The History of Ferrari

No car company before or since has so perfectly epitomised the concept of style, performance, technology and the pursuit of automotive perfection than Ferrari.


Ferrari name on a red F40.

At Minutia Detailing, we look after all types of cars and in July we had the honour of detailing a Ferrari F430 Scuderia, a magnificent car from not only one of the world’s most famous car marques, but arguably one of the world’s most famous brands.

When you hear the name Ferrari, it conjures up an emotion like no other car marque seems to be able to do. Whether it’s a flashback to seeing your first Testarossa or F40, the thrill of watching F1 stars like Michael Schumacher being cheered on by the Ferrari ‘tifosi’ or the very words Maranello and Enzo. Even the iconic image of the prancing horse, Ferrari is more than just a maker of cars. To many, it’s a way of life.

Unusually for manufacturers at the time, the race team known as Scuderia Ferrari preceded the road car business. It was founded in 1929 by patriarch Enzo Ferrari as both a sponsor of racing drivers and a manufacturer of racing cars and the world of Ferrari was born.

Born on February 18, 1898 in Modena in the northern Italian Emilia-Romagna region (close to the birthplace of Ferruccio Lamborghini) to Alfredo and Adalgisa Ferrari, Enzo grew up with little formal education but at the age of 10, something happened that changed his life.

He watched Felice Nazzaro win the 1908 Circuit de Bologna in a Fiat and decided to be a racing driver. During World War I he was assigned to the third Alpine Artillery division of the Italian Army but was discharged in early 1918 after he became severely ill in the flu pandemic – the same pandemic that killed his father and older brother, Alfredo (Dino) Jr.

After the war, Ferrari looked for work in the blossoming car industry. His first foray into a world he would come to dominate was as a test-driver for a small, long-forgotten Milan-based car company called Construzioni Meccaniche Nazionali and was soon promoted to one of their works drivers. His competitive race debut came in the 1919 Parma-Poggio di Berceto hillclimb and he came fourth in a 2.3-litre CMN 15/20.

A year later, he joined Alfa Romeo, finishing second in the famous Targa Florio in a 6.0-litre Alfa Romeo Tipo 40/60 and in 1923 he received a badge which had adorned the fuselage of Italy’s leading WWI air ace and former army pal Francesco Baracca’s plane. On it was a prancing horse.

More race wins followed, as did official honours from the Italian state for his contributions to racing and then in 1929, he founded the eponymous Scuderia Ferrari in Modena as ostensibly a stable to allow owner-drivers to race competitively. The team fielded both cars (mostly Alfa Romeos) and bikes and Enzo himself effectively retired as a driver after the Circuito Tre Province in August 1931 where he came a creditable second in an Alfa 8C-2300M to racing royalty Tazio Nuvolari. He wanted to focus his attention on both running the new team and the birth of his son Alfredo (known universally as Dino) a few months later.

He took charge of Alfa’s racing operations until in 1937 they brought their racing division in-house. While Enzo was Sporting Director, he wasn’t happy with the bureaucracy and left in 1939. A clause in his contract prohibited him from using the Ferrari name for four years so he founded Auto Avio Construzioni and produced a race car in 1940 – the Tipo 815. The factory moved to Maranello and in 1947, the first Ferrari road car was built, the 1.5-litre V12, 125S.

‘My motors have a soul’
Enzo Ferrari

During the 1950s, Ferrari saw success on the track with Alberto Ascari securing the first of 15 F1 world championships in 1952 and again the following year and this on-track success was fuelling the desire for road cars. Legendary designer Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina came on board and in 1953, the first incarnation of what was to become arguably the most beautiful car ever made, the 250 GT, hit the market.

Tragedy struck Ferrari in 1956 when his son Dino who had helped developed the famous V6 engine died at the age of 24 of muscular dystrophy.

The 1960s were beset with financial turbulence. The 250 Testa Rossa set a style benchmark but Ferrari was losing out in the market and on the track to the likes of Carroll Shelby’s Cobra and Ford’s GT40. Talks of a Ford buyout were given short shrift and instead, Enzo sold 50% of the business in 1969 to Fiat. Such a big injection of investment funds allowed Ferrari to focus on the production of some of the world’s most iconic cars.

WESTLAKE, TEXAS - OCTOBER 18, 2014: A red 1962 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder is on display at the 4th Annual Westlake Classic Car Show. Front view.

INTERESTING FACT: The ‘rosso red’ so long associated with Ferrari cars was simply the colour assigned to all Italian racing cars by the International Automobile Federation in the formative years of motor racing.

The 250 GT in all its forms including the Pininfarina, California, Berlinetta and GT Lusso were great sellers and in 1972, thanks in part to the money from Fiat, they built the Fiorano test track next to the factory in Maranello and launched the 365 GT/4 in Turin. In 1977, legendary design house Carozzeria Scaglietti di Modena was incorporated into the business and the cars were churned out in very high numbers. The 70s ended with the introduction of the automatic V12 400i but come the 1980s and beyond, Ferrari got their act together, and how.

Fast-forward to 1985 and to one of the most famous and era-apt cars to have ever graced the world’s streets – the Ferrari Testarossa. The successor to the Berlinetta Boxer, the Testarossa (literally ‘red head’ so named for the red-painted cam covers) was a 2-door, 4.9-litre flat-12 mid-engined sports car with a 0-60 mph time of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph (289.6 km/h). Launched in the UK with a not insignificant price tag of £62,666, it soon became the poster car of choice for young dreamers.



US motoring journalist Jack Nerad said of the Testarossa ‘[it was] a car designed and built to cash in on an image. And since cashing in was what the Eighties were all about, it was the perfect vehicle for its time. The saving grace was, it was also a damn good automobile’.

 Then, in 1987, Ferrari produced a car so outrageous it stopped the rest of the car world in its tracks.

The last car personally approved by Enzo Ferrari himself, the Ferrari F40 was the fastest, most powerful and most expensive production car ever built. A throwback to the days when driver aids like ABS and traction control were unheard of, the F40 is a 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V8 generating 471 bhp designed originally to compete in the FIA World Championship alongside the Porsche 959 but luckily, it made it onto the road.

It is a visually stunning piece of design with Ferrari’s trademark V8 roar and it ushered in a new era at Ferrari.

Patriarch Enzo died in August 1988 and in 1991, Luca di Montezemolo became president of Ferrari. With a strong sporting pedigree he oversaw Michael Schumacher’s all-dominating Formula 1 career and was given the top job by Fiat Chairman Gianni Agnelli. In addition to winning Ferrari their first F1 world championship since 1979, he turned around the fortunes of the struggling road car business.

Since the early 1990s, Ferrari has produced some truly magnificent cars. After the success of the F40 came the 4.7-litre V12 F50 and the 6.0-litre V12 Enzo built with F1 tech including a carbon-fibre body, ceramic brakes and electro-hydraulic shift transmission.

Into the 2000s and Ferrari were at their zenith. The 360 Spider, the F430, the 612 Scaglietti, the 599 GTB Fiorano and the California were all magnificent cars and today, that tradition continues.

The current stable of fantastic Ferraris includes the four-seat, 4WD Ferrari FF; the V12, 6.2-litre F12berlinetta; the mid-rear engined, 8-cylinder 488 GTB which pays homage to the 308 GTB of forty years ago; the hard-top convertible California T and the current daddy of them all, the Ferrari LaFerrari.


It is the most powerful production car Ferrari have ever created and was based ostensibly on the research, development and testing done during the FXX project. It is a hybrid, utilising a 6.3-litre V12 petrol engine producing 789 bhp alongside a 161 bhp KERS unit. 0-60 takes under three seconds and flat-out it will hit around 220 mph.

Ferrari is more than just a maker of fast sports cars. ‘Il Commendatore’ Enzo Ferrari had a vision to create ‘cars everyone dreams of driving’ and without question, his dream was realised.