2017 was a big year for Ferrari fans. There were celebrations all round the world based on the idea that the company had reached its 70th anniversary, and everyone had a great time. As is often the case, though, things were a bit more complicated than that.
What people were actually celebrating was the 70th anniversary of the first car with a Ferrari badge. Looking at it another way, you could say that 2019 is in fact Ferrari’s 90th anniversary. Here’s why.
The man himself
Enzo Ferrari was born in February 1898. While still a boy he decided he wanted to be a racing driver, an ambition he fulfilled at the age of 21.
90 years ago
The reason for claiming that 2019 is the 90th anniversary is that in 1929 Enzo created the Scuderia Ferrari, which roughly translates into English as Team Ferrari. The Scuderia’s original purpose was to provide and maintain racing cars for wealthy amateur drivers, but it became effectively the Alfa Romeo works team when Alfa officially pulled out of the sport in 1933.
Now operating at a much more serious level, Scuderia Ferrari had a lot of success with cars like the glorious Alfa Romeo P3 (pictured) and such drivers as the immensely talented Tazio Nuvolari.
The first Ferrari
The 1947 Ferrari 125 S was the reason for all the hullabaloo in 2017. It was a sports car with a V12 engine designed by Giacchino Colombo. A mere 1.5 litres in size at this stage, the Colombo engine would grow to 4.9 litres and was, astonishingly, still being used for Ferrari road cars in the late 1980s.
The Fiat-based Auto Avio Costruzione 815 preceded the 125 S by nearly a decade, and could be considered the ‘real’ first Ferrari except that it wasn’t called that. At the time Enzo wasn’t allowed to put his own name on cars for legal reasons.
The 125 S quickly gave rise to Ferrari’s first F1 car, also called the 125. It is pictured above being driven by Yorkshireman Peter Whitehead, who won three races with it and was also the first person ever to buy an F1 Ferrari rather than be employed to drive one.
70 years ago
It is widely accepted that Enzo Ferrari built road cars only as a way of raising money for his motorsport activities. Racers were generally road-legal in those days, but the 166 Inter, which made its debut at the 1949 Paris Show, was the first Ferrari intended specifically for road use.
Derived from the 125S and the later 166S, it was a grand tourer, or a high-performance sports car capable of long journeys. Customers would buy the bare car and then buy a body from a coachbuilder such as Bertone, Touring or Vignale.
Ferrari is the only team to have competed in the F1 World Championship since its inception in 1950.
It was exceptionally successful in its first decade. Alberto Ascari won the title in Ferraris in 1952 and 1953, Juan Manuel Fangio in 1956 and Mike Hawthorn (the UK’s first F1 champion) in 1958.
The Fangio season was odd because Ferrari used Lancia D50s which it bought the previous year when Lancia withdrew from the sport. The cars, with their distinctive side-mounted fuel tanks, were sometimes referred to as Lancia-Ferraris.
The Ferrari 250 was not a single model but a whole series of road and racing sports cars built between 1953 and 1964, most of them with a three-litre version of the Colombo V12 engine.
In their respective fields the various 250s were enormously popular and successful. They are also extremely valuable. In August 2018, a 1962 Ferrari GTO was sold by RM Sotheby’s in Monterey, California, for $48.4 million, the highest price ever achieved for any car sold in a public auction.
In both its road and its racing cars, Ferrari resisted the move away from mounting engines at the front for a long time. The first mid-engined road model wasn’t initially called a Ferrari at all but was instead given the name Dino, after Enzo’s only legitimate son Alfredino, who died in 1956 and the age of 24.
The Dino was introduced as a race car in 1967 and in the following year as a road-going one. All subsequent Dinos had either V6 or V8 engines rather than the usual V12s. They were badged as Ferraris from 1976 onwards.
Despite the introduction of the Dino, Ferrari wasn’t ready to give up on front-engined models, and to this day has not done so.
One of the greatest classic front-engined cars was produced between 1968 (year of the road-going Dino’s launch) and 1973, and is commonly referred to as the Daytona, after the race track in Florida. This is not its true name, though. Its real title is 365 GTB/4, or 365 GTS/4 in the case of convertible models.
Enzo Ferrari died in 1988 at the age of 90. The last car he personally approved and saw being put into production was the F40.
It was the fastest and most expensive road-going Ferrari of its day. Ferrari’s marketing department said that it was a response to customer feedback that its cars were becoming “too plush and comfortable”.
Ferrari’s next supercar was the F50, of which only 349 examples were made between 1995 and 1997. Its engine was a larger and less powerful (but still over 500bhp) development of one used in a Ferrari F1 car a few years earlier.
The Schumacher era
Ferrari had two decades of disappointment in F1 after Jody Scheckter won the Drivers title in 1979. It took a combination of Michael Schumacher’s driving, Rory Byrne’s chassis design, Paolo Martinelli’s engines and Ross Brawn’s team management to turn the situation round.
The process took several years, during which Schumacher might have won several Championships if he had been driving for another team. It all worked out, though. Between 2000 and 2004 Ferrari dominated the sport, to the extent that it was difficult to imagine anyone else ever winning in F1 again.
It was almost inevitable that Ferrari would eventually get round to naming a car after its founder, but in fact the process took more than a decade, since the Enzo didn’t arrive until 2002.
Launched during Ferrari’s period of dominance in Grand Prix racing, the Enzo was criticised for its brash looks, but with a new V12 engine producing 650bhp and as much technology as Ferrari could squeeze in, it was certainly quick.
LaFerrari is the company’s most recent supercar, and its first hybrid model. The 6.3-litre engine is backed up by an electric motor to give a total power output of 950bhp. The name simply means ‘the Ferrari’ and implies that this is the ultimate model.
Named after the Italian coastal village, the Portofino is Ferrari’s most recent road car design. It resembles classic Ferraris in that it is front-engined, though Enzo might have raised his eyebrows at the fact that the engine is a V8 rather than a V12.
Then again, he would have been impressed by its 600bhp power output, which is higher than that of F1 Ferraris in the early 1980s.