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The Origins of Ferrari Company History

Published: 3rd Nov 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

The Origins of Ferrari
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Enzo Ferrari was born in 1898 in the Italian town of Modena. His father, Alfredo, was a blacksmith and when he was 10, Enzo was taken with his brother Alfredo Jr. to watch a car race in Bologna. There he saw Vincenzo Lancia battle Felice Nazzaro in the Circuit di Bologna and after attending several other races he decided that he too wanted to become a racing driver – a dream that wouldn’t be easily realised.

Ferrari’s education was quite poor, which is why his application to work at Fiat in 1918 was turned down. With his father and brother having been killed in 1916, Ferrari was in dire straits; he nearly starved through a lack of work, but he eventually got a job at Lancia as a test driver who also delivered chassis to Lancia’s coachbuilders. On one of his visits to Milan he met Ugo Sivocci, a test driver for Costruzioni Mecchanice Nazionali; the two went on to team up for the 1919 Targa Florio.

While the pair failed to finish the race in the allotted time, they performed well enough to be offered driving jobs with Alfa Romeo which entered some modified production cars in the 1920 Targa Florio. Ferrari drove one of these to come second overall and first in class. After further successes he was promoted to full factory driver; until now he’d raced second-hand cars in local races, but now he was expected to drive the latest cars in the most prestigious races.

Unfortunately, such pressure fazed Ferrari, who backed out of the biggest race of his career, the French Grand Prix. He wouldn’t race again until 1927, and while he enjoyed some success it was only in minor events. Ferrari by this time was married and owned an Alfa Romeo Ferrari The origins of dealership in Modena. Just two years later, in 1929, Ferrari set up his own firm, Scuderia Ferrari, sponsored by the Ferrara-based Caniato brothers, Augusto and Alfredo, heirs to a textile fortune. Alfa Romeo had temporarily withdrawn from racing in 1925 and the Scuderia’s main task was to assist wealthy Alfa Romeo customers with their racing efforts by providing delivery, mechanical support and any other services required.

As well as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari teamed up with suppliers Bosch, Pirelli and Shell. To supplement his growing stable of amateur drivers, he signed up Giuseppe Campari and Tazio Nuvolari; by the end of its first year Scuderia Ferrari had 50 full and part-time drivers on its roster. The team competed in 22 events and scored eight victories; Scuderia Ferrari caused a sensation as the largest team ever put together by one individual.

Alfa Romeo continued to support the Scuderia but soon everything would change as Alfa Romeo announced its withdrawal from racing at the start of the 1933 season, for financial reasons, it is claimed. With Ferrari’s supply of new racing cars set to dry up, Pirelli stepped in and convinced Alfa Romeo to supply Ferrari with six P3s and the services of engineer Luigi Bazzi and test driver Attilio Marinoni; the Scuderia would now act as Alfa Romeo’s racing department.

In 1932, Ferrari’s first son was born; christened Alfredo and nicknamed Dino, the birth led to Ferrari retiring from driving competitively. At the same time Alfredo Caniato sold his stake in the business to millionnaire and part-time racing driver Count Carlo Felice Trossi. It was time for Ferrari to hit the big time – or so it seemed. What he hadn’t counted on was the arrival of Auto Union and Mercedes, who would dominate racing across Europe in the years before the war. Scuderia Ferrari employed great drivers such as Giuseppe Campari, Louis Chiron, Achille Varzi and Tazio Nuvolari, but apart from Nuvolari’s first place in the 1935 German Grand Prix, victories in any of the other major races were few and far between.

In 1937 Ferrari suggested to Alfa Romeo that it build 1.5-litre voituretteclass cars but rather than embrace his suggestion, Alfa decided to bring the racing back in-house. After being the man in charge at the Scuderia he found himself working under Alfa’s engineering director, Wilfredo Ricart; it wasn’t long before Ferrari walked. As part of his severance agreement he couldn’t compete against his former bosses for four years, so Ferrari started a new company called Auto-Avio Costruzioni SpA, which produced machine parts. For the 1940 Mille Miglia Ferrari entered two small sports cars to be driven by Alberto Ascari and Lothario Rangoni.

They were designated AAC 815s but were actually the first Ferrari race cars. The Ferrari of the Scuderia years was very much the hands-on team manager, unlike the Ferrari of later years when he didn’t attend any of the races and was given information over the phone and in reports from his employees. Ferrari continued to be successful after he stopped attending the races but it’s easy to draw a link between this separation from his team and Ferrari’s future decline.

After the war, Ferrari set out to create his own Grand Prix car and in 1947 a 1.5-litre Tipo 125 entered the Grand Prix of Monaco. The car was designed by his old collaborator Gioacchino Colombo but it wouldn’t be until 1951 that Ferrari claimed its first Grand Prix victory, courtesy of Froilan Gonzalez at Silverstone.

Production sports cars quickly became important to Ferrari but whereas most rivals used racing to sell more road cars, Ferrari sold sports cars so that its racing team could compete. Many of the cars that were sold were last year’s models to private entrants and because Ferrari wasn’t sentimental, he was quite happy to scrap or cannibalise cars that he’d already built, which is why so many of his earliest classic machines have disappeared. Although, we do wonder how many are still hidden away in barns in obscure parts of the world, just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed again…

The story behind the logo

Few logos are more famous than Ferrari’s black Prancing Horse on a yellow background, with the letters SF below for Scuderia Ferrari. The horse was originally the symbol of Count Francesco Baracca, an Italian air force ace and national hero during World War I, who painted it on the side of his planes. Baracca died very young in June 1918, shot down after 34 victorious duels and many team victories. Baracca had wanted the prancing horse on his planes because his squad, the Battaglione Aviatori, was enrolled in a cavalry regiment; at that time, air forces were in their infancy, with no separate administration. He was also reputed to be the best cavaliere of his team.

In June 1923, Enzo Ferrari won a race at the Savio track in Ravenna, and there he met the Countess Paolina, mother of Baracca. The Countess asked that he use the horse on his cars, suggesting that it would grant him good luck, but the first race at which Alfa would let him use the horse on Scuderia cars was nine years later, at Spa in 1932. Ferrari won. He left the horse black as it had been on Baracca’s plane, but he added a yellow background because it was the symbolic colour of his birthplace – Modena.

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