Ferrari Biographies

Adolfo Orsi and Ferruccio Lamborghini

Role in Ferrari History: Two competitors that kept Ferrari on its toes.

Adolfo Orsi (1888-1972) was born in Modena, the eldest of five children. An impoverished upbringing forced him to leave school at a young age to help his family subsist. This only inspired his entrepreneurial spirit. He became a scrap dealer and soon built his humble beginnings into a flourishing business. By the late 1920s, Orsi employed 2,000 people and owned his own foundries, railway lines, and car dealership.

In 1937, he purchased Maserati from the Maserati brothers in Bologna, and eventually moved the company to Modena. No sooner had it settled into its new surroundings than Maserati was once again creating competition cars. Even though the Maserati brothers left in 1947 to form OSCA, Orsi’s leadership skills encouraged most key employees to remain. His business acumen made Maserati a leading producer of prestigious GT cars in the late 1950s and ’60s, and Maserati sports-racing and F1 cars were constant thorns in Ferrari’s side. In 1957, Juan Manuel Fangio was the F1 championship in a Maserati. Eleven years later, Orsi sold Maserati to Citroën.

Ferruccio Lamborghini (1916-1993) appeared on Ferrari’s radar screen in the mid 1960s. The industrialist made a fortune manufacturing tractors, heaters, and air conditioners and, as an auto aficionado, decided in the early 1960s another opportunity lay in the production of gran turismos. His first, the 350 GT, was an understated machine that was as fast and more refined than anything Ferrari had at the time.

But, as Lamborghini’s former chief engineer Gianpaolo Dallara noted, “It wasn’t until we made the Miura that Ferrari took notice.” At its debut in 1966, this avant-garde midengine missile was faster and more radical than anything in Ferrari’s roadgoing stable, and it took the automotive world by storm. Ferrari responded with the Daytona. Lamborghini countered with the Countach. Ferrari replied with the Boxer.

Ferruccio sold his interest in his car company in the 1970s, but his competitive spirit could be seen in the 2000s as the Lamborghini Gallardo sparred with the Ferrari F430 and the Murcielago challenged the 575M.

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