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Brand Origins: Ferrari


Enzo Ferrari Source: Clarín

There really is no more sought-after car then those made by Ferrari. The Italians are an arrogant bunch and it makes sense too; for over a thousand years they ruled the world. That legacy and that status it would seem never really left them. Under the guise of the Romans, the Italians gave us magnificent architecture and structural accomplishments including things like roads and plumbing. Okay, apparently they didn’t invent roads or plumbing (drainage), but they vastly improved upon these two key bastions of civilisation through their mastery of concrete and thus building. Our modern-day calendar comes from the Romans as does the monetary concept of paying for something as opposed to bartering. The legacy of the Italians will continue to for years to come. There are so many other contributions that we can delve into, but for the sake of my fingers and your attention span, we’re going to focus on the one thing that Italy is immediately associated with these days – Ferrari. And let’s be honest, it’s not just these days. Ferrari has been around for many years, having been founded way back in 1939 already.

Enzo Ferrari

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of owning one or driving in one, you have Enzo Ferrari to thank. Born just before the start of the twentieth century, Enzo Anselmo Ferrari came from humble beginnings. As the son of a grocer who in his spare time created fabricated metal parts, Enzo had no formal education. However, by the time he was 10 (this was in 1908) he had witnessed a prominent racing car driver clench victory and after that he knew he wanted to do the same. Fast forward to a stint in the army and a severe Italian flu outbreak that robbed him of his father and brother, Enzo approached Fiat for a job but was refused. He eventually found a job at a Milan-based car manufacturer that specialised in converting used trucks into cars. By 1919 Enzo was promoted to race car driver and was adept enough at it that by 1924 he was racing for Alfa Romeo.

The Alpha & the Enzo

Alfa Romeo proved instrumental in the formative years of Ferrari. Enzo, after the death Antonio Ascari, a prominent driver, felt disinclined to go on racing and after the birth of his first son, Afredo in 1932, and decided to rather focus on the development of Alfa race cars. It was during this time that Enzo built up an ace team of drivers called Scuderia Ferrari, who became Alfa’s racing division. Great talent and great cars birthed fantastic results and during this time the prancing horse, now inseparable from the brand as we know it, started to appear on the team’s cars. The emblem was actually created by an Italian fighter pilot by the name of Francesco Baracca who gave Enzo a necklace with the emblem on in before taking to the skies.  Regrettably Baracca was shot down and killed in 1918 and to honour his memory, Enzo used the prancing horse to create the emblem that would come to be the Ferrari shield. As Enzo was still with Alfa at this time, the emblem was first used on Alfa’s cars and only in 1947 would it appear for the first time on a Ferrari.

The Founding of Ferrari

A disagreement with the managing director of Alfa, Ugo Gobbato, saw Enzo leaving in 1939. Ferrari then established a company called Auto-Avio Costruzioni whose purpose was that of supplying parts to other race teams. Due to a contractual clause, Enzo was prohibited from designing or racing cars for 4 years. Regardless of this clause, Ferrari managed to produce two cars by 1940. While founded in 1939, Ferrari was only officially recognised in 1947 when it released its first badged car. During this time WWII broke out and under the command of Mussolini, Ferrari was forced to contribute to war production. After the allied forces bombed the factory, Enzo relocated to Maranello where he decided to make cars bearing his name and thus in 1947 he founded Ferrari S.p.A.

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Great Success & Great Loss

First on Enzo’s agenda was to challenge Alfa for race domination. The late 1940s and the ensuing 1950s proved to be victorious years for Ferrari as their cars and drivers won them acclaim and thus helped to promote the brand. Ferrari to this day is the only team to have entered into and remained in Formula One since day one back in 1950. Ferrari could not have asked for a better friend and motivator than Formula One. In order to finance his racing endeavours, Ferrari started selling sports cars. The end of the 50s proved to be devastating for Ferrari as it competed in a sport that was still in its infancy and nowhere near the technology displayed in today’s F1 climate.

In 1957 during a race and at 250km/h, a tyre blew on a 4.0-litre Ferrari 355S causing the car to crash and in the process killed Alfonso de Portago - the driver, his co-driver, and nine spectators of which five were children. What ensued was a lengthy criminal prosecution case in which Enzo and the tyre manufacture were charged with manslaughter. This case was only dismissed in 1961.

The early 1960s also proved challenging for Ferrari when a large segment of key management figures left and started a rival car manufacturer. At the time it was believed that this great walkout had to do with Enzo’s strong personality and management style, but over 30 years later in 1998, Romolo Tavoni, one of the key figures who left in what became known as The Great Walkout, admitted they were ousted over a disagreement with Enzo and his wife’s role in the company.  Tavoni went on to say they used a lawyer to write a letter when in hindsight they should have openly discussed the matter with him.

But What about the Cars?

I’ve spoken at length about Ferrari’s formative years and its founder, but thus far I haven’t touched on the very things that make this brand what it is, its cars. As far back as I can remember, Ferrari was there, not in reality of course, but there in the form of fantasy and aspiration. Who growing up in the 1980s didn’t have a poster of the Ferrari Testarossa on their wall? Shows like Miami Vice and Magnum PI only helped to perpetuate the image of the Ferrari as the epitome of cool.  While the former show used the aforementioned Testarossa, the latter relied on the 308 GTS as driven by the show’s star, Tom Selleck.

Ferrari was everywhere. If it wasn’t being driven by Ferris Bueller and his mates while they played hooky, it was driven a blind Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s Ferrari dominated the realm of pop culture sprucing up the fantasy and dreams of every boy and quite possibly those of quite a few girls, too. On the race circuit Ferrari’s dominance led to innovations in its showroom cars.

Ferrari F40 Source: Classic Driver

The beauty of a Ferrari is that practically each car is iconic. It is instantly recognisable and regardless of when it came out, has a timeless attribute to it. Ferrari is a symbol of status and success and if you can afford it, the car will last for years to come. These cars are elegant, sexy, robust, aggressive, fast and capable, and have remained in line with the vision of their founder, Enzo Ferrari. The last car the founder oversaw has also remained the most iconic one of the lot, the F40. Released in 1987, one year before Enzo would step down, the F40 was way ahead of its time. Enzo’s request that his engineers create “the best car on the face of the earth” were heeded. The F40 sports lightweight materials, a V8 twin turbocharged motor and almost none of the features found on the common car. The dashboard is covered in cloth to prevent any reflection in the eye, there are no door panels and a cord serves as the handle. With the exception of a seatbelt and a roll cage, the F40 forgoes safety and puts foot on raw speed. It’s like that runway model that looks great and laughs loud but don’t expect her to cook a meal.

Is it an Investment?

If you have the means, and by that the implication is that you can maintain the car correctly, then yes, this is an investment. In other words, if you can deal with forking out over a thousand for a single tyre and the exorbitant costs that accompany the services, let alone wear and tear, then yes, this will be an investment vehicle. The amazing thing about a Ferrari, and this isn’t applicable to all their cars, but most, is the depreciation value, which is almost none existent. A Testarossa, which can only be second-hand, will fetch anything from $85 000 to $350 000. In some countries this is well over a million depending on the currency!

Final Thoughts

Ferrari is the stuff of dreams. It’s the car you get when you have made it, and by that I mean truly made it. If you’re ever lucky or hard working enough to own one, then well done to you. For the rest of us, there’s the dream.

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