RACE TO THE TOP
FERRARI INSPIRES FANATICISM ALL OVER THE WORLD FOR ITS FURIOUSLY FAST, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL CARS. AS IT TURNS 70, A NEW EXHIBITION ARRIVING THIS MONTH AT LONDON’S DESIGN MUSEUM TAKES YOU UNDER THE BONNET.
Ferrari, of course, needs no introduction. As one of the world’s most recognisable brands, its prancing horse and signature racing-red and sunshine-yellow logo (and similarly colourmatched cars) are as instantly identifiable in California as they are in China. This year Ferrari has also been celebrating its 70th anniversary, with events all over the world; in Melbourne the Royal Exhibition Building was washed in red light (in honour of Ferrari’s famous rosso corsa, or racing-car red) and ended with a festive Ferrari street party along Lygon Street’s Italian precinct in Carlton. Back in Italy, proceedings culminated in a two-day spectacular track-side at Ferrari’s Fiorano Circuit in Maranello, near Bologna, including a star-studded RM Sotheby’s auction and spell-binding Concours d’Elegance of classic and new Ferraris from around the world; this was followed by a dramatic stage show tracing the No 1 Formula 1 team’s roots from founder Enzo Ferrari’s childhood, to iconic moments on and off the racetrack, to the present day.
Yet what is less well known is how exactly Ferrari makes its particular brand of Grand Prix-winning magic happen. Cue Ferrari: Under the Skin, a new exhibition opening next week at the Design Museum in London, promising to take those not lucky enough to have visited Ferrari HQ behind the scenes and show how and why Ferrari continues to make arguably the best cars in the world. Here, there will be $240 million worth of Ferraris on display, including a 1957 250 GT Cabriolet (with bodywork by the legendary Pininfarina) once belonging to famous British racing driver Peter Collins; Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason’s 1988 F40; a 1973 365 GTB4 Daytona, one of the first Ferraris to be built in substantial numbers; and the iconic 1950 166 MM commissioned by Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli as his personal car.
For the exhibition co-curator Andrew Nahum, a highly respected journalist and expert on the history of automotive design and a tutor for the Vehicle Design Research department at the Royal College of Arts in London, Ferrari: Under the Skin (open until next April) is an opportunity to go beyond the history and nostalgia of such a revered symbol of motoring excellence, and present Ferrari as an exciting case study in design, too. Approached by Ronald Stern, a passionate collector with “a beautiful Ferrari archive of memorabilia, photographs, publications and letters”, says Nahum, the Design Museum’s idea was to use this collection as a springboard for examining the bigger phenomenon that is Ferrari as we know it today.
Created in collaboration with the Ferrari museum (Museo Ferrari) in Maranello, the exhibition has been on show there since May in preparation for its arrival in London this month. It traces the history of Ferrari’s racing prowess from Enzo’s early days as a driver in 1919 through to the development of his racing team Scuderia Ferrari (Scuderia meaning stable) in Modena in 1929, initially for Alfa Romeo and then on his own, with intricate details – early design models, hand-sketched drawings, Grand Prix cups and drivers’ helmets, even Enzo’s own driving licence – of the history, ethos and manufacture of these super machines.
What Nahum thinks will best capture the Design Museum audience’s interest are rarely seen details such a full-scale model of a limited-edition J50 hand-crafted in clay. “Every Ferrari made is modelled by hand, sculpted in clay, creating the ultimate translation of art into industry, a translation of ideas into metal, which is a very unique process in the industrial world,” he says. Alongside this is a wooden buck – the name for a full-size model sent to the Scaglietti coachbuilder’s craftsmen across the road from the Ferrari factory as a reference for the body panels they were making. “As every Ferrari made is first modelled at full size in clay before it is signed off for production, this offers an exclusive view into the factory’s techniques,” Nahum says.
The first car Enzo Ferrari ever built was the 125 S; he was 49 years old and Italy was still recovering from the devastation of World War II. In collaboration with Luigi Chinetti, based in the US and a long-term colleague of Ferrari’s since their Alfa Romeo days, the pair set out to
create new standards in racing engineering. “Maserati had a first-class 8-cylinder machine, the English an ERA six-cylinder, and Alfa their own eight-C,” writes Dennis Adler in Ferrari 70 Years published last November. Race car designer and former Alfa engineer Gioachino Colombo proposed Enzo make a 12-cylinder – exactly what Ferrari had been thinking. For him, the engine was the heart of any car. Franco Cortese went on to drive the 125 S to victory in the Rome Grand Prix, one of six victories that year. Ferrari has never looked back.
Today, says Nahum, Ferrari’s ambition to be “making the fastest, best-handling, highest-performance cars that you can get, clothed in the most harmonious way, expressing the essence of what a sports car should be”, is what makes Ferrari so much more than a brand. “A brand implies a kind of artful construction but Ferrari has earned its place through its achievements and you couldn’t have invented a brand like Ferrari without Enzo Ferrari. Even today, it stands for a commitment to excellence and the ultimate fusion of automotive technology and aesthetics.”
Chairman Sergio Marchionne, speaking at the 70th anniversary celebrations in September, concurs. “This company is not only a symbol of excellence in luxury and technological innovation; most of all it represents a set of core values unique to the spirit of Italy itself. Enzo Ferrari said, never check your dreams at the door, get involved, take risks and make those dreams happen because it’s the only way to leave your mark and to make a difference. It’s exactly what we try to do every day – it’s what makes us Ferrari.”
As WISH is given unique access inside Ferrari’s factories, Enzo’s spirit is palpable throughout every inch of the company’s state-of-the-art facilities, upgraded at Maranello in the past 10 years with buildings by worldrenowned architects Jean Nouvel and Massimiliano Fuksas, as well as a wind tunnel designed by Renzo Piano. From engine building and body assembling to the tailoring department, where each interior is handstitched and moulded to exact custom specification, every element of the making process has been designed with people in mind. Robotics and machinery are only used when the task is repetitive or dangerous, the highest eco standards are upheld, and ergonomic systems have been put in place to create the very best working environment for its staff. All 8000 cars made each year are pre-sold and tailor-made, so each Ferrari is unique.
From the very beginning, craftmanship by hand was always at the core of Enzo Ferrari’s ethos – unlike the assembly lines of mass-manufacturing, here craftsmen have always built each car individually. It’s what Ferrari calls “Formula Uomo” (Formula Man) where “the heart of Ferrari revolves so much around people and the human element of making a car”, according to Piero Ferrari, Enzo’s second and only living son (Alfredo, known as Dino, died at 24 from Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 1956).
The firm takes talent seriously. “The most technological company needs the highest level of people and engineers,” Piero says. “This is something my father was always saying; friends and clients would come to meet him for the first time and would be surprised by how simple and cheap the furniture was in his office. His reply was, ‘I invest my money in people – good engineers and mechanics – then I invest the money in machinery and then the remaining, if I have it, I spend on furniture, but this is the last problem I have’.”
On celebrating seven decades, Piero says 70 “is a good number, an important number”, but most importantly, “we are also remembering that Ferrari is always looking to the future. My father developed a company with a lot of passion and emotional involvement and today all the people working in Ferrari follow this passion. It’s in the company’s DNA.”
Piero came into the family fold relatively late. Born
illegitimately to Enzo’s mistress Lina Lardi, it wasn’t until the death of Enzo’s wife Laura in 1978 that Piero was given the Ferrari surname and 10 per cent of the company’s shares (in 1969, Enzo sold 50 per cent of the company to the Fiat Group, a stake that grew to 90 per cent in 1988; Fiat’s floating of Ferrari in 2015 instantly made Piero a billionaire).
An engineering graduate, Piero recalls in the early days being thrown in at the deep end – “My father did not explain things to me, or say ‘Piero, sit here while I teach you’,” Piero told Classic & Sports Car magazine in 2010. “Tough and demanding, as a father and as a boss, Enzo was also capable of gestures of great generosity and unexpected affection, aspects that he would tend to deny,” Piero adds. So he worked his way through all aspects of the business until his father’s death in 1988 at the age of 90, when Piero became sole heir and vice chairman, the role he still holds today.
Enzo didn’t race to sell cars but rather sold cars to keep racing. It’s perhaps why Ferrari inspires such great passion around the world, from its loyal “tifosi” fan base (there are 160 official Scuderia Ferrari clubs around the world, with nearly 20,000 members in 18 countries) to the millions (even tens of millions) of dollars some collectors are willing to pay for these legendary cars, new and vintage. Recently the late actor and racing driver Steve McQueen’s late 1960s 275 GTB/4, which he took delivery of on the set of Bullitt, customised with a special trim and painted in what McQueen called Chianti Red, sold for $US10 million in 2014.
The world’s very best drivers have raced for Ferrari: Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell and Phil Hill to current Formula One favourite Sebastian Vettel (even rival Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has tipped Vettel as the odds-on winner this year). Michael Schumacher, seriously injured in a skiing accident in 2013, became Ferrari’s first world champion in 2000 after 21 years, helping to restore Ferrari to its former glory with multiple wins. Evidence of him is everywhere at Maranello, even in a piazza on the compound that is named after him. “Naming a simple side street after him, like other Formula One winners, just wasn’t enough,” our tour guide quips.
During September’s festivities at Fiorano, RM Sotheby’s raised an astonishing €63m ($94m) for the largest single-make auction of all time. Cars up for sale included Keith Richards’ 400i (with only 3627km on the clock, it was one of seven Ferraris bought for use by the Rolling Stones and team in 1983) and an iconic 1959 250 GT LWB California Spider that fetched €7.9m (commissioned for a young Venezuelan socialite doctor, it has collected more than 35 concours awards over its lifetime). There were also carburetors and tool kits, a camouflage-painted car (right down to its engine) and one of only two 1994 Ferrari 348 GT/C LMs to be built (this one with a Le Mans victory under its belt). There was even a rusty 1969 GT/B Daytona Berlinetta Alloy, which sold for £1.5m ($2.5m) despite its need for full restoration: covered in dirt and dust after being lost for 40 years in a barn in Japan, it was a veritable “myth”, the auctioneer shouted excitedly, believed to be the only one left of its kind.
Proof that Ferrari doesn’t rest on its laurels lies in its latest limited-edition LaFerrari Aperta, one of which will also be on display at the Design Museum this month. Just 209 cars were made, and all sold before the car even launched at the Paris motor show in September last year, despite the impressive starting price tag of around €1.8m; this one is on generous loan from chef Gordon Ramsay. Setting new standards in hybrid technology, with a top speed of 200km/h, a very special 210th issue, finished in a unique rosso fuoco livery with a bianco Italia racing stripe, was auctioned off at the Fiorano celebrations in September for €8.3m (all proceeds going to the Save the Children fund). The great man himself would be proud – as he himself once said, “you cannot describe passion, you can only live it”. In Ferrari terms, that means living life fast: 0 to 100 in under three seconds fast, no doubt blazing a signature Ferrari rosso infinito trail behind you.
Enzo didn’t race to sell cars but sold cars to keep racing. It’s perhaps why Ferrari inspires such great passion.
The Museo Ferrari at Maranello with Ferraris through the ages on display
The 210th edition of the LaFerrari Aperta, which sold in September for €8.3m