What is it about supercars that draws us to them like moths to a flame? When we were kids, we stared at posters or flipped through magazine spreads of the latest models. No, not those kinds of models but the ones with names like Countach, Esprit, GT-R and Testarossa. If you were into these rare and high-priced beauties you learned what each manufacturer’s trademark design features were. You could pick a certain company’s V10 or V12 engine out of a lineup based solely on sound and you knew the strengths and weaknesses of all the top brands. Whatever your ties to the world of the supercar, it is almost certainly a mixture of nostalgia, exclusivity, power, speed and beauty that keeps pulling us back in for more.
In the world of motorsport there are few makers or names more widely known than that of Ferrari. The Italian supercar company has been producing performance cars for nearly 60 years. While many associate Scuderia Ferrari with today’s Formula One competition, the racing garage has been around since the 1920s, developing its reputation years before the first Ferrari vehicle exited the factory. The company’s founder, Enzo Ferrari, initially based his fledging team in Modena Italy before relocating down the road to Maranello where it remains to this day. Today, as it always has, Ferrari remains a symbol of competition, status and speed. It’s nearly impossible not to take notice of one as it speeds by on the streets. If you don’t actually see it, then the Ferrari’s engine usually announces its presence to all who are within earshot. Despite the popularity of the brand, there are some interesting facts about this legendary maker which are unknown to all but the most involved enthusiasts.
In 1929, Enzo Ferrari established Scuderia Ferrari, a racing team which used predominantly Alfa Romeo cars. In 1933, Alfa Romeo experienced a financial crunch and pulled its own racing team from competition, handing the duties over to Enzo and his racing garage. In 1938, the company decided to resume racing with its own team Alfa Corse and absorbed Enzo’s Scuderia Ferrari. This didn’t go over well and Enzo parted ways with the company in 1939 to start building his own cars. It turned out to be a great move. After the Second World War, he raided Alfa Romeo and hired several of his former co-workers to restart Scuderia Ferrari.
In the world of supercars you have to have a good logo. Ok, you don’t really have to have a good logo, but having one can help you stand out from the pack. In Ferrari’s case, the company uses the distinctive black prancing horse on a yellow background. The logo has appeared on various automobiles since the 1932 Spa 24 hours race but where did it come from? Enzo Ferrari was originally presented the logo by the parents of First World War fighter pilot Francesco Baracca. Baracca flew until his death in 1918 and had the logo painted on the side of his plane. While there are a variety of theories about where Baracca came up with the prancing horse design, Enzo gratefully accepted the image and applied the famous yellow background as a nod to his birthplace, Modena Italy.
Have you ever noticed that certain car manufacturers have an iconic or traditional color they are associated with? Jaguar has green, Mercedes has silver and Ferrari has red. There is a reason for all of this. Back in the early 20th century national racing teams each had a color to set them apart from the rest of the field. The British had green, the French drove in blue and the Germans drove in silver – although there is the story they started out using white. Initially, Italy was represented by the rosso scuderia-clad Alfa Romeos. Over time, as Ferrari rose to prominence, this color became strongly associated with the company. Today, while there are Ferraris made in all sorts of colors, the iconic red remains the dominant choice for most people.
While Enzo Ferrari had a winner’s mentality, interviews with him and anyone who had ever worked or raced for him definitely show that he could be very hard-headed and difficult to work with. In fact, Ferrari had some rather interesting theories on racing and automobiles which made more than a few enemies over the years. In terms of his drivers, the legendary maker believed that “an insecure racing driver is a fast racing driver.” He was known to play off his drivers against one another, hoping the competition would bring out the best in them. He wasn’t right with all his theories however. After all, this same man once stated that “aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.” Right.
Ferrari loved winning. That said, while no one can doubt his love of cars and competition, it was pretty obvious to most who met him that he wasn’t always the most friendly or diplomatic person to deal with. Just ask Ferruccio Lamborghini. When he drove his car to Ferrari one day in the early 1960s to report a problem, Enzo basically called him an idiot and told him to worry about tractors (as Lamborghini was a tractor maker at this time) while Ferrari worried about cars. The encounter was taken as an insult by Lamborghini who went home and started up his own supercar company.
It turns out Ferruccio Lamborghini wasn’t the only person angered by Enzo Ferrari in the 1960s. In 1963 (the same year Lamborghini founded his car company) Henry Ford II started negotiations with Ferrari to purchase the company. After spending considerable time and money preparing to buy the company, Ford was greeted with the news that Ferrari had decided he didn’t want to sell anymore. Apparently the two had had some disagreements over the direction of racing and Enzo canned the deal out of spite. The cancellation infuriated Ford so much that he pressed his engineers to develop a Ferrari-killing car. The result was the GT40. Born out of anger and revenge, this car has since become an American racing icon.
You’re probably thinking “whoa, wait, I know for a fact that the most expensive car is the Maybach Exelero for $8 million.” You are right, partially. The one-off Exelero is an $8 million car. Now we could get into a debate over one-offs vs. production cars, but why mess around with these small potatoes? In the world of most expensive cars, everyone currently bows down to the Ferrari 250 GTO. With only 39 ever built, this V12 powered machine is often considered to be the sexiest car ever made. In this case, it’s a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO which was sold for $52 million in 2013. Just to prove that it wasn’t a total fluke either, another ’62 250 GTO was sold at auction in 2014 for an impressive $38 million.
Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Floyd Mayweather – an impressive group of athletes who were, at one time or another, the best in their respective fields. They were also, at one time, the highest paid athletes in the world. In 1999 and 2000, Ferrari could claim that they employed the highest paid athlete in the world. Of course, we are talking about the legendary F1 driver Michael Schumacher. The German racer topped the Forbes best-paid list for two years, raking in just shy of $110 million. Was the money well spent? Schumacher went on to win five titles with the Italian outfit from 2000-2004, so we think it was a good investment.
Technically, the first Ferrari was the Auto Avio Construzioni 815 – aka Tipo 815 – which was designed and built by Enzo and his team in 1940. Legal issues with Alfa Romeo meant Ferrari wasn’t allowed to slap his badge on the hood. The other small matter that just happened to spring up at that time was World War Two. It put an end to development as Italy focused its manufacturing on all things war related which left little room for high-performance race cars. In 1947, with the war finished and Italy rebuilding, Enzo unveiled the new Ferrari 125 S. This little racer was 100% Ferrari and was powered by a 1.5L 12 cylinder engine.
It may seem strange but while we consider selling a lot of cars the mark of a successful company, in the world of supercars, exclusivity and rarity can be just as important. That’s why so many makers of exotic cars limit their production. By making so few, companies like Ferrari keep interest and prices high. The policy seems to be working well if we use the new LaFerrari as an example. Just to be considered eligible to buy one of the only 499 made, you must be a loyal owner with preferably more than a few in your personal collection. In fact, thousands of people submitted requests to take home the newest $1.4 million hybrid supercar from Maranello only to be turned down. In the end, every single LaFerrari was sold before even being seen by their future owners.
In the early 1950s two men met to hash out a deal that was mutually beneficial. The men in question were Enzo Ferrari and Battista Farina, founder of the legendary design firm Pininfarina. Since then, Pininfarina has been “the” design firm for Ferrari. In fact, since 1951, Ferrari has only had two of its cars designed by firms other than Pininfarina. The first was the 1973 Dino 308 GT4 by Bertone, a move than reportedly strained relations between Ferrari and the design firm. The second was the 2013 LaFerrari, the company’s first hybrid supercar. Despite these decisions, Ferrari has stated that Pininfarina remains the primary designer for future creations.
When you think of Ferrari you likely think of expensive, high-performance cars and Formula One racing. There is quite a bit more to it than this. Yes, this multi-billion dollar company is primarily concerned with cars and racing. They do, however, have significant brand and retail power than extends to other areas. In their 30 stores around the world (don’t forget online as well) Ferrari brings in an additional $1.5 billion in sales. This is achieved thanks to the insatiable needs of people to own everything from Ferrari branded shirts and watches to shoes, coats and model cars. If you slap a prancing horse logo on something, odds are there is someone in the world willing to buy it.
In the world of Formula One racing, it would be an understatement to say that most people expect the cars of Scuderia Ferrari to perform well from year to year. As a giant in the sport, Ferrari has enjoyed considerable success over the years and claimed 16 Constructors’ titles, far more than anyone else. Yet, in 1980, it appeared as though the team would never win another title. The decade that brought us crazy fashions, a slew of one-hit wonders and Chernobyl started out with a nasty surprise for Ferrari who finished the season 10th in the rankings with just 8 points. What made it all the more embarrassing was that Ferrari had claimed the 1979 title.
In 2004, Ferrari donated the 400th and final production Enzo to the Vatican and Pope John Paul II. One can only imagine the spectacle of the Pope driving along his parade route waving out the window of his 6.0L V12 powered supercar. Seeing this vehicle as inappropriate to have around, and likely still preferring the roominess of the Pope-mobile, John Paul II opted to donate the car to be auctioned off with the proceeds going to victims of the 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia.
As if further proof is needed that the Ferrari brand extends far beyond the automotive world, one needs only to look at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. This theme park is Walt Disney-meets-Ferrari and gives visitors the total experience when it comes to the Italian car maker. Opened in 2010, Ferrari World boasts the fastest roller coaster in the world and they have even started building the steepest ride in honor of Francesco Baracca, the fighter ace whose personal emblem is used as the company’s logo. If rides aren’t your thing you can dish out around $160 to get the “Driving Experience” and drive around in a Ferrari California.