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Few names are as synonymous with speed, style, and performance as Ferrari. The storied Italian brand defines the supercar market the same way Apple defines personal devices and Nike dominates the sports shoe market.
But where did Ferrari come from? What are the factors that led to their place in the upper-echelon of the automotive world? How did one man inspire so many ideas about what a car could be, what it could do?
Keep reading for a brief yet fascinating history of the Ferrari.
The Early Years
Such a blend of power and grace could only come from Italy. Founded in 1929, in the city of Modena by Enzo Ferrari, the then-called Scuderia Ferrari was more of a driver’s club than a manufacturer.
In 1937, Enzo was brought on to head Alfa Romeo’s racing division, where he stayed for two years before departing to build his own vehicles. He relocated to Maranello where he established the original Ferrari manufacturing plant and, though the primary intent was to provide parts to aid in the Second World War, he produced his first car in 1940, the Tipo 850.
Though the factory was bombed during the war, he rebuilt it, and so began the company that became the Ferrari of today.
By the late-1960’s Enzo recognized the need to bring on a partner to help stay competitive, Ferrari entered an agreement with Fiat that saw Enzo give up 50% off his company for access to funds and tools that allowed him to grow his company.
Over the years, a few key features have become tied to the brand. These have allowed the company incredible marketing opportunities while also becoming shorthand for the brand itself.
Chief among these is the Cavallino Rampante, or ‘Prancing Horse,’ logo for the company. It was suggested to him in 1923 by Countess Baracca, mother to a World War 1 ace fighter pilot who featured a similar design on his fighter plane.
Enzo modified the logo from its original inspiration and used it as the logo for his racing team. He continued its use when he began manufacturing his own cars, the unbridled power of the horse suggesting what his cars were capable of.
Another identifying characteristic of Ferrari is the color red.
Between the First and Second World War, the company that would become the International Automobile Federation recommended that manufacturers paint their colors based on their country of origin: green for England, blue for France, white, or, sometimes, unpainted silver for Germany and red for Italy.
Though it was more a corporate decision than an inspired one, the color lends itself perfectly to the passion inspired by the brand.
To keep this a brief history of the Ferrari is to focus just on the key vehicles that defined the company. The list of cars bearing the Prancing Horse is a long one, but these are the ones to know to understand the company.
The first international success for the brand, the 166 Inter featured a 2.0-liter V12 that produced a then-impressive 90 horsepower. A Grand Tourer, the 166 Inter was a practical daily-driver, a marked departure from the race cars they were primarily known for.
The incredibly stylish 275 GTB was a two-seater GT car with a 3.3-liter V12 food for 280-300 horsepower. It featured the now-familiar corporate grill and was a preview of the type of styling that would become an essential part of the brand.
One of the defining vehicles to come from Ferrari, the Testarossa was a revelation when it was introduced in 1984. At the time, it’s 4.9-litre, V12 boxer engine made it the most powerful street car at the time, offering a then unheard of 390 horsepower.
It’s being featured on prime-time’s Miami Vice made it an indelible part of the excess of the 80’s, allowing it an aspirational quality that elevated it above the competition.
With success leading to excess, the popularity of the Testarossa had led to Ferraris getting a little soft. Demand led to additional packages that helped widen the profit margin but did little for their reputation as being performance-driven.
To bring the brand more in line with its racing history, Enzo developed the F40, the last car he built before passing away in 1990.
Until this point, all Ferraris had utilized a front-engine, read-drive layout. The F40 saw the company introduce the first of many mid-engine vehicles, allowing for optimal balance and handling.
A no-frills interior was evidence of the focus on driving and only driving. With a 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V8 mounted just behind the driver, the F40 produced a monstrous 471 horsepower.
As much as Ferrari has contributed directly to the evolution of the supercar, their existence has also led to the indirect creation of some of their greatest rivals.
In 1963, Ford had gotten word that Ferrari was interested in partnering with Ford to help them get involved in Le Mans racing. A million dollars in due diligence later and Ferrari backed-away. Scorned, Ford dug deep and produced their legendary GT40 with the sole intent of beating Ferrari at their own game.
But it wasn’t just foreigners that wanted to take down the Italian company. Fellow countryman Ferruccio Lamborghini, then-owner of a successful tractor manufacturer, was so disappointed with his experience owning Ferraris that he approached Enzo Ferrari himself with his concerns. When Enzo brushed him aside he decided he could do better and began development of his own automobile company, thus birthing the perhaps more-impassioned Lamborghini.
A Brief History of the Ferrari
Fewer brands have led cars from being objects of utility to objects of desire than Ferrari. From their early days on the race track to their current standing as building high-performance vehicles that you can live with day-to-day, Ferrari has a clout that few other manufacturers can match.
Theirs is a history of evolution and refinement, an example of existing at the highest-level and continuing to push higher. The history of the Ferrari is that of never settling.
Getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari is no longer the domain of the ultra-wealthy. Give us a visit and book one for your own once-in-a-lifetime driving experience. Discover the difference between driving and driving a Ferrari.