Role in Ferrari History: Gifted engineer who created the first Ferrari V-12
Gioachino Colombo (1903-1987) was one of the automotive world’s most prolific engineers. Born outside Milan, he began his career at age 14 as a technical draftsman at a noted school of mechanical technology. Work on steam turbines and diesel engines helped him land a job at Alfa Romeo in 1924.
No sooner had he arrived than he was working with the great Vittorio Jano on Alfa’s immortal P2, a grand prix car that raced successfully for six years. After four years with Jano, Colombo was appointed head of the technical department where his reach expanded into road cars.
The 1930s saw his name associated with such famed Alfa models as the 2.3 and 2.9, and the radical Touring-bodied 256 berlinettas. He and Enzo Ferrari had been good friends, so in 1937 Colombo was warmly greeted when he moved to Modena to oversee the design of one of Alfa’s most famous race cars, the Alfetta 158 single-seater.
Political intrigue surrounded Colombo during and immediately following the war, but that didn’t deter Ferrari from calling him in July 1945. Colombo was out of work, and he warmly welcomed the call. “For me,” he observed years later, “[the phone call] was something that could obliterate in one stroke those five years of war . . . .”
Colombo designed Ferrari’s first V-12 engine, and a great majority of the 125 model, then returned to Alfa Romeo. He worked off-and-on for Ferrari over the next six years, then once again went to Alfa. In 1952-53 he worked at Maserati, designing the 250F and six-cylinder engines.
This was followed by a stint at Bugatti in France, then a collaboration with Abarth on its successful, Fiat-derived twincam engine. He also worked with MV on several engines and its helicopters. Colombo opened his own engineering studio in 1971. At the time of his death in 1987, he could lay claim to approximately 110 different engine designs.