (who won) was driving a 315 S, while Alfonso de Portago was desperate to win with his 4.0 litre 335 S. Enzo had adopted his arrogant approach towards both drivers, and this meant Portago was absolutely thrashing. Right up until he reached the little town of Guidizzolo.
By then, a tyre blew and the car veered off, killing himself, his co-driver and 9 spectators.
This caused such a stir, that Enzo and the tyre maker which made the tyres for the 335 (Engelbert) were charged with manslaughter- along with a long prosecution period which was lifted by 1961.
To emphasise just how strict Enzo was at managing the Scuderia Ferrari team throughout it’s existence, former racing driver Sir Stirling Moss once said; “I can’t think of a single occasion where a (Ferrari) driver’s life was taken because of mechanical failure.”
Ferrari’s Mark On The Road
Ferraris made for the road were almost ignored by Enzo, he saw them as a side note as he was mainly passionate about their racing victories. Which cannot be said for any car founder…. ever.
Nevertheless, the engineers made some incredibly radical innovations to the idea of a fast car. And the one that deserves your attention is the 365 GT4 BB.
There have been mid-engined Ferraris before the dawn of the 1970s, but let’s face the facts: the Dino wasn’t strictly a Ferrari, that was made by Fiat and sold under the ‘Dino’ marque- named after Enzo’s late son.
Even the Dino was inspired by a one off 1960’s prototype called the 365P, but that only remained a concept. So as underrated the 365 BB is, it’s still a significant car wearing the prancing horse. And before you ask, the 250 LMs were only for racing use.
Other notable Ferraris include the rather gorgeous 250 GT Lusso- which was so cool, that Steve McQueen bought 2 of them! Then there was James Coburn who bought a 250 GT California, and then the newly licensed John Lennon who bought a bright blue 330 GT.
So, effectively, Ferrari’s road cars became part of the cutting edge jet set. The must-have foreign souvenir for ultra famous names- including Keith Richards! And that’s still the case to this day.
Enzo Ferrari continued to psychologically dictate his drivers in Motorsport, and his road cars are still a symbol of the automotive Gods, to this day.
Due to their rich and rather brutal history, it’s small wonder that Ferrari fans went mad once the 70th anniversary celebrations took place last month. It was an undeniably special birthday party.
And despite the controversies caused by the great man himself, it was a sad day in August of 1988, when he was pronounced dead. He saw the launch of the F40 the year before- he liked it.
And I like the fact that his name bears on every Ferrari to this day.
Thank you for reading.