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Ferrari Company History

Published: 24th Mar 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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IIs there a more evocative name than Ferrari? Scuderia Ferrari was founded in 1929 by Enzo, a man who was so precise, technically and mechanically-minded, that was once said ‘to be able to make gloves for flies’. The company was originally set up to race Alfa Romeos, and Enzo Ferrari’s involvement with Alfa Romeo, culminating in his becoming Alfa Corse’s Racing Manager, continued until 1940, when he founded Auto Avio Costruzioni Ferrari, manufacturing machine tools. With Alfa Romeo showing signs of wanting to absorb Scuderia Ferrari back in the fold of its Milan headquarters and workshop, and the arrival of Spanish engineer Wilfred Ricart (much hated by Ferrari), Enzo Ferrari’s decision to quit and go solo was only a question of time.

The parting clause forbade Ferrari from building racing cars under his own name for four years after the split. Ferrari’s badge since 1929, the famous Prancing Horse, has quite an unusual origin: it appears that a World War I hero, Francesco Baracca, had it painted, as a good luck charm, on the fuselage of his Spad S13 aircraft. It was the symbol of Baracca’s Squadriglia (Squadron), to which Ferrari’s own brother belonged.

Ferrari is the best known name in Grand prix racing, although for many years victories eluded him. His cars were always powered by ‘home built’ engines, rather than bought off the shelf. Like his arch rival Colin Chapman of Lotus, racing rather than road cars was what Ferrari was really interested in. It was a passion more than a hobby or a job, but of course was also the opportunity to earn fame, success and profit to fund the racing side. By the 1950s the name Ferrari was hot on everybody’s lips. It produced some of the world’s greatest cars plus was enjoying big success in motorsport. Alberto Ascari won Ferrari’s first F1 title in 1951, followed by Fangio five years later. However the marque failed to win a single race in 1957. It was a sad year for the works team as a driver was killed during testing and a Ferrari crashed into the crowd on the Mille Miglia. Twelve people, including children, were killed. Enzo Ferrari was charged with manslaughter.

A year earlier Enzo lost his beloved son, Dino, to cancer but British driver Mike Hawthorn salvaged some happiness in 1958 when he took the F1 title, only to die months later in a famous crash in his Jaguar Mk1 on the A3.Despite continued success and admiration on the road and track, Ferrari was constantly financially suspect. Ford tried to buy the company in the early 1960s only for Ferrari to walk out on the deal – much to Henry Ford II’s annoyance (leading to the Ford GT40 being developed to beat Ferrari on the tracks!) before Fiat took control in 1969.
In August 1988, Enzo Ferrari died aged 90. A few weeks later, appropriately at Monza, Ayrton Senna’s McLaren had to retire from the Italian GP and Berger and Alboreto finished a famous and entirely fitting 1-2. It’s as if the result was virtually pre-ordained for the man and the company he founded – on his circuit.

This feature doesn’t try to be the ultimate guide to Ferrari road cars and indeed space restrictions together with the sheer rarity of certain models have led to some being left out. Also some of the valuations published are from the help of Colin Warrington and Mark Donaldson (former specialists with Christie’s International Motor Cars). For a more detailed look at every Ferrari ever made up the F430, check out the excellent Haynes publication ‘Ferrari All The Cars’. Costing just £12.99 it’s packed with everything that you need to know.

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