On the past 14th of August, it was celebrated the 25th anniversary of the death of ‘il Commendatore’ Enzo Ferrari. A Modena boy from humble beginnings who grew up to become a giant of the automotive industry and gave birth to one of the most powerful brands in the world.
The epitome of the perfection of Italian design and engineering the ‘Prancing Horse’ is fixed in the world collective subconscious as a symbol of luxury and aspiration. In typically Italian fashion it was the vision and passion of one man who steered the company from just one of many hopeful post-war auto manufactures to becoming the world-leading embodiment of auto design excellence in the world.
Born in Modena, Italy, Ferrari grew up with little formal education but a strong desire to race cars. At the age of 10 and seeing 1908 Circuit di Bologna, he decided to become a driver of race cars. DuringWorld War I, he was assigned to the third Alpine Artillery division of the Italian Army. His father Alfredo, as well as his older brother, also named Alfredo, died in 1916 as a result of a widespread Italian fluoutbreak. Ferrari became severely ill himself in the 1918 flu pandemic and was consequently discharged from Italian service. Upon returning home he found that the family firm had collapsed.
With little hope of a future he joined a company CSM, reconfiguring used truck engines into smaller car engines. He lasted 4 years before leaving for Alfa Romeo to race their cars. It was three years later that Enzo acquired the prancing horse badge, salvaged from the fuselage of Italy’s ace fighter pilot Francesco Baracca’s plane after his mysterious death. The badge would later be reborn as an icon on a racing car in 1932. That was the year Enzo quit racing Scuderia Ferrari his eponomous racing team for the Alfa company.
Scuderia Ferrari went through countless incarnations as control of the company switched between Enzo and Alfa, ut steadily the victories began to mount up, especially at Le Mans and Formula 1 in the 50s and 60s. The cars from this period are amongst the most sought after of all Ferrari’s and this was the era the set the Prancing Horse apart from the rest. It was Enzo’s unabiding passion for racing that drove the innovation of the Ferrari company. You could say that the characteristic form of the Ferrari is an embodiment of the passion of Enzo’s great emotion for the sport.
His relentless drive for success at times led him to put drivers under extreme pressure and during the 50s and 60s Ferrari drivers Alberto Ascari, Eugenio Casteotti, Alfonso de Portago, Luigi Musso, Peter Collins,Wolfgang von Trips and Lorenzo Bandini all died at the wheel of a Ferrari. That number was not especially unusual in the dangerous world of Fomula 1, but it lead the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano to compare Ferrari to the god Saturn who consumes his own sons. Notoriously private, almost reclusive, Enzo rarely granted interviews, content for others to represent his interests in public. But the over-riding characteristic was his passion as can be seen by the three women in his life.
Enzo himself died at the age of 90 in 1998, it was announced two days later at his request. In his lifetime he had built an auto manufacturing and car racing empire, legacy is still growing and evolving. But it was his passion, and particularly his passion for racing that drove the company’s success and is still evident in the lines and curves of every Ferrari’s bodywork today. Appropriate the red colour for Ferrari’s for a red blooded Italian male like no other.