Ferrari History

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Ferrari History


 1940 - present

The Mystique Of The Prancing Horse

We are only too aware that any reference to the famous marques in this, the Unique Cars and Parts heritage listing, would be incomplete without mention of arguably the most famous and desirable exotic ever built – the Ferrari.

There is an aura that surrounds the marque, a mystique that exudes from the majestic 'Prancing Horse' whenever you are lucky enough to see one on the road. No doubt it has been the post war racing success that has lifted Ferrari to such heady heights, but our story begins some 20 years earlier when, in 1920, a young 22 year old Enzo Ferrari would join Alfa Romeo.

Born on February 18, 1898 near Modena in Italy, Enzo Ferrari became entranced with the idea of car racing after his father took him to a race meet at age 10 at a circuit in Bologna. After attending a number of other races, he decided he wanted to become a racing car driver, and so he was able to obtain a job working for a small carmaker involved with converting World War 1 surplus.

His first outing on the race track was at the 1919 Targa Florio. After landing a job with Alfa Romeo the following year, he would drive a modified production car in the 1920 Targa Florio - managing to finish second!

The famous 'Prancing Horse' logo would be conceived in 1923 when Enzo was racing at the Circuit of Sivocci at Ravenna; now 25, Enzo was approached by Count Enrico and Countess Paolina Baracca, the parents of the heroic Italian pilot Francesco Baracca.

The Italian Ace Of Aces

Francesco had been killed at Mount Montello during the war, but not before he had gained the reputation as the “Italian Ace of Aces”. Count Enrico and Countess Paolina gave Enzo their son's squadron badge, the famous prancing horse on a yellow shield. Enzo remained connected with Alfa Romeo for many years; however he built only a few sports cars bearing his name and his famous prancing horse badge.

From 1923 he concentrated on organization, rather than driving, as his abilities as a tactician and manager were recognized. In 1929, however, he left Alfa Romeo itself (but remained associated with them) to form his own racing team, the Scuderia Ferrari, and was entrusted with the task of running the official Alfa Romeo team cars.

This arrangement worked well, allowing the parent factory to concentrate on designing and developing their next generation of cars. It was at this stage, too, that the famous 'Prancing Horse' emblem first appeared on the cars, and it has been used ever since. The Scuderia Ferrari team would go on to compete in 22 events, scoring 8 victories and several good placings.

All went well for the team until the mid 1930s, when the German government, determined to win any and all sporting events, would finance Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union to develop Grand Prix cars; after their arrival the Alfas could rarely match them again.

Enzo Cuts All Ties With Alfa

In 1940 Enzo Ferrari finally severed all ties with Alfa Romeo and started a new company, Auto-Avio Costruzioni Ferrari. During World War II the Ferrari workshop moved from Modena to Maranello, but this did little to protect if from allied bombing and the new factory was almost entirely leveled in 1944. The factory would not be re-built until 1946, and upon its completion work would begin on the construction of the first ever Ferrari motorcar, the 125 Sport – a car that would quickly establish a grand tradition of winning for Ferrari.

Gioacchino Colombo And The Development Of The V12

Enzo’s first chief engine designer was Gioacchino Colombo, who produced the classic V12 engine which would become the mainstay of Ferrari road cars, in so many different forms, for a great many years to come. The original V12 engine was a 1500cc single overhead cam design, and was well suited to the lovely 125 two-seater as well as Ferrari’s new Formula One race car. It was at this time that Ferraris management decided to title their cars in numbers and letters, a 'system' that quickly became very confusing, and not always logical!

But at least in the early years of development, the vehicle type number approximated the capacity of ‘one’ engine cylinder in cubic centimeters. A seemingly more logical system would take over in 1957 when the cars designation indicated the engine size in litres, and the number of cylinders - except of course when it inexplicably didn't! Although Colombo's influence persisted at Ferrari into the 1960s, he left the company in 1950, and was succeeded by Aurelio Lampredi. In the meantime the V12 engine was enlarged to 1955cc and fitted into the Tipo 166.

The Tipo 166 Enters Formula Racing

The Tipo 166 had cycle type wings that, along with the headlights, could be removed making for an easy conversion for Formula racing. The Tipo was quick, competitive, and notched up many racing successes – particularly in long-distance events requiring reliability and durability (bet you didn’t expect that of early model Ferraris!). Race driver Biondetti would win the 1948 Mille Miglia, and to celebrate the success Ferrari would add the letters “MM” to the cars name. His car had a triple Weber carburettor setup and was good for 150bhp at 7000rpm, enhancements that quickly found their way into the production model Tipo.

The chassis was made from oval-section steel tubes, and featured double wishbone independent front suspension, with a transverse spring, while the rigid rear axle was sprung on half-elliptical leaf springs, with radius arms for location. The transmission did not have syncro, but at least the brakes were hydraulic. The lovely body for the Tipo 166 was developed by Carrozzeria Touring, and the car was good for a top speed of 125 mph. A later version of the Tipo, dubbed the “195 Inter” featured an enlarged engine, although this model was soon succeeded by the 2562cc 170bhp engined “212 Inter” in 1951. Shorter wheelbase types became known as the Sport, or Export, models.

The New Lampredi V12

In 1951, however, the first of the really big-engined Ferraris, the 4101cc “Type 340 America” went on sale. The America was fitted with a completely new V12 engine, familiarly known as the Lampredi (as against the Colombo) type, which was good for 220bhp at 6000rpm. The car had a top speed of 137mph, and would soon be offered in further variants such as the “340 Mexico” and “340MM” – all were raced with great success in the US.

In 1953 and 1954, the factory raced even larger versions of this car, known as the 375 (4522cc) and later still they used 4954cc engines. In the last form, the engine produced a staggering 344bhp at 6500rpm, making the 375 good for a top speed in excess of 160mph, with 0-60 mph acceleration in just under seven seconds.

Ferrari 275GTV
The 275GTV was a new breed of Ferrari, styled by Pininfarina their sweet V12 engine was good for 280bhp...

Ferrari Dino 206GT
A grieving father would ensure his sons engine, and name, would survive in the Dino...

Ferrari 250GT Lusso
The sleekest and most sophisticated Ferrari of the 1960's was the beautiful Pininfarina styled 25OGT Berlinetta Lusso. Although the mechanical specification was very similar to that of the SWB Berlinetta, the engine was de-tuned to a mere 250hp...

Ferrari Daytona
The Daytona is arguably the ultimate front-engined Ferrari, despite the controversial wedgey styling...

Ferrari Daytona
In mid-1971 Ferrari would make the Daytona's headlights retractable, well, sort of...

Ferrari F355
It would take until the F355 for the chassis to improve over the 206GT...

Ferrari 575M
The Maranello captured the classic style of earlier Ferrari's...

Ferari F60
The F60, street-cred wise this thing is guaranteed to wipe the smile off any HSV owner...

The 250 Europa

The first of the famous 250s, the “250 Europa”, appeared at the Paris Show of 1953, with a 'long' Lampredi engine, in a 9ft 2in wheelbase (although the Europa still used the same basic suspension layout of previous models). The 25OGT Europa would follow in 1954, however it had a shorter (8ft 6in) wheelbase, and a 3 litre version of the Colombo V12; in all only around 50 cars of the two types were produced.

In 1956 Ferrari released the 25OGT Coupe – and Enzo Ferrari was now keen to ensure the companies viability by selling more road cars. Styled by ‘Pininfarina’, approximately 500 of these cars were constructed; the 2953cc V12 engine was much the same as before, but now developed a healthy 240bhp at 7000rpm using triple Weber carburettors. Later models would be fitted with Dunlop disc brakes.

The Classic 250GT Berlinetta

One of the most memorable of the “classic” Ferraris would follow, the short-wheelbase 25OGT Berlinetta, which featured Pininfarina style coachwork built for Ferrari at Scaglietti from 1959 to 1962. The 250GT Berlinetta was really a racing sports-car, had a 280bhp V12 engine, four speed all-synchromesh transmission, disc brakes all round, but used the same basic chassis and suspension as other Ferrari road cars. Stirling Moss would have two successive 250GT Berlinetta victories in Tourist Trophy races.

Two other 250 theme variations of note were the open model “Spyder California” (announced in 1958), and the 25OGT 2 + 2 - also known as the GTE. The latter variant was the first-ever Ferrari to offer even occasional rear passenger seats. However, the sleekest and most sophisticated Ferrari up to that time was the beautiful Pininfarina styled 25OGT Berlinetta Lusso - the word Lusso meaning 'Luxury.' Although the mechanical specification was very similar to that of the SWB Berlinetta, the engine was de-tuned to a mere 250hp.

During the 1960s, the 'basic' Ferrari power unit grew to four litres, and then to 4.4 litres, the first of this new breed being the 330s of 1964. As one might expect, the engine layout remained as a V12, but was now good for 300bhp at 6600rpm, though the chassis was still like that of the 250, with coil spring and wishbone independent front suspension, and a rigid rear axle on leaf springs at the rear – of course four wheel disc brakes remained.

The original 330GT 2+2, identifiable by its distinctive four headlamp configuration, was superseded a year later by the Mk. 2, which reverted to a more traditional two headlamp configuration. There was also a differently styled two seater 330GTC from 1965, and a GTS open Spyder a year later. Although all were styled for Ferrari by Pininfarina, they were built by Scaglietti.

The Development Of Ferrari Super-Cars

Ferrari were at the same time building, in very limited numbers, extremely large engined super-cars. The first was the 4 litre “Tipo 410 Super America” of 1956, followed by the 3967cc “Tipo 400 Super America” in 1959. But these paled when Ferrari raised the curtain on their amazing “Tipo 500 Superfast”, of which only 28 LHD and 8 RHD examples were made - from 1964 to 1966.

The “Superfast” featured a 4961cc V12 engine good for 400bhp at 6500rpm, and was an incredibly powerful and self-indulgent car, something only the genius of Ferrari could possibly create. 1964 saw a new generation of Ferraris released, the 275GTB Coupe and 275GTS Spyder models. These cars featured an all new multi-tube chassis frame, five-speed transmission unit with the final drive and independent suspension for both front and rear wheels by coil springs and wishbone.

Once again the bodies were designed by Pininfarina but constructed by Scaglietti. Naturally the V12 engine was carried over from previous models, but this time it was enlarged to 3286cc and was good for 280bhp in Coupe form, but was slightly de-tuned to 260bhp for the open car. After only two years the 275GTB was updated to 275GTB/4 specification, the '4' denoting the use of four-cams rather than two. Power was now up to 300bhp at 8000rpm, and there were no less than six twin-choke Weber carburettors fitted – imagine taking this for a tune at the local mechanic that was used to working on the more humble EH Holden’s of the day!

Alfredino Ferrari And The Development Of The V6 Formula 2 Engine

It was during the 1960’s that Alfredino “Dino” Ferrari, Enzo’s beloved only son, convinced his father to develop a V6 racing engine for Formula 2. By now it was pretty obvious that Enzo favoured the V12 configuration, but the argument presented by Alfredino was comprehensive and, in the end, he agreed to the engines development. The resultant engine was a very compact 1600cc quad-cam V6, the engine soon racking up several Formula 2 championship titles.

But tragedy would strike the Ferrari family, Alredino dieing of kidney disease before he could see his pet project completed. Although it took several years for Enzo to fully recover from the death of his son, when he put his mind back into building motor cars he decided that, in memory of his son, he would put the V6 into a mid-engined lightweight sports car and call it "Dino", the shortened version of his son's name. Of course, the original racing V6 would never have been appropriate for road use, so Lampredi modified the engine to 2.0 litres, but it remained good for an amazing 180bhp.

Designated the "206GT", in which (if you remember what we told you earlier) 20 designates 2.0 litres and 6 designates six cylinders, the engine was actually built by Fiat and shared with the Fiat Dino. And no, it was not only done this way as a cost cutting measure; more importantly the additional production volume was needed by Ferrari so that they could qualify for FIA's production requirement for racing engines.

A Magnificent Chassis, And Perfect Weight Distribution

The 206GT had a magnificent chassis, with engaging feel, adjustability and beautiful balance. It was generally regarded as the best Ferrari chassis until the arrival of F355. Why was it so good ? Firstly, its nimble size and relatively light weight helped improve handling, just like other small cars. Secondly, its mid-engined layout accompanied with the compact and transversely mounted engine perfected the weight distribution.

And thirdly, it adopted independent double-wishbones suspension to all four wheels - a first for Ferrari. Using a conventional multi-tube frame, the “Dino’s” five-speed transmission unit and final drive were driven by spur gears from the crankshaft, and bolted behind the sump. In this form the quad-cam engine produced 180bhp, and the sleekly styled coupe, built predominantly with aluminium panels, was good for a top speed of around 140mph.

The 206GT was replaced by 246GT in 1969 after 2 years of service. As suggested by its name, the newer car had a larger 2.4-litre engine. Power rose to 195bhp while torque increased even more. Having a stronger engine, Ferrari abandoned the aluminium body panels in favor of a conventional steel body, thus lowering the production cost and providing better build quality. The new models size was increased to 2418m and peak power rose to 195bhp at 7600rpm.

The 246GT broke the production record in Maranello. Nearly 2,500 cars were made between 1969 and 74, which was far more than any previous models. It was joined by the 246GTS in 1972, almost identically styled, but with a removable roof panel. Since then, Ferrari started to manufacture its mainstream model line-up, (if one could ever describe Ferrari manufacture as mainstream that is), including the 308, 328, 348, F355 and 360M.

The Ultimate Front Engined Ferrari, The 365GTB/4 Daytona

In 1968 arguably the ultimate front-engined Ferrari would be released, the 365GTB/4 Daytona. Using the same basic chassis layout as the superseded 275GTB/4, the Daytona used a 4390cc four-cam V12 engine, fed by six Weber carburettors, which produced no less than 352bhp at 7500rpm. The transmission was at the rear, in unit with the final drive, and body construction was by Scaglietti. The Daytona was good for a top speed in excess of 170mph – scary!

The following year (1969) Enzo would sell 50% of Ferrari's share capital to the Fiat group, that figure eventually growing to 90% in 1988. But as we all know, the buy-out did not hinder the manufacturers production. The Daytona was joined by (a very rare) open Spyder version, known as the MSGTS/4; so rare in fact that some coupe owners have resorted to converting them to Spyder specification. When identifying a Daytona check the headlights, if the are retractable the car was built from mid 1971 onwards – if they are fixed and sitting behind large clear plastic covers the car was built prior to 1971.

The direct replacement for the 246GT series was the 308 range, starting with the GT/4 2 + 2. Unlike all its predecessors, the 308 was styled by Bertone and, while it featured a new ‘wedge’ shape that many competitors were adopting, it had little of the grace of the previous cars. On the up side, it did offer +2 seats and arguably a cheaper to maintain brand new 90-degree 2927cc V8 engine.

The Return Of Pininfarina, And The Elegant 308GTB

Pininfarina made a triumphant return in 1975 with the re-styled 308GTB, a true replacement for the 246GT. The 308GTB used the same chassis and wheelbase as the original car, and for the first two years had fibreglass bodywork. Not surprisingly, a 308GTS Spyder was soon available, however fortunately Ferrari decided not to de-tune the open-top and so both variants were good for a top speed in excess of 150mph.

Daytona fans will inevitable click the ‘contact’ button and direct hate mail at what we are about to say, but we believe the greatest of all the Ferrari super-cars was the Boxer, which first went on sale in 1973. Correctly entitled the 365GT4 BB, the car had a multi-tube chassis, with fully-independent suspension and disc brakes. Nothing new there, but this was already a super-sweet chassis. What made the Boxer so special was the horizontally opposed mid-mounted 4.4-litre V12 engine, fed by quad Weber carbs and good for 360bhp at 7500rpm. The car's claimed maximum speed was 180mph +, but no independent tester that we are aware of ever achieved that speed. The Pininfarina styled body featured sweeping wing lines, and was very like that of the 308GTB which soon followed it.

From mid-1976 the design was updated, to become the BB512. This car had a larger 4942cc engine, and a claimed maximum of 188mph, though peak power was down to 340bhp at 6800rpm. It was still a phenomenal car, though the claims for its pace were grossly exaggerated; even so it would sell steadily (more than 150 cars a year) until the mid-1980's.

The Bertone 308GT4 And Pininfarina Mondial 8

In 1981, the 308GT4, styled by Bertone, replaced by the Pininfarina styled Mondial 8. There were no major mechanical changes worth mentioning, other than to say that Bertone had now truly captured the identity and spirit of the earlier Ferrari’s and the new car was far more in keeping with tradition. It would continue to be a success, and would slowly evolve in the early 1980’s with the adoption of new technologies, such as the fitment of fuel injection and then, in 1983, inheriting four-valve per cylinder heads. The latter cars became known as Quattrovalvole (QV), and the peak power output was 240bhp.

When it came time to replace the Boxer Ferrari knew it would need to be very special. Launched in 1984, the “Testarossa” was exactly that. The basic mechanical layout was that of the BB512, but the engine had four-valve heads, and power was boosted to a whopping 390bhp. The Pininfarina style was certainly controversial, incorporating slats in the body sides to channel air into the radiator air intakes behind the doors. Those that liked fresh air were disappointed to learn that Ferrari would only produce a two-seater version coupe.

The Ferrari tradition continues to this day, never more so than at the Formula One circuits around the world. Enzo Ferrari died at the age of 90 in Modena on August 14, 1988. Without one man - the autocratic and occasionally eclectic Enzo Ferrari - there would be no Ferrari legend, for he was the superb organizer, and dogged fighter, who had the ability always to surround himself with gifted engineers.

Also see: Ferrari Car Reviews | Ferrari Colour Codes | The History of Ferrari (USA Edition)
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