The life of sport’s car mogul, Enzo Ferrari, never lacked for drama. There is love, ambition, death , motor racing, lifelong loyalty, betrayal, innovation, blood, sweat, tears and glory.
Enzo Ferrari led a fascinating life and went on to lead a successful racing career as well as build one of the best-loved sports car companies in the world. He would also set up and run one of the most successful racing championship teams ever known. What kept him on track was always the thrill of the race.
He was born in February 1898, the second son of Adalgisa and Alfredo, who ran a small foundry business that supplied the Italian national railway.Enzo watched his first motor race on 6 September 1908 with his father and brother. Both will not live past the First World War by succumbing to a flu outbreak in Italy at the time.
Since childhood Enzo Ferrari has been passionate about cars. He started his career as a tester in Milan with Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali, until it blossomed into that of a racing driver. He raced with some success in the Twenties with Alfa Romeo, then a serious force in the rapidly evolving motor scene. Though talented, he preferred running the team to driving for it and in 1929, led the first iteration of Alfa Romeo’s racing division, Scuderia Ferrari. It was in this period that Enzo adopted the Cavallino Rampante (Prancing Horse) as his company’s symbol.
Race cars are neither beautiful nor ugly. They become beautiful when they win.
In 1932 Ferrari, who had just become a father, permanently gave up his career as racing driver and a few years later his association with Alfa Romeo was done. However, he was about to begin a new adventure: Auto Avio Costruzioni, the ancestor of Ferrari, founded first in Modena in 1939 and moved to Maranello in 1943.
After the inevitable difficulties caused by the war, the Prancing Horse carmaker was ready to create its dream cars, known as the “reds”. Ferrari soon debuted in races, F1 included, collected successes and its cars became synonymous with innovation and luxury handicraft.
Ferrari is almost the same age as the modern Formula One championship (which kicked off in 1950). Ferrari is the only team to have contested almost every F1 race since . The first win for the renewed Scuderia came at Silverstone in 1951. The victory was scored by the strong Argentinian José Froilán González in a Ferrari 375. In beating Alfa Romeo, Enzo opined that he had “killed my mother”.
Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines
He was a spin doctor before the term existed and became famous for his quasi-philosophical proclamations – “I am an agitator of men” being the best known, along with “My favourite Ferrari? The one that has yet to be built”, but see also “I give my collaborators complete trust. That is the only way to see if they deserve it.”
As well as being a natural PR man, Enzo was also a born salesman. “If you like this car, we’ll make it. If you don’t, we won’t,” he would tell a prospective customer. If they happened to be female, the patter would be even more flamboyant. When it came to women, Enzo was a positive gourmand.
Ferrari opened a dealership on West 55th Street in Manhattan, New York, in April 1954 and before long Hollywood’s finest were in thrall to the Italian newcomer. James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Miles Davis and many more soon succumbed to its powerful allure.
The death in 1956 of his beloved son Dino from muscular dystrophy, aged just 24, deeply affected him. Racing, however, was what really mattered. It was also the source of what he himself referred to as his “terrible joys” (also the title of his memoir). During his imperial phase, many of his drivers were killed, Eugenio Castellotti, Count Wolfgang von Trips, and Lorenzo Bandini among them. During the 1957 Mille Miglia road race, the Marquis Alfonso de Portago, lost control of his Ferrari killing himself, his co-driver and nine spectators. The Vatican’s official newspaper, Osservatore Romana, denounced Ferrari as a latter-day Saturn, happy to sacrifice his sons in the service of competitive victory.
Racing is a great mania to which one must sacrifice everything without hesitation
Enzo Ferrari appears to have spent a very reserved life, despite his fame. He would rarely grant interviews and refrained from leaving his homes in Modena in Maranello.
Enzo would leave under exceptional circumstances like the Grand Prix at Monza and a trip to Paris to settle a feud between FISA and FOCA in 1982. He also never flew in an airplane, never traveled to Rome and never set foot inside a lift.
The end came on 14 August 1988. A month after Enzo’s death, Scuderia Ferrari scored a one-two win in the Italian GP at Monza. It was the only race that their arch rivals McLaren didn’t win that year.
In late 2015, Ferrari went public at an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange under the appropriate ticker symbol RACE. The listing was a great success, with the share price hitting a peak nearly three times the opening price less than three years after listing.
A man builds something, a beautiful machine. He puts all of himself into it. And then he goes to races and see his machines, this part of himself, being maltreated, and…And so I do not go to races because it hurts me.