Nearly any car company can build a V8 or V12 engine, then stuff it inside a sexy supercar body. But only one car builder can make it sound and feel like a Prancing Horse from Maranello. From the audacious Ferrari F12 and Ferrari FF, to the stunning Ferrari 458 Italia, Italy’s favorite supercar builder has been showing the world how to do fast since 1939. This is their story.
At the end of World War I, a young man named Enzo Ferrari took a job at a small Italian car builder called CMN. The company was small, and Enzo was put in charge of converting disused army trucks into passenger cars. His dream was to become a race car driver, and he finally got his chance in 1919. The young rookie from Modena finished 9th at the prestigious Targa Florio, and he soon landed a job driving for the Alfa Romeo race team. Over the next several years, Ferrari’s skill behind the wheel earned him numerous victories. After one of these races, the father of legendary WWI flying ace Francesco Baracca, Count Enrico Baracca, was so impressed with the young driver, that he and his wife, Countess Paolina Baracca, presented him with their son’s squadron badge, which depicted a prancing horse on a yellow shield. This is where Ferrari’s iconic logo came from.
Alfa Romeo was eventually forced to withdraw from racing due to financial constraints, so Enzo Ferrari started Scuderia Ferrari in 1929. The company’s main focus was preparing Alfa Romeo cars for racing, and by 1933, Enzo’s company was essentially Alfa’s outsourced racing department. After building numerous Alfa Romeo race cars, including the legendary Alfa 158 Alfetta, he left Alfa Romeo in 1939, to form his own racing enterprise called Auto Avio Costruzioni. Although World War II would ultimately interrupt production, Ferrari managed to build and race two cars (the Ferrari 815 = 8 cylinders, 1,500cc) in the last Mille Migilia until after World War II.
In 1945, the war was over Ferrari had already relocated to Maranello. To stage a comeback, he designed and built the V12-powered Ferrari 125S. That car helped Ferrari to win theMille Miglia in 1948, the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in 1949 and the Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix in 1951. Ferrari would go on to win its first Formula 1 World Championship in 1952. And to make all of this possible, Ferrari sold road-going versions of his race cars. But racing was always Ferrari’s main focus.
In 1969, Enzo sold 50% of the company to Fiat, and the cash infusion allowed Ferrari to expand its racing efforts, along with its range of road cars. Mr. Ferrari said that “his motors had souls”, and the last car that he personally helped develop of was the iconic Ferrari F40. That car became a legend on both the road and track, proving that perhaps Mr. Ferrari’s statement was true. He passed away in 1988 at the age of 90.
Shortly after Enzo’s death, Fiat upped its stake in Ferrari to 90%. They appointed Ferrari’s racing manager Luca di Montezemolo as Chairman in 1991, a position that he still holds to this day. Under his leadership, Ferrari has returned to dominate the international racing scene. They also offer an unprecedented range of road cars, each brimming with the latest race derived technology. We think Enzo would approve.