In 1963, Ferrari employed approximately 450 people and made 598 cars. The American divisions of the Ford Motor Company employed 175,000 and made 2.1 million cars.
Yet, the model that Ford wanted more than anything else that fateful year was one with a Ferrari name on it. Indeed, a Ford buyout of Ferrari came very close to happening, but unraveled at the last minute, causing Ford to create its own legend: the GT40.
So why would one of America’s most powerful companies, one that, as a Ford executive put it recently “lost more [cars] in rounding errors than Ferrari made in a year,” want to acquire Ferrari?
The answer is simple: Mystique. In the early 1960s, no other firm so perfectly represented the concept of winning, technology, performance, and high style. And that’s just as true today.
The magic of the Ferrari legend starts with its founder, Enzo Ferrari. He was called an “agitator of men” by noted ex-Ferrari engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, and characterized similarly by scores of others. In his domain, Ferrari was a master psychologist who would do almost anything to extract the most from his employees.
Famed designer and coachbuilder Sergio Pininfarina was just 26 when he started working with Ferrari in 1952. He remembered visiting the factory numerous times after a sports-car win or a Formula 1 victory. Pininfarina often found Enzo in the racing department or on the production line barking orders, being as hard as ever on his men.
But when the coachbuilder visited the factory after a defeat, Ferrari was complimenting his troops for giving their all.
It took Pininfarina a bit to grasp what Ferrari was doing: Enzo didn’t want his subordinates to relax when it was the perfect time to do so. And he recognized when to motivate through positive reinforcement. Ferrari’s employees were willing to work night and day for him, and often did.
Enzo was born in the central Italian town of Modena on February 18, 1898, the younger of two children. That Ferrari and his small firm achieved worldwide fame surprised him and his family. “We lived in a modest house in the suburbs,” he wrote in his memoirs, “four rooms over my father’s metalworking business ... I shared one of the rooms above the workshop with my brother Alfredo and we were woken up by the hammering every morning when the men started work.”
In his earliest years, Ferrari had an aversion to school and enjoyed target shooting and roller-skating. Then the nascent automotive world hit his radar screen in 1908 “… when my father took me to my first automotive race. The crowds were all shouting for the No. 10 car driven by Felice Nazzaro who won the race. My father and brother were always talking about cars and I got more and more interested as I listened to their talk.”
Ferrari was hooked when he saw his next race a year later. “[B]eing that close to those cars and those heroes,” he wrote, “being part of the yelling crowd, that whole environment aroused my first flicker of interest in cars.”
It would be 10 years before Ferrari took the first unnoticeable steps to worldwide fame. His father wanted him to be an engineer, but young Enzo was more interested in a life in opera, as a tenor, or one in journalism, as a sportswriter. By age 16, he was freelancing for several newspapers.
In 1917, Ferrari was drafted into the army. He returned home with a severe illness that left him hospitalized. His father and brother had passed away two years earlier, so after recovering, Enzo headed to Turin, some 150 miles to the north, to find work.
Turin was well on its way to becoming an industrial center in Italy, thanks in great part to Fiat. By the mid 1920s, Fiat was Italy’s dominant industrial concern, and its cars actively raced around the world, often with great success.
Ferrari traveled to the bustling city to try for a job with Fiat, a letter of introduction in hand from his commanding Army officer. He was turned down, but soon found work at a small firm in Bologna that stripped trucks for their chassis, then used them for cars.
That job found Ferrari traveling to northern Italy’s other economic engine. Milan was some 100 miles west of Turin, and one of Ferrari’s favorite haunts was the Vittorio Emanuele bar, a well-known hangout for racing drivers and others in the automotive world. Enzo may have been a bit green, but the first sprinklings of his charisma were starting to show through. He was a good talker in the social setting, and soon found himself hired on as a test driver by the Milan automaker, Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali.
Find out how Enzo Ferrari fared as an Alfa Romeo driver on the next page.
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The Ferrari-Alfa Romeo Connection
Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali's (CMN) roots were in the aviation business, but it turned to automobile production at the end of the war to keep its workforce busy. Enzo Ferrari graduated from tester to racing driver, and that rekindled his childhood dream of being a top competitor.
He remained with CMN for a year, then pooled resources with mechanic Guglielmo Carraroli to buy an old Isotta Fraschini Grand Prix car. But it was Ferrari’s piloting of an Alfa Romeo 20/30 to second overall in 1920’s grueling Targa Florio that landed him on the racing-driver map.
“I felt like I was the Lord of the Universe,” he wrote of driving the Alfa. “Still, what mattered to me most was the fact it gained me an official entry into the Alfa circles, made me practically an Alfa team driver like Campari and Baldoni.”
He had indeed reached the big leagues. Alfa Romeo was only 10 years old at the time, but it was, along with luxury maker Isotta Fraschini, the biggest fish in Milan’s burgeoning automotive industry.
Originally named A.L.F.A. (Anomica Lombardo Fabbrica Automobili), the firm produced sports and racing cars along with airplane engines and large, sturdy automobiles. Thanks to a class win in April 1911, at the 1,500 kilometer, five-stage Modena trials, competition became a core element of the company’s raison d’être.
Alfa’s jump into the winner’s circle and onto the front pages of Italy’s newspapers was not a smooth one. From 1912 to 1914, the company was embroiled in strikes and labor discord, a matter exacerbated by insufficient operating capital. In 1915, Nicola Romeo, a successful industrialist with a background in engineering, purchased the firm; he would change the cars’ name to Alfa Romeo in 1918.
Alfa was relatively flush with cash from wartime munitions and tractor production when Enzo Ferrari entered the fold. Enzo was a proficient driver, not up to the stature of teammates such as Giuseppe Campari, but still good enough to garner press coverage and the occasional victory, the first of which was at Circuito di Savio in 1923.
By then, Alfa was once again in financial difficulty, thanks to the failure of one of its largest creditors and to the era’s chronic labor strife. Intervention by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, himself an auto enthusiast, helped prevent the firm from going under.
Though Ferrari continued to race through the 1920s, by the middle of the decade, he was proving to be a power behind the scenes. Nicola Romeo sent him to Turin to lure Vittorio Jano to Alfa, and Ferrari set the wheels in motion for the noted engineer to join the company in late 1923. Ferrari traveled constantly, in contact with the era’s best drivers and with numerous influential individuals, in and out of the auto industry.
By the second half of the decade, Ferrari was examining his driving career. “If you want spectacular results,” he noted in his memoirs, “you have to know how to treat your car badly. Ill-treatment means excessive gearshifts, pushing the car further than the engine will bear, reckless braking, all the things that got in the way of my feeling for the machinery. The fact is I don’t drive simply to get from A to B. I enjoy feeling the car’s reactions, becoming a part of it, forming a single unit. I couldn’t inflict suffering on it.”
He thus diversified by investing in businesses in the auto industry. He became Alfa Romeo’s dealer for the Emilia-Romagna region around Modena, and set up an office in Bologna.
“I found myself overwhelmed by an almost morbid desire to do something for the motor car, for this creature I was so passionately fond of,” he wrote. “So although I was doing well enough to justify pursuing a driving career, I had my sights set on wider, more ambitious horizons.”
Ferrari's ambitions quickly inspired him to form a new company. Read on to learn more.
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Those horizons came into focus one evening in 1929, as Ferrari dined with driver Mario Tadini and enthusiasts and fiber merchants Alfredo and Augosto Caniato. The men decided to start the Scuderia Ferrari, a company composed of driver-owners that prepared cars for competition and offered support for the owners who raced them.
The firm’s favored mounts were Alfa Romeos. Ferrari remained tightly woven with engineers Jano and Luigi Bazzi, men he helped recruit to the company. This helps explain how he was able to get top-flight racing machinery for his clients.
“The original idea was to make the Scuderia a team of owner drivers, but eventually it acquired an official team of professional drivers,” Ferrari explained. “Alfa Romeo never saw [it] as a competitor and there was no hint of a future rivalry. The way Alfa saw it, the Scuderia offered it a chance to enter lots of races and maintain a racing image despite no longer wanting to be directly involved.”
That was clearly demonstrated in 1933, when Alfa Romeo announced its withdrawal from Grand Prix racing and Ferrari convinced the firm to let him continue racing their formidable P3 single-seater. The Scuderia subsequently won the Grand Prix of Pescara that year.
Even more telling was Ferrari’s success in endurance racing, a highly visible activity thanks to the backing of Mussolini’s Fascist government and its desire to promote road and railroad construction.
In 1930, Ferrari’s Scuderia entered 22 races and scored eight victories. At 1933’s Mille Miglia, Alfa Romeos swept the top 10 places, led by an 8C 2300 prepared by Ferrari.
To differentiate his Alfas from the others, Ferrari in 1932 began painting on his cars a large crest that featured a prancing horse on a yellow background. Ferrari said he was given the crest by Countess Paolina Baracca, whose son, Francesco, had served in the same WWI flying squadron as Ferrari’s brother, Alfredo. The visage of a rearing black horse (the symbol of the city of Stuttgart) was said to have come from a German fighter plane the ace Baracca had shot down. Ferrari gave it the background of yellow, the official color of Modena.
By the mid 1930s, Ferrari was a well-known name in the auto industry. “[He] had become a celebrity, something of a sensation,” historian Luigi Orsini noted in Automobile Quarterly, “more so certainly as an organizer than he ever was as a racing river.”
This was all the more remarkable, given the turmoil of the times. Hostility between nations was escalating, and the Wall Street crash of 1929 inflicted global economic pain. “You have to understand the period to [grasp] the enormity of what Ferrari accomplished,” Frenchman Rene Dreyfus, a noted former Scuderia driver, told Orsini.
“There had never been anything like the team he had, never anything that big and so well organized -- and the problems: the interference from the Fascists, the sensitivity of relations with Alfa, the personality problems and rivalries within the team.
“Yet despite all this there was no doubt he was the ‘Boss’ -- and the only Boss. If you raced for Mercedes or Auto Union or even the Alfa works team, you raced by committee. The Scuderia was his dream. He was the whole thing.”
Ferrari tempered this air of authority with a certain charm. Sergio Scaglietti was a teenager who repaired Ferrari’s Alfas by working at a small coachbuilding facility across the street from the Scuderia, and he vividly recalled Enzo’s magnetism. Tall and large boned for an Italian, Ferrari was quite handsome and simply had presence.
“Even back then,” Scaglietti remembered, “he had a lot of charisma and was never nasty with the people who worked for him. Having said that, I have to say none of us foresaw the success he achieved later.”
The Alfa Romeo romance wouldn't last, however. In the next section, learn about Ferrari's split from Alfa Romeo and the first Ferrari ever built.
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The First Ferrari: AAC 815
Ferrari's “It” factor and years of success weren’t enough to prevent an acrimonious divorce with Alfa Romeo in January 1938. Things likely began their downhill slide in the summer of 1936, when Jano resigned after Alfa managing director Ugo Gobbato hired Wifredo Ricart, the talented Spanish engineer. Ferrari and Gobbato had an immediate clash of personalities, a dislike fueled by their different engineering opinions.
Gobbato was also antagonizing the situation. Backed by the German government, the racing programs of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union were an unstoppable tidal wave. Their chain of victories was a disaster for Alfa and other competitors.
With corporate and national pride at stake, Gobbato desired to have “everything planned in advance, down to the last detail,” Ferrari noted in his memoirs. But Enzo believed the best way to create and campaign a racing car was with a small group working under a flexible management style that allowed it to respond quickly.
“Not many agreed with me and there were times Jano and I and the drivers found ourselves muttering together like conspirators in the Alfa Romeo yard,” he remembered. “In the end I was sacked, which seemed to be the only logical solution to the situation that had developed.”
As a condition of the split, Ferrari signed an agreement that said he could not build a car under his own name for four years. But with ambition burning in his heart and cash doing the same in his pocket, he quickly formed a new company, Auto Avio Costruzioni. AAC remained in the same downtown Modena location as the Scuderia, and to make his new car, Enzo soon hired well-known technicians Luigi Bazzi and Federico Giberti, and engineers Vittorio Bellentani and Gioachino Colombo.
Ferrari then put in charge of the project Alberto Massimino, a talented 45-year-old engineer who had moved to Modena to work on the Alfa 158 racecar. Increasing border tensions throughout Europe were causing severe materials shortages, so Ferrari had his men use a Fiat 508 C as their starting point. Fiat had made a handful of these mainstream sedans into endurance racers, so Ferrari’s team reinforced the chassis but left untouched the brakes, transmission, steering, and front suspension.
No so the engine. They took two 508 C 1100cc four-cylinder engines, reduced the bore and stroke, cast a new block and cylinder heads, and joined the two engines together. The result was an inline 1496cc 8-cylinder that produced 72 horsepower at 5500 rpm.
For the car’s body, Ferrari turned to Felice Bianchi Anderloni, the design head of Italy’s preeminent coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Touring. Ferrari had admired Anderloni’s work on a plethora of competition and street Alfa Romeos over the previous decade.
Felice’s son, Carlo Biachi Anderloini, was then a 23-year-old cadet in the military, and thanks to his photographic memory, well recalled his father speaking of Enzo’s visit to Touring.
“He said Ferrari wanted something that could be recognized as a Ferrari at a glance,” the younger Anderloni remembered, not aware at the time that he would hear the exact words a decade later. “Ferrari was obviously thinking of some type of production, for he wanted his car to have a touch of luxury.”
Felice Anderloni made some initial sketches, then refined them through use of his “visualizers,” men who turned his initial drawings and ideas into detailed renderings. A 1:10-scale model was then constructed and analyzed in a wind tunnel.
The first 815 (8-cylinders, 1.5-liters) underwent tests on public roads. Carlo Anderloni said Touring’s favorite stretches were between Milan and Como and between Milan and Bergamo. “The car was covered in felt strips,” he said, “then followed by a second car with a photographer onboard who took pictures. Once the photos were developed, my father looked at the felt strips to analyze the airflow.”
Two 815s were built and entered in 1940’s Gran Premio Brescia della Mille Miglia, a one-time substitute for the traditional Mille Miglia. They were valiant competitors. One dominated its class and ran as high as 10th overall late in the race. Both had to retire with mechanical failures, causing Ferrari to note a bit harshly, “The experiment that started so brilliantly ended in failure, largely because the car had been built too hastily.”
The 815s were the last cars Ferrari would work on for years. Italy officially entered World War II on June 10, 1940, when a general order to proceed to local Fascist headquarters swept the country. Ferrari survived the conflict by producing oil-driven grinding machines and machine tools.
Two years into the war, the government issued an order for Italy’s industries to decentralize. Ferrari moved the Auto Avio Costruzioni works from Modena to Maranello, a rural suburb some 10 miles to the south, where he already owned a parcel of land.
According to then-Ferrari employee Girolamo Gardini, the move happened on July 26, 1943. By September, the company was once again at work, and its labor force increased to 140 from 40 over the following two years.
Allied bombs twice hit the factory, the second raid badly damaging the facility. But these proved only temporary setbacks. “I was not unprepared for the end of the war,” Ferrari noted in his memoirs. Indeed, his passion for cars and competition was evident by the two 815s illustrated at the top of AAC’s wartime sales brochures.
After the war, Ferrari wasted no time creating a new engine configuration he had in mind for years. Get the details on the next page.
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The Birth of the Ferrari Company
No sooner had hostilities ended in 1945 than Ferrari was on the phone to Gioachino Colombo. The stalwart engineer was then in his early 40s, and his résumé included a number of Alfa’s most famous models.
Colombo lived in Milan and welcomed the call from his friend. The engineer had been laid off from Alfa, and rumors of Fascist involvement surrounded him. “There was no unemployment compensation in my case,” Colombo wrote of his bleak situation in his autobiography, The Origins of the Ferrari Legend. “[That phone call] was something which could obliterate in one stroke those five years of war, bombardments and sufferings, and the upsets of evacuation.”
He traveled through the ruins of the Italian countryside with Enrico Nardi, a one-time Lancia test driver and future steering-wheel manufacturer. Within the first minutes of his meeting with Enzo, the engineer and Ferrari, the budding car constructor, got to the heart of the matter.
Ferrari asked Colombo what he would propose for a new 1500cc engine. “Maserati has a first-class eight-cylinder, the English have the ERA six-cylinder job, and Alfa have their own eight-C,” the engineer replied. “In my view you should make a 12-cylinder.”
“My Dear Colombo,” Ferrari responded, “you read my thoughts.”
Ferrari had been eyeing such an engine configuration for nearly two decades. “In the years immediately after the war I had an opportunity of observing the new Packard 12-cylinder on the splendid vehicles belonging to high-ranking American officers,” he noted in his memoirs. “I recall it was one of these 12-cylinder jobs which was purchased by Antonio Ascari in 1919, and then passed on by him to Maria Antonietta Avanzo, the first courageous woman driver of the postwar era.”
Baroness Avanzo confirmed her V-12-powered car did indeed give Ferrari the inspiration. “The Packard went from owner to owner,” she said in a 1969 interview with automotive journalist Valerio Moretti, “and no one managed to get any good results from it except Enzo Ferrari, who said that it had given him the inspiration for his future twelve-cylinder cars.”
Colombo returned to Milan, his head filled with ideas. Using a drafting board borrowed from Anderloni at Touring, he toiled away in the bedroom of his apartment. He began by designing the cylinder heads, then worked on the balance of the car. Assisting him were Angelo Nasi, head of Alfa’s industrial-vehicle chassis design, and Luciano Fochi, a young freelance designer.
Colombo worked on Ferrari’s car until November 1945, when Alfa management learned of his activities and rehired him to run its sports-vehicle division. The engineer recommended as his replacement was Giuseppe Busso, a talented technician who also had roots in Alfa.
Busso jumped at the chance. “I had to be ruthless in order to pull the 125 through its childhood illnesses, which were neither few nor insignificant,” he remembered in Ferrari Tipo 166. Giving Busso, Luigi Bazzi, and their group of young apprentices headaches were the V-12’s ignition and its cylinder-head gaskets. No less of a problem was the lack of high-grade materials and the poorly machined components from suppliers.
The motivated group kept at it until September 28, 1946, when the engine underwent its first bench tests. That same year, Ferrari changed the name of his company to “Scuderia Ferrari-Auto Avio Costruzioni.” Then, on March 12, 1947, Ferrari’s first car -- a 125 without coachwork -- ran under its own power for the first time. Busso captured the moment on film, a smiling Ferrari wearing a suit seated in the rudimentary car, surrounded by proud workers in grubby overalls.
The 125’s platform was simple -- a tubular chassis supplemented by leaf springs and shock absorbers. The 1496cc engine, depending upon its state of tune, produced between 72 and 118 horsepower. The five-speed gearbox was a rarity in an era when four-speed manuals were the rule for European sporting cars.
During the struggle to complete that first car, “I was beginning to be sincerely fond of Ferrari,” Busso observed. “[T]he practical experience of battling successfully with theoretical and practical problems of bringing a car like the 125 was very important to me and was to prove invaluable when I [later] confronted Alfa’s problems. Possibly my frequent contact with his son Dino and Signora Ferrari, even my listening to Ferrari unburdening himself about the health problems of these two and the anguish of seeing him cry many a time when talking about Dino, all may have contributed to my affection for Ferrari.”
Busso and his men made two 125s. The first was completed on May 8, 1947. It had a roadster body vaguely similar to that of the 815. The second 125 was finished the following day and was a much more elementary car with a torpedo body and cycle fenders.
The 125’s initial appearance was at Piacenza on May 11, and piloting the roadster was Franco Cortese, a talented driver who also was Ferrari’s traveling salesman in his machine tool business. Cortese’s contract was drawn up in April 1947, and stated he would earn 50,000 lire a month (around $84 at the time), with traveling expenses and incidentals covered by the company. Cortese would keep the driver’s race winnings, while Ferrari kept those won by the team.
In the 30-lap, 60-mile race, Cortese’s 125 S ran 27 laps before its fuel pump let go. Still, he set the fastest lap, showing his potential, and the car’s. Two weeks later in Rome, that potential was fully realized. After 40 laps and some 85 miles, Cortese and the 125 S took the checkered flag with an overall victory.
And so began the Ferrari legend. Cortese scored another victory that year, plus a pair of seconds and two class wins. “We would race every Sunday to test the car,” Cortese recalled in Ferrari Tipo 166. “I was alone [and] the others were mainly [driving] Maserati. But we were superior, the Ferrari was a more modern car, I would say exceptional for that period.
“It drove very easily [but] … it [had] a somewhat different engine. We were used to normal four- and six-cylinder motors [and] this twelve-cylinder was like an electric motor. It would ‘spin’ very easily, so one had to be careful.”
Enzo Ferrari was a master at motivating his employees and marketing his ideas. On the next page, his peers give firsthand accounts of his efforts.
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Ferrari the Marketer and Motivator
Ferrari built one more car in 1947, modifying the coachwork and engine of each of his three machines as needed. By August, the V-12’s displacement had increased to 1902cc and the model designation evolved to 159. By early 1948, Ferrari was making the 166 with its 1996cc capacity; it became the company’s mainstay.
The 166 won more races than the 125 or 159, but Ferrari soon recognized he had a problem. His cars had a variety of bodies, from slab-sided torpedo shapes to cycle-fender jobs to a coupe and spider made by Carrozzeria Allemano in Turin. The Allemano coupe won 1948’s Mille Miglia, but its look was completely different from any of its predecessors. This greatly troubled Ferrari’s marketing instincts -- how could one identify the car as “a Ferrari”?
Enzo turned to Felice Bianchi Anderloni of Touring for the solution. His talented friend gladly accepted the commission. But shortly after the project started, Anderloni became ill and died after a trip to Rome; this thrust his son Carlo into the position of design director.
Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni, 32 years of age, had been working full-time in the company for five years, but still felt the pressure of his new circumstance. “It was not an easy position to be in,” he reflected. “We have a saying in Italy that it is best to present a good face in a bad situation, and that is what I tried to do.
“This was my first work and it was vitally important because people understood that Touring meant my father. I knew many were quietly wondering ‘what will happen now? Can the son follow in his father’s footsteps?’”
Enzo Ferrari had no such doubts, and let Anderloni know he had his full confidence. Carlo bit into the project with vigor, richly rewarding Ferrari’s belief when Touring’s 166 MM “barchetta” made its debut at the 1948 Turin Auto Show in September.
One of the postwar period’s seminal designs, the Barchetta won the Mille Miglia and the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1949. Those victories and others formed the foundation for Touring’s design and construction of a series of berlinetta and coupe 166s. All used the same design language, and Ferrari had its first “look.”
As orders increased, Anderloni got a firsthand taste of Enzo’s character and motivational techniques. One day, Ferrari took a rare trip to Milan to examine barchettas under construction for the Mille Miglia. Shortly after his arrival, he launched into a screaming tirade. The work was unsatisfactory. It was moving too slowly. He might cancel his order. Enzo stormed out of the Touring works and drove back to Modena.
Stunned, Anderloni remembered looking at Touring co-owner Gaetano Ponzoni, who handled the administrative side of the company. After the shock of the episode wore off, the two retired to the administrative offices to come up with a game plan: Carlo would drive down and see Ferrari the following day in Modena, no short order given the disarray of Italy’s postwar infrastructure.
The trip was arduous, and Anderloni arrived at Enzo’s factory late in the morning. He was immediately escorted into Ferrari’s office and invited to sit down. “What brings you here?” Ferrari asked. “This is a wonderful surprise.”
“Yesterday’s blowup had us a bit distressed,” Anderloni replied. “What can we do to help the situation?”
“Yesterday?” Ferrari responded, dismissing the entire episode with a wave of the hand and shrug of the shoulders. “Shall we go get an early lunch?”
Impressive racing victories in the early 1950s resulted in an increase in Ferrari orders. Continue reading to learn more about this era.
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Ferrari: The Driver's Chassis
By the early 1950s, Ferrari was constructing a car every 10 days to two weeks. A string of endurance-racing victories at the hands of factory drivers and privateers were fueling orders for the road cars. Many found their way to the racetrack, often driven by wealthy sportsmen and privateers, such as Italy’s Marzotto brothers.
“I met Enzo Ferrari in 1949,” Paolo Marzotto recalled in Ferrari 1947-1997. “Vittorio, Umberto, Giannino and myself had gone to Modena, to the firm’s old headquarters. That is where the ‘Commendatore’ met customers. Maranello only housed the workshops.
“We had gone to buy a couple of cars and to ask to drive another two for the Scuderia in the Italian Sport Championship the following year ... [W]ith his subtle astounding eloquence, [Ferrari] convinced us to buy four cars.
“And if we wanted the official cars, we just had to earn them. There was something innovative about Ferraris that other cars did not have, and the man who created them was extraordinary: pleasant, curious, biting, overpowering, and conciliatory. He exploited every opportunity with a mixture of managerial skills and missionary zeal ... ”
Ferrari was now competing in Grand Prix racing as well. The origins of open-wheel competition traced to 1906, and in the late 1940s, international racing’s organizing body, the Paris-based Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), began planning for an annual world-championship competition for drivers. The first Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at Great Britain’s historic Silverstone course on May 13, 1950.
Ferrari began building and competing in open-wheel racing in 1948, and entered the Grand Prix fray in 1950’s second race, in Monaco on May 21. Since then, a Ferrari car has competed in every Formula 1 race.
Alfa Romeo drivers Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio dominated the first championship, finishing 1-2 in the driver standings as Alfa won every race.
The following year was a different story. Ferrari handed Alfa its first postwar defeat, at Silverstone in July, and narrowly lost 1951’s championship to Alfa in the season’s last race in Spain. As if recognizing the handwriting on the wall, Alfa withdrew from Grand Prix competition.
Alfa’s Silverstone defeat and its eventual withdrawal was bittersweet for Ferrari. “I still feel for our Alfa the adolescent tenderness of first love, the immaculate affection for the mamma,” Enzo wrote in a letter to Alfa’s managing director after beating his onetime employer.
Ferrari dominated Grand Prix racing in 1952 and ’53, losing only one race and easily winning the championships both years. But even more important to the forming Ferrari legend was its success in sports-car competition, in the epic endurance races of the day in particular.
“In Ferrari’s early years, I am sure endurance racing was more popular than Formula 1,” said Piero Ferrari, Enzo’s only surviving son. “This was before the 1970s, when F1 started to grow through television involvement. Endurance racing was really part of the Ferrari myth, and was what built up the Ferrari myth in that age.”
Indeed, in the world’s most-famous long-distance road races -- Le Mans, the Mille Miglia, the Carrera Panamericana, Sebring -- Ferrari’s sports cars were more often victorious than not. A number of these racing-winning models could be ordered as grand-touring cars, equipped with less-powerful engines and more-luxurious interiors, but with coachwork often identical to that of the race winners. This was quite a lure for customers, and it helped create an aura around the man and his company with the era’s top race drivers.
“When I first met [Ferrari] he was 55 and I was 25,” remembered Umberto Maglioli, winner of 1954’s Carrera Panamericana in a Ferrari 375 Plus. “A good-looking big man, his hair was nearly all white, already a legend,” Maglioli wrote in Ferrari 1947-1997. “You approached him with reverential fear, influenced because you saw everyone else treating him with great deference, careful not to irritate him, and there were no two sides about it. He lorded it over everybody, made his own rules, good and bad.”
Enzo’s reverence for the machinery was evident to Maglioli. “‘We are car builders,' he would say. It was an extreme attitude ... But Ferrari was like that. He felt real displeasure when one of his cars had an accident, to the point that he didn’t want to see pieces of it when it returned to the plant. That is one aspect of Ferrari’s character that has possibly not been sufficiently emphasized.”
Maglioli’s observation underscored the fact that Ferrari’s relationship with the men who risked their lives in his racecars was a complex one.
“At the end of 1955 I had the possibility of retiring,” wrote the great Fangio in Ferrari, The Grand Prix Cars, “[but] decided to postpone my retirement for another year. As Mercedes-Benz had withdrawn, I returned to Europe to race with Ferrari in 1956, but I wasn’t very happy about it.
“Since I first raced in Europe I had always been in a team opposing Ferrari. Now I was joining them … but he would never say who [was] the number-one driver, although the younger men told me ‘Juan, you are the leader.’
“Ferrari was a hard man. His team raced in every category and his drivers drove always for him. He wanted victory primarily for his cars and this suited my attitude, because I never raced solely for myself, but the team as a whole.
“But a driver must have a good relationship with his mechanics, and I found this rather difficult to achieve with the Ferrari team. I suppose it was because I had been their opposition for so many years and now here I was as their driver.”
Not surprisingly, coachbuilders lept at the chance to design a Ferrari chassis. On the next page, find out which coachbuilders earned the right to do so.
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Ferrari: The Coachbuilder's Chassis
Ferrari’s sports-racing victories and the prestige they generated caused the industry’s top coachbuilding firms to clamor for his chassis. Many of Italy’s coachbuilders made it through World War II by dreaming about what they would design and produce once hostilities ended, but it took a few years for that creativity to come to the fore. Europe’s second half of the 1940s was ruled by a wartime mentality: Restraint and simply surviving were the keys to most everyone’s existence.
Recovery finally took hold in the early 1950s, and as the pace of material growth quickened into what became known as the “economic miracle,” the European spirit was rejuvenated, as well.
Automotive production grew exponentially, carrying along with it the gran-turismo and sports car industry and the coachbuilders who served it.
“It was like a giant, compressed spring; when the war ended, that spring released,” recalled Filippo Sapino, the designer of Ferrari’s 512S show car of 1970. Sergio Pininfarina expressed it this way: “Because people went a long time without walking, they took big steps, not little ones.”
Enzo Ferrari was acutely aware of how styling impacted his company and the industry. “It was a very, very important element for him,” Piero Ferrari said. “First was the engine performance, for he was an engine-oriented person. But second was the coachwork -- styling was very important.”
Couple that with Ferrari’s ever increasing reputation as the pinnacle of speed and prestige, and it’s easy to understand why coachbuilders clamored to show their work on a Ferrari chassis.
Touring dominated Ferrari’s designs from the debut of the 166 barchetta in 1948 to the end of 1950. Stablimenti Farina would show the occasional design, as would Milan’s Zagato and Sapino’s future employer, Carrozzeria Ghia.
But by 1951, the most prolific coachbuilder for Ferrari was Carrozzeria Vignale. Alfredo Vignale started his firm in 1946, and produced mostly nondescript shapes until he combined his talents with the era’s most formidable stylist, Giovanni Michelotti, then in his early 30s. “You could easily title his biography ‘Michelotti: An Artist,’” said a Michelotti coworker.
Vignale’s initial designs for Ferrari were restrained, but as 1951 turned to 1952, Michelotti’s creativity was unleashed. Whether it was an endurance racer, such as the 340 Mexico, or a luxurious gran turismo, such as a 212 Inter or 375 America, the shapes were superb and startling in their originality.
Still, it was another coachbuilder who truly bewitched Ferrari. By the early 1950s, Battista “Pinin” Farina and his firm were the masters of the styling universe, their only rival being Anderloni and Carrozzeria Touring. Pinin Farina’s seminal 202 Cisitalia berlinetta of 1947 opened a new age of design.
“My father was very intuitive,” Sergio Pininfarina remembered. “He believed Ferrari would one day become the most important name in Italy, much like Alfa Romeo prior to the war. This made him want to go to Ferrari. At the same time, Mr. Ferrari wanted to work with Pinin Farina because, in his mind, he thought Pinin Farina was the best.”
Though the two men had known one another since the early 1920s, they admired the other’s work from afar. “Both were prima donnas,” Sergio Pininfarina explained with a chuckle. “Ferrari was a man of very strong character, and my father was much the same. Mr. Ferrari was not coming to Pinin Farina, and my father was not going to Modena. So they met halfway, in Tortona, something like Gorbachev and Reagan agreeing to meet in Iceland.”
Their luncheon in Tortona altered the Ferrari universe. By 1954, it was clear who was Ferrari’s favored coachbuilder. Be it a gran turismo built in limited quantities, an endurance racer, a sensational show car, or a one-off for royalty, Battista and Sergio Pininfarina’s work showed extraordinary creativity, refinement, and grace.
In describing his philosophy years later, Battista’s passion for timeless form was obvious. “The inter-relation between the body of a beautiful woman and that of a Farina designed car,” he said, “is that both have a simplicity and harmony of line, so that when they are old one can still see how beautiful they were when they were young.”
Also gaining Ferrari’s favor was local coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti.
The humble Modenese artisan had worked on Ferrari’s Alfa Romeos prior to the war. He founded Carrozzeria Scaglietti in 1951, in a building not far from the growing Ferrari works in Maranello.
Scaglietti’s initial efforts on Ferrari chassis consisted of rebodies for customers. The quality of the work caught Enzo’s attention, and by 1955, Scaglietti was building the majority of Ferrari’s competition cars.
That began a close relationship between the two men that lasted until Enzo’s death in 1988. Central to the bond was that Scaglietti’s carrozzeria had become a second home to Ferrari’s son, Dino. Named after Enzo’s father, Alfredo, and shortened to the affectionate Dino, Enzo’s first son was in his early 20s as the ’50s dawned, and was suffering from muscular dystrophy.
“Every day [Dino] would drive over to our workshop to see how things were going,” Scaglietti remembered. “He was actively interested, saying ‘We can do this, we can do that.’ These visits were his main link to his father’s cars.
“But you could tell he was not well. Often, he fell and then pretended like he tripped on a hammer or something else lying on the shop’s floor ... ”
Dino had followed his father into the family business and had showed early promise as an engineer. His death in 1956 cast a pall over Enzo’s world. He preserved Dino’s desk as a memorial, visited his grave daily for many years, and wore only black neckties in his honor.
“[T]he only perfect love in this world is that of a father for his son,” Enzo wrote in his autobiography six years after Dino’s death.
Ferrari also forever remembered the comfort Dino found in Scaglietti’s presence. By the late 1950s, Scaglietti was part of Enzo’s inner circle. Europe’s economic miracle had treated both men well. Ferrari production had increased nearly 1,000 percent since 1950, and Scaglietti, as one of Ferrari’s key subcontractors, had benefited greatly.
The coachbuilder was ready to break out and form his own company.
“I needed money to make my own factory,” he remembered. “Because I did not have the funds to underwrite the expansion, Ferrari called his banker and cosigned the loan for me when I bought the land. Without that type of generosity, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I wanted to do.”
By the early 1960s, Ferrari had established its legendary status. Find out more about this Ferrari era on the next page.
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Ferrari Cements the Legend, Survives The Purge
By the early 1960s, the Legend was well in place. Between 1953 and 1961, Ferrari sports-racing cars earned Maranello the Constructors World Sports Championship seven times. Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin tied for second, with one title each.
It was a similar showing in Europe’s two most important road races, the glamorous 24 Hours of Le Mans in France and the punishing 1,000-mile trek through Italy, the Mille Miglia. Between 1949 and 1961, Ferraris won Le Mans five times, a record matched only by Jaguar. Between 1948 and 1957, Ferrari was victorious in the Mille Miglia eight times; next best was one win apiece for Mercedes, Lancia, and Alfa.
A large part of this success and the aura it generated was Enzo’s unwavering belief in the V-12 engine configuration.
“The main reason for the victories,” endurance ace Paul Frere noted in Ferrari 1947-1997, “was the superb 12-cylinder engine. [This] managed to cover up defects … such as the aerodynamics which would only let our Testa Rossa reach 260 km/h with difficulty on the straights at Le Mans. [A] few weeks after the race I asked Ferrari why he had not paid more attention to aerodynamics, he answered, ‘Dear Frere, aerodynamics are for people who don’t know how to build good engines!’ He always had a ready answer, just as he also had all the qualities necessary to win a place in both the history and the legend of racing.”
The V-12 did indeed dominate the early Ferrari engineering package; it wasn’t until the late 1950s that Enzo would begin to adopt the very latest chassis, suspension, brake, and gearbox technologies. When he did, Ferrari’s eye for talent, and the ability to exploit it, was beautifully illustrated in the hiring of three key engineers: Giotto Bizzarrini, Carlo Chiti, and Mauro Forghieri. It was they who brought greater sophistication to the balance of his cars’ components.
Bizzarrini came from Alfa Romeo in 1957, and had in his background a one-off Fiat Topolino modified for his graduating thesis at the University of Pisa in 1953. Bizzarrini recalled Ferrari telling him years later, “The reason I hired you is I respected your courage when I saw the car you were driving.”
What Bizzarrini said he appreciated about the Ferrari organization was its “very neat and clear division between the road and racing cars. Other companies such as Maserati often built them side by side, but in Ferrari, even in the competition department there was a division between Formula cars and sports cars.”
Thanks to Bizzarrini, Chiti also jumped from Alfa, and was soon made Ferrari’s technical director. “In practical terms,” Chiti recalled, “I spent my whole time with [Enzo]. In the evening we watched TV together. We talked about racing or discussed ideas. Racing was not the only conversation; I was struck by the breadth of his knowledge, his memory and above all, his intelligence.”
The after-hours time together may have been relaxing. Office hours were anything but. Chiti said he and his fellow engineers lived under a blanket of fear of making a mistake. Ferrari was unsparing of even the slightest error, something easily done in the yeasty environment of a continual stream of new projects.
The different talents of Bizzarrini and Chiti ended up having a great impact on Ferrari. Bizzarrini was a master of testing sports racers and GTs on the road, then modifying them. Chiti was fabulous on the drawing board.
“Ferrari’s feudal factory in Maranello continues to make the finest sports cars in the world,” Sports Car Illustrated observed in October 1960. “No other make or builder could even have tried to duplicate Ferrari’s utter sweep of … Le Mans, a race which can be dull, hard work but still proves the solid worth of an automobile. Ferrari and his men are still masters of their craft.”
In their time at Maranello, Bazzarrini, and Chiti played central roles in Ferrari’s four endurance crowns, two Formula 1 titles and in the greatly improving drivability of the road cars. That makes it all the more surprising the two talented engineers were let go in a house cleaning at the end of 1961, an episode that became know as The Ferrari Walkout or, The Purge.
Near the center of the matter was Ferrari’s wife, Laura, whom he had married around 1920. Enzo’s “feudal” approach created an environment of intrigue, a situation further antagonized by Laura’s intrusive ways.
Chiti and another walkout participant, ex team manager Romolo Tavoni, recall her being a meddlesome presence inside the company. Chiti told author Oscar Orefici in Carlo Chiti: Sinfonia Ruggente that "she was a woman totally devoid of any diplomatic sense...(and) had none of the characteristics needed to live alongside a man of the stature of her husband."
The flashpoint was a physical altercation at the factory involving Ferrari’s powerful sales manager, Girolamo Gardini. Laura was viewed as the instigator. Loyalties were divided. Bizzarrini, Chiti, and a number of other department heads were ousted.
“A group of us tried to unify and support Gardini to have Ferrari bring him back,” Bizzarrini remembered, summing up for the several participants in The Purge interviewed by this author. “But Ferrari said ‘no’ and fired everybody!
“I was stunned to find myself on the outside of the organization, for Ferrari was like a second father for me when I was younger. He had faith in me and the team -- there was a complete feeling between us.”
Mauro Forghieri had been with the company only two years. But in another display of Enzo’s ability to pick talent and motivate it, he promoted the inexperienced, ambitious 27-year-old engineer to head the technical office.
“Ferrari made it very clear he was behind me 100 percent,” Forghieri remembered. “He said he would look after the politics and the money if I concentrated on the technical side. This gave me the courage I needed.
“He was a tremendous man and this gave me the chance to become what I always dreamed of. Ferrari was a great place to work during that period.”
Despite its success, Ferrari's golden years were still to come. Get the details on the next page.
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The Ferrari Golden Years, Ford, and the Dino
Ferrari didn’t miss a beat following The Purge. His cars won Le Mans in 1962, ’63, ’64, and ’65. An onslaught of victories by his sports-racing machines and competition GTs won Ferrari various constructors world sports-car titles in 1962, ’63, ’64, and ’65. John Surtees was F1 world champion in a Ferrari in 1964, a year in which Ferrari also won the F1 makes title.
All the while, the road cars were fortifying their standing as the world’s best high-performance sports and GT automobiles. Production more than doubled over four years.
It was a luster that proved quite appealing to Ford Motor Company in the early 1960s. America’s No. 2 automaker was trying to cultivate a more youthful audience, and performance was the hot ticket. Nothing symbolized speed and horsepower better than racetrack success, and in the early ’60s, international racing success was spelled Ferrari.
Ferrari came into focus on Ford’s radar screen in January 1963. CEO Henry Ford II and his top lieutenant, Lee Iacocca, hatched the idea of purchasing the Italian automaker to jump-start Ford’s assault on America’s bursting youth market.
Unbeknownst to most everyone, Ford included, was that Ferrari was already in negotiations over the sale of his company to a stalwart client: the wealthy Mecom family of Texas. The Mecoms had made a fortune in oil, but when John Mecom, Jr., learned of Ford’s interest, he knew his pockets weren’t deep enough to win that bidding war. “Once Ford entered the picture,” he remembered, “I backed away.”
Ford’s first contact with Ferrari was in May 1963, through the American company’s Italian subsidiary. According to a 1966 account in Road & Track, Ford Vice President and General Manager Donald Frey traveled to Italy as the front man in the talks.
Frey said the framework for a deal was settled upon fairly quickly. There were to be two companies. One, called Ford-Ferrari, would be responsible for the gran turismos Ferrari was already building. The second, Ferrari-Ford, would construct competition cars. Ford would be the majority shareholder of the road-car arm. Enzo Ferrari would be the largest shareholder in the racing company.
Ten days of intense negotiations collapsed when it became apparent Enzo wanted complete control of Ferrari-Ford. Frey returned to America disappointed but not surprised. Henry Ford II listened intently to Frey’s description of the failed deal, then simply stated, “That’s okay. Let’s go beat them.”
With that, an epic automotive David versus Goliath battle was joined. It would last the better part of five years. Dearborn’s principal weapon would be the GT40 series, beautiful midengine racecars developed with the full might of the Ford organization.
But endless money didn’t guarantee immediate victory. In 1964, GT40s powered by 4.7-liter Ford V-8s couldn’t unseat Ferrari’s proven V-12 sports prototypes. So Ford responded in a proper American hot rod way: It got a bigger engine.
Armed with Ford’s NASCAR-based 7-liter V-8, the GT40 Mk II appeared at Le Mans in 1965, and though it lost to another midengine V-12 Ferrari, GT40 Mk IIs came back to finish 1-2-3 in the ’66 race. GT40 variants would win Le Mans in ’67, ’68, and ’69.
Enzo Ferrari was far from idle during this period. He rallied his troops, and they responded.
“When The Old Man wanted something you didn’t say no,” remembered Brenda Vernor, who moved from England to Italy in the early 1960s and eventually became Ferrari’s personal assistant. “Not because you didn’t want to do it, but because in a strange way it was a pleasure to work for Enzo Ferrari.
“So we [often] worked all day Sunday, and Monday morning I would find a little present on my desk with a card. He didn’t say ‘thank you’ but you knew he was in effect thanking you for your effort.
“I can recall a number of times taking food and wine to the mechanics at one or two in the morning. They too would not say ‘no’ to The Old Man. For these men it was also a joy to work for him.”
Ferrari was the last manufacturer to win Le Mans with a front-engine car -- the 330 TRI/LM in 1962 -- and the first to win it with a midengine car -- the 250 P in 1963. Now that Ford was in the game, it was time for Ferrari to play “no substitute for cubic inches.” It built a variety of sports-racing prototypes with ever-larger and more-powerful 12-cylinder engines, culminating with a 1967 endurance crown on the strength of the mighty 4-liter 330 P4 and 412 P.
Ferrari’s use of the midengine configuration in racing was not lost on the company’s sales force, its coachbuilders or its clientele. In the mid 1960s, a conflict over a midengine road car was seething behind the scenes at Maranello.
Sergio Pininfarina had personally handled his carrozzeria’s Ferrari account since his father had landed it in 1952. For much of 1965, he had locked horns with a conservative, truculent Enzo, trying to convince him to produce a road-going midengine machine.
“He kept insisting it was too dangerous,” the effervescent coachbuilder said. “While he felt it was fine for racing and professional drivers, he … was afraid of the safety, of building a car that was too dangerous for customers. That’s why he was preparing the front engine with rear drive, the classic layout. The idea of having all the weight in the back was upsetting to him.”
Even the unprecedented hoopla generated by the 1966 unveiling of Lamborghini’s avant-garde midengine Miura couldn’t persuade Enzo to change his mind. “I insisted and insisted and insisted,” Pininfarina recalled. “All the salesmen were with me. We had dramatic meetings in Maranello in which the salesmen and myself were pushing for a midengine.”
Pininfarina’s barrage finally yielded some results: Ferrari approved the experimental Dino for production. This one-off prototype came from Sergio’s fertile mind, and broke cover at the Paris Auto Show in 1965. A second, more-refined prototype was shown the following year at Turin.
The preproduction version appeared 12 months later and the world soon had its first road-going midengine “Ferrari,” though this beautiful V-6 two-seater was manufactured in cooperation with Fiat and did not, in fact, carry a Ferrari badge.
“When Mr. Ferrari finally said yes,” Pininfarina recalled, “he said ‘Okay, you make it not with a Ferrari name, but as a Dino.’ This was because the Dino was a less powerful car and in his [mind], less powerful meant less danger for the customers. I therefore had the permission to develop [it].”
In next few years, labor unrest in Europe and new safety and emissions regulations in America made life miserable for Enzo Ferrari. Learn how Ferrari weathered this period on the next page.
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Ferrari, the Unions, and Fiat
The popularity of the Dino 206 and 246 GTs helped push Ferrari’s sales past the 1,000-car barrier for the first time in 1971. Another key was the success of the 365 GTB/4 “Daytona,” Ferrari’s front-engine answer to Lamborghini’s midengine Miura. More than 1,300 of the 170-plus-mph Daytonas were sold before it was replaced in 1974 with Ferrari’s first 12-cylinder midengine car, the 365 GT4/BB “Boxer.”
But ever-increasing sales, a stream of new models, victories in endurance racing, and participation in F1 couldn’t hide Enzo’s misery from those close to him. His company was tight on cash and under attack from forces beyond his control. It was wearing The Old Man down.
“It was a wonderful ten years, from 1957 to 1967,” Sergio Scaglietti recalled. “The economic boom was really flabbergasting … Ferrari’s company was getting bigger, as was mine. We would often work straight through the night and, in the three months prior to the Mille Miglia, we would work night and day. I used to pay the night shifts quite well, separate from the normal wages. A lot of workers prospered.”
That decade-plus of continual growth instilled in all of Italy’s workers expectations of ever better, higher-paying jobs and benefits. The unions gained tremendous strength during that stretch, and in some regions, including around Modena, social discord and labor unrest were the norm. When workers and management couldn’t resolve differences over salaries and conditions, bitter work stoppages were the result.
Scaglietti’s view was typical of those in the establishment. The unions, he said, “decided the workers shouldn’t do the extra hours. That spoiled everything and the workers became lazy; that was the start of the trouble. The politics were just as bad. It was always influence, influence on everything … It became hell when the unions were born.”
During those “hot years,” people openly questioned the accepted values, and many who did were attracted to Europe’s agitating socialist and communist movements. Some who sought to excel at their jobs claimed they were castigated by fellow employees. Student dissent was rampant, and protests turned violent in March 1968. Union leaders eventually joined forces with the college firebrands, and the situation became even more volatile.
Another thorn in Ferrari’s side came from across the Atlantic, where America’s new safety and smog regulations were crimping automotive high performance. Add that to the union confrontations and the public’s changing mentality toward extravagant sporting cars, and it was easy to see how any maker of European exotics could feel under siege.
“Ferrari was indeed having problems,” Scaglietti said. “The workers were giving him hassles and headaches. He was really fed up with the whole thing.”
Mauro Forghieri remembered much the same. “The strikes were one of our biggest problems,” he said. Parts would arrive late. Tension was constant. Production slowed. Much of the fun had gone out of the game.
In 1969, Scaglietti discovered a way out. Enzo had worked with Fiat since the mid 1960s, supplying engines for the Fiat Dino coupe and spider, and had successfully engaged company patriarch Gianni Agnelli in a conversation to buy Ferrari itself.
Scaglietti was privy to the Ferrari-Fiat talks, so Enzo called him in the spring of 1969 with a proposition: that the two men link their companies.
When Enzo asked, “What do you think of doing something like I am doing?” Scaglietti replied, “Give me the pen! I am ready to sign.”
Ferrari returned to the negotiating table in Turin. Scaglietti was now part of Ferrari, he explained, and Fiat needed to purchase both companies. On June 18, 1969, Scaglietti no longer owned his carrozzeria, and Fiat owned 40 percent of Ferrari.
“That was the best thing I ever did,” Scaglietti reflected. “I have never understood one thing about the communist ideal.”
With the purchase by Fiat, Ferrari found economic relief. Read on to find out about his next move.
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Ferrari Stops Sports Racing, Starts V-8 Road Cars
With the Fiat safety net in place, Ferrari built a custom test track at Fiorano, a small town approximately a mile away from his factory. Mauro Forghieri recalled Ferrari telling him, “You won’t have any more economic problems, so do your best.”
Ferrari went on to win the Sports World Championship for Makes in 1972 with the 312 PB, then narrowly lost the title in ’73 to Matra-Simca. But despite success at the highest levels, Ferrari was questioning the return on investment of sports racing, and at the end of 1972, it closed down its factory endurance-racing program.
“Sports car racing was really what built up the Ferrari myth in the age before the 1970s,” Piero Ferrari observed. “Then Formula 1 became more important, when it started to grow with television’s involvement.”
It was an intelligent decision. The two types of racing were on different trajectories, and for Ferrari to truly compete at the top level in F1, it needed to focus all its resources there.
“[A] problem at Ferrari in [the 1960s] was its enormous number of activities, which led inevitably to energy being expended in different sectors,” John Surtees said in Ferrari 1947-1997. “For example, when the cars had to be prepared for Le Mans, Formula 1 was clearly overlooked, although we could compensate in part for our disappointments by the success of the Sports prototype cars.”
A hitch in the plan was that Ferrari withdrew from factory-backed endurance racing without getting its Grand Prix house in order. The F1 effort was in disarray, consumed by political intrigue, hobbled by badly designed cars. Interestingly, Forghieri was able to right the Grand Prix cars by using downforce tricks learned in endurance racing.
Order was restored when Luca Cordero di Montezemolo was brought in to run the team in 1973. Born in Bologna in 1947, Montezemolo was an attorney, with experience at top firms in Rome and New York and a specialty in international commercial law. On-track performance soared when Austrian Niki Lauda was hired away from BRM to be the Maranello team’s No. 1 driver.
Enzo Ferrari, meanwhile, was suffering from ill health. He traveled little and lived at the home he had built in the middle of the Fiorano track. Far removed from the true ins-and-outs of the Formula 1 scene, he relied on television coverage and on-site advisors. Unfortunately, many of these individuals were more interested in protecting their fiefdoms than in the good of the team.
Forghieri and Lauda were nonetheless diligent in developing and testing Ferrari’s heavily revamped F1 mount, the 312 T. The F1 effort benefited from Montezemolo’s rising career path, which soon had him named senior vice president of external relations for the Fiat Group, and from Lauda’s wiles in cutting through the layers of self-interest.
“If The Old Man was absent,” Richard Williams wrote in his excellent biography, Enzo Ferrari, “Lauda would walk across the road to the factory, knock on his office door, and walk in. In this way he short-circuited those who had been exerting influence without taking direct responsibility. And Montezemolo’s Agnelli connections gave him a particular authority and independence within the setup, as well as guaranteeing the sympathy of the parent company.
“He was young,” Lauda said of Montezemolo, “but he was good.”
The results of that work were spectacular: three F1 world driving championships and four constructors titles in the second half of the 1970s.
On the road, Ferrari breathed new life into its model line with the introduction in 1974 of the 308 series. Launched as the four seat Dino 308 GT/4, these were Maranello’s first Ferrari-badged road cars without a 12-cylinder engine. Along with their successor V-8 models, they became the company’s financial bread and butter.
The Dino 308 GT/4 could not have been introduced at a more appropriate time. The first oil crisis had hit in October 1973, and the entire sports-car and GT universe reeled. Now the general public viewed exotics as a waste of precious, finite resources. Some nations instituted strict speed limits; Italy and others banning driving on Sunday.
“Will exotic cars survive?” asked Road & Track on its March 1975 cover. It was a fair question, considering that Maserati, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin had all declared bankruptcy. Ferrari sales slumped from 1,844 in 1972 to just 1,337 in 1975, and while that did squeeze cash flow, the Fiat safety net all but assured Ferrari’s continued existence.
Then Ferrari’s next generation of two-seat sports cars was introduced. The midengine V-8 308 GTB and GTS were fast and beautiful. Sales took off. In 1979, Ferrari annual production crossed the 2,000-unit threshold for the first time, with 2,221 cars built.
The following year, Turin was the site of a revolt dubbed the “March of 40,000.” Led by Fiat employees, it was an open rejection of the unions’ power and intrusiveness. It proved a tipping point: The unions’ strength was never the same. Over the next few years, companies such as Ferrari and Fiat would once again focus their efforts on designing and manufacturing new cars, rather than on battling organized labor and on simply surviving.
On the next page, learn how an aging Enzo Ferrari celebrated his company's 40th anniversary.
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Enzo Ferrari and the Twilight Years
In his excellent history, Ferrari: Road and Racing, Ferrari expert and author Winston Goodfellow recalls attending Ferrari’s annual company luncheon in December 1981. Goodfellow was a guest of former Ferrari race-tem manger and prominent Italian journalist Franco Lini. Goodfellow recalls the luminaries in attendance -- Fiat and Ferrari brass, Sergio Pininfarina, drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi, and hundreds of employees.
“It quickly became clear The Old Man still had the ‘It’ factor,” Goodfellow wrote. “Though tables had been set hours earlier and doors were open, we all milled around in the restaurant parking lot until a light-blue Fiat sedan pulled up. It stopped, the rear door opened, and out popped Ferrari, the trademark dark glasses and light-colored raincoat in place. He looked around as several employees pulled out cameras for pictures and, after a moment’s hesitation, walked into the restaurant.
“It was as if the Red Sea parted, all of us following in his wake,” Goodfellow wrote. “When Ferrari spoke during the lunch, the room was quiet, all gripped by his words. Even when he wasn’t speaking or eating but just staring off into space, one could easily sense his mind’s wheels turning at full speed.
“After lunch, a group of us went over to the factory, shut down for the occasion,” Goodfellow continued. “We walked the silent production lines, then visited the racing department. A few moments later, Ferrari F1 team driver Didier Pironi came in and, while admiring the new car for the upcoming season, handed me a body panel. This was in the early years of composite materials, and much to my amazement, I easily waved a large section of the car in the air above my head.”
The following year, Ferrari won the F1 constructors title and Pironi narrowly missed the driver’s crown. The team won another constructors title in 1983, then entered what was a mostly downhill slide. It would be 16 years before Ferrari won another F1 championship.
In the showrooms, it was another story. Even the second oil crisis didn’t slow road-car sales, and production topped 3,000 for the first time in 1985.
The go-go mid ’80s also saw a Ferrari spawn a new phenomenon: the instant collectible market. Intended to return Ferrari to sports-racing competition, the limited-production 288 GTO was snapped up by a rapacious breed of investors and speculators who resold production cars for considerably more than their sticker price.
In the summer of 1987, journalists assembled in Maranello for the introduction of the F40, created to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary.
“A little more than a year ago,” Enzo told the gathering, “I expressed a wish to my engineers: Build a car to be the best in the world. And now that car is here.”
With that, a red cover was swept aside, revealing Ferrari’s first road car with a claimed top speed of more than 200 mph. The journalists broke into spontaneous applause. Ferrari production topped 4,000 for the first time in 1988. And by 1990, F40s were going for more than $1 million in the frothy secondary market.
The F40 was the last Ferrari produced on Enzo’s watch. In failing health as he reached 90, Ferrari died in August 1988, of kidney failure. At his side were his surviving son, Piero, and Piero’s mother, Lina Lardi.
In all respects, Enzo was a man of his time and of his station in life. Lina Lardi was his long-time inamorata, and only after the death of his wife, Laura, in 1978, did Ferrari include Piero in his public life. Presented as Piero Lardi Ferrari, he would become an integral part of the company management team.
“You really can’t compare anyone to Enzo Ferrari,” said Brenda Vernor in 1995. Vernor had spent years as Enzo’s personal assistant and had worked closely with a number of Ferrari F1 bosses for almost three decades.
“Ferrari was a strong man -- and a weak man.” Vernor said. “He never showed his feelings. But he was a very human person because he had come from nothing, and he knew what it was like to be an ordinary mechanic who had problems and needed things.
“If any of his mechanics in the racing department -- or anybody, for that matter -- had a problem with a doctor or needed a specialist, they would go to The Old Man and he would pick up the phone and make an appointment. He really did have a knack for getting the most out of the people who worked for him.
“He had a very good sense of humor and would always notice things,” Vernor continued. “Even if he didn’t say, he saw everything. He may not have let you know, but I reckon if you went to him the day after and asked ‘What was Brenda wearing yesterday?’ he would have been able to tell you.
“There will never be another man like him. What you must realize is … for us Enzo Ferrari is still alive, because when you speak of Ferrari you don’t think of Fiat, you think of him.”
What became of Ferrari after the death of its enigmatic founding father? Continue reading to find out.
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Ferrari After Ferrari
After Ferrari’s death in 1988, the Fiat-controlling Angelli family added another 40 percent to its 50-percent share of Ferrari; Piero Ferrari retained 10 percent.
In the half-decade that followed, the Ferrari company seemed to live on Enzo’s legacy, with no definitive voice to set it on track. Alain Prost narrowly missed winning the F1 championship in 1990, then the team fell considerably off the pace.
The road cars also suffered. By the early 1990s, Ferraris no longer were regular winners of magazine comparison tests. Quality control suffered. Rocked by worldwide recession, sales plummeted, from nearly 4,600 in 1991 to less than half that in 1993.
Fortunately, Ferrari’s management hadn’t been deceived by those lofty late-’80s sales figures and had brought in a new captain for the ship. In late 1991, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo was named Ferrari president and CEO. He was a man with a mission.
“I had just bought a 348 with my own money,” he recalled 10 years after his hiring, “and, with the exception of its good looks, I was utterly disappointed.”
Charismatic and focused, Montezemolo transformed the company in many ways. Under his leadership, one outstanding model after another left the gates of Maranello: the 355, 360 and 430, the 550 Maranello and Enzo, to name a few.
Montezemolo set about righting the Formula 1 effort, triggering the Schumacher era of utter domination. He also orchestrated the 1999 purchase of Maserati from Fiat and the turnaround of that former crosstown rival.
Ferrari was most certainly back, and it wasn’t just sales numbers and F1 titles that proved it. When debt-laden Fiat sold 34 percent of its Ferrari holdings to several banks in 2002 for approximately $700 million, it established the worth of Ferrari/Maserati at approximately $2.1 billion, or about one-third that of Fiat.
At the time, combined Ferrari and Maserati annual production was around 8,000 cars. Fiat manufactured approximately 1.7 million vehicles per year.
But Montezemolo’s vision extended beyond what the public saw on the roads and at the racetrack. He wanted to create an entirely new working environment, one that, as Ferrari literature expressed it, “put people at the center of innovation.”
The firm began using architecture as a source of brand identity, starting with the Renzo Piano-designed avant-garde wind tunnel that opened in 1998. Then came a new machining department, a paint shop that bordered on science fiction in its operation, a product-development center, and other structures.
Fabulous together, each also created a unique environment on its own. The engine assembly plant, for example, was quiet, well-lit and had several atriums inside, all in the effort to create an ideal working environment.
Profitable Ferrari not only poured money into its own facility, it did the same for Maserati. The Maserati factory was fully renovated, the product line revamped. Maserati became a highly attractive holding, and in February 2005 was repurchased by Fiat, which merged it with Alfa Romeo. Ferrari once again would concentrate on its own fortunes.
If Enzo could see what had become of his factory and of Maranello, he would recognize neither. No longer a sleepy country village, Maranello had assumed an air of sophistication. It daily attracted visitors from around the world. The factory it housed was truly a small city, with roads, intersections and signposts listing street names to guide guests. Inside those hallowed gates, the past blended beautifully with the present, a new entrance on the eastern side of the factory as impressive as the historic gate on the west.
“When I look at where Ferrari is today,” Piero Ferrari observed in 2005, “neither my father nor myself could ever imagine anything so big. It was really just a family business. Now Ferrari is a large company, an industry. The dimensions of everything are so very different.”
Those dimensions expanded further in 2005, when Ferrari sold 5,409 road cars worldwide. Exactly 1,550 were retailed in North America, marking the 13th consecutive year-over-year sales increase in Ferrari’s most important market.
Leading the charge were two enticing new models: a Spider version of the exciting F430 and the 612 Scaglietti, a four-seat front-engine V-12 grand turismo to replace the 456, introduced to Europe in late 2004.
In addition, Ferrari earned a smashing $200 million for calendar 2005 on consolidated earnings of some $1.67 billion, of which 17 percent was earmarked for research/development and investments.
These improved results partly reflected a “divorce” from Maserati, whose losses had been a drain on Maranello’s coffers. (Even so, and despite its new pairing with Alfa, Maserati will continue to look to Ferrari for components and technical assistance.)
The 2006 picture was even rosier. Road-car sales increased to a record 5,671, and profit improved to some $238 million on turnover of approximately $1.88 billion. Year-end employment was listed at 2,870. Notwithstanding Piero’s characterization, Ferrari remained very small automaker by world standards, though certainly never more prosperous or multifaceted.
By now, Ferrari was not only a source of pride for parent Fiat but an important profit center. As if to underscore this, Fiat increased its Ferrari stake to 85 percent, through a buyback of outstanding shares.
Ferrari welcomed a new CEO, Jean Todt, in 2006. In the next section, read about his ambitious plans for Ferrari's future.
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Ferrari Today and Tomorrow
Ferrari also welcomed a new CEO in 2006, when managing director Jean Todt was named to the post. Todt had come to Ferrari in 1994 after a winning career as a rally driver and rally team manager for Peugeot. He fast put Maranello back on top in Formula 1, helped by a very talented young driver named Michael Schummacher.
Meantime, Ferrari completed a swift two-year renovation of its road-car portfolio with the 2005 debut of the 599 GTB Fiorano. Named in honor of Ferrari’s world-famous test track, this long-awaited successor to the 575 Maranello was immediately hailed for its strikingly handsome Pininfarina styling and the performance of a 611-horsepower 6.0-liter V-12 based on the mighty Enzo engine. Road & Track aptly summed up the 599 as “raucously raw, lusciously civil.”
They could have added “faithfully versatile.” To prove the new car’s stamina, Ferrari sent two 599s on a little 84-day, 20,000-mile drive in 2006, starting in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and finishing in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Impressively, the cars were unaltered except for different shock absorbers giving a slightly elevated ride height and an underbody plate made of aluminum instead of plastic.
The run, called the “Panamerican 20,000,” involved 48 journalists who took turns driving the cars on a demanding route through 16 countries on roads ranging from smooth sea-level highways to rough Andean trails at 13,000 feet. Both 599s arrived little the worse for wear, needing only periodic oil changes and occasional support-crew attention en route.
A company press release rightly said the event proved how “today’s Ferrari can be driven in every type of road condition.” But this was not the company’s first such endurance run. The F355 had toured round the world back in 1997, and a pair of 612 Scagliettis became the first cars to drive all over China, again largely without incident, in 2005.
But no Ferrari ever was purchased for its reliability. Ferrari ownership is the stuff of dreams, and no one appreciates that more than Ferrari itself.
Helped by its strong growth into the 21st century, the company steadily increased outreach efforts to its owners and fans the world over. There are several aspects to this “relationship marketing,” as big companies call it.
One is Corse Clienti, owner-driver competitions that encompass the Ferrari Challenge Series, launched in 1993 for identically prepared production models; the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge for vintage cavallinos, inaugurated in 1996; and the F1 Clienti demonstration races in which owners experience the thrill of piloting prior-season Formula 1 Ferraris on demanding circuits, assisted by Maranello’s own technicians and team leaders.
Second, and even more exclusive, is the FXX Program, announced in early 2005. This centers on a “super Enzo” prototype conceived as a starting point for Ferrari’s future road and racing technology. FX was the Enzo’s factory designation, so FXX was logical for this next-step version. And what a step it is. Special even for a Ferrari, the FXX is packed with state-of-the-art components, including an 800-horsepower 6.2-liter enlargement of the Enzo’s V-12 engine.
Ferrari describes the FXX Program as including “a package of international-level events, during which an official team of technicians provides complete assistance and backup service to an exclusive group of Ferrari Client-Test Drivers.”
In other words, FXX owners get to play development engineer when they buy the car, all for around $1.9 million. This arrangement, says Ferrari, “provides a unique way for the Prancing Horse engineers to develop solutions ... with the help of the drivers. Track test sessions, driver debriefings and the use of sophisticated telemetry are all part of a typical ... working day.”
Of course, the work isn’t for just anyone. Only 30 or so FXXs would be built, and applications “were evaluated by a special in-house committee.” But if you qualified, you were in very good company. In fact, Michael Schummacher became FXX owner No. 30 soon after he stunned the racing world in late 2006 by announcing his retirement from Formula 1.
The other “personal touch” aspect of today’s Ferrari is the Carrozzeria Scaglietti Personalization Program, which allows buyers to customize their cars from a very broad slate of options.
The company is also pleased to fill “non-catalog” requests. Indeed, Ferrari was proud to state that every road car it built in 2006 was unique in terms of trim, color, mechanical components, convenience features, or some combination. Ferrari isn’t the only automaker offering such a high degree of customization -- Porsche, for one, has a similar program -- but it’s the kind of thing expected of a marque renowned for innovation, excellence, and excitement.
Ferrari marked its milestone 60th anniversary in 2007 with a grand celebration. Called the Ferrari 60 Relay, it was another world tour, this time spanning five continents and six months. The plan was to have more than 10,000 owners use their Ferraris to pass along a commemorative baton from place to place, starting in the wealthy Arab emirate Abu Dhabi in January and ending in late June at -- where else? -- Maranello. A dedicate Website tracked the tour’s progress.
Why begin in Abu Dhabi, which lies along the Persian Gulf? Because that’s where a Ferrari theme park -- yes, theme park -- is scheduled to rise on its own man-made island by 2009.
This idea isn’t as odd as you might think. As CEO Jean Todt noted in a press release, the small but prosperous emirate “is already one of our shareholders and a sponsor of the Scuderia [racing team]…The park will constitute an amazing opportunity to experience the world of Ferrari and to appreciate the values that have made the Prancing Horse a unique marque around the world.”
The park, joint effort of Ferrari and development company Aldar, is to cover 250,000 square meters encompassing 24 attractions “aimed at the family, a driving school and virtual simulation rides, as well as merchandising areas.”
The facility also includes a brand-new racetrack whose first scheduled event is the 2009 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 contest. With all this, Maranello’s answer to Disney World should be a real “E-ticket” experience.
Of course, excitement has always been a Ferrari hallmark, and that will never change even as the company and its cars continue to make history and thrill enthusiasts on road and track alike. More than ever, Ferrari is a breed apart, a marque with racing its blood and passion in its soul. And in today’s world, that’s something to celebrate.