Archive | September, 2014

The Power and Passion of Red

20 Sep

In Spring of 2014, I spent some time in Italy, breathing the Italian air, walking around Ferrari’s private racetrack, Fiorano, near Marenello, and touring the Galleria Ferrari and even walking the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena.  The streets in this historic region are narrow and rarely straight.  You see numerous ceramic manufacturers, an industry that has been around these parts for nearly 2000 years before Enzo.  Though primarily architectural ceramics, the range of products include pottery and kitchenware as well. You may spot stores selling the region’s balsamic vinegar or possible a sign pointing out Luciano Pavorotti’s former home. Nothing jumps out as the heart and soul of Ferrari as you approach the actual factory. When you first spot it, the historic look of the entrance gate is exactly as it has been for years.  Across the street is the famous Ristorante Cavallino, that Enzo Ferrari opened so he could get a table and meals matching his preference. The food is wonderful but reservations are recommended, as the place seems to be on every Ferrari fans bucket list.Factory2

Ferrari cars are assembled inside the Marenello factory, while the body / chassis components are made and assembled just up the road in Modena at the former Scaglietti factory.  Carrozerria Scaglietti was opened as a repair shop and coachbuilder in 1951 by Sergio Scaglietti. Initially located just across the street from the Ferrari factory, he became the primary builder for Ferrari designs.  Relocating slightly north as space was needed, then selling the factory to Ferrari later in life.

IMG_3621A short walk away is the Galleria Ferrari and the feel of the space changes quickly.  Every store and business seems to be Ferrari themed, selling clothes, shoes, miniatures, photos, posters, and all types of memorabilia.  There are Ferrari rental businesses with a choice of cars to enjoy for an hour or two.  IMG_3922An elderly gentlemen drove past me in a Fly Yellow Ferrari convertible and after a few blocks he made a U-turn and came back by.  He repeated this a few times as he enjoyed his chance to check this off his Bucket List without getting lost in the Italian countryside.

Just past the Galleria is the Fiorano test track used by Ferrari for both street and race cars.  You can hear the sounds of cars on track easier than you can see them.  There’s a strong sense of history in the air from the famous racing talent that has driven laps here under the watchful eyes of “il Commendatore” (The Commander) Enzo Ferrari.

With an almost unflagging focus on racing and winning, in 1938 Ferrari started building car parts on his own after a successful 13 year stint with Alfa Romeo running their racing division.  Enzo would often race cars himself but had limited race wins as his mechanical talents and business drive outpaced his driving talents.  Luckily, he knew and befriended many great drivers who stood on winner’s podiums thanks to his cars. Though he made 2 race cars for the 1940 Mille Miglia, WWII and his contract with Alfa Romeo prevented any real car building until 1947 when he formed Ferrari S.p.A..   Success came quickly in Ferrari racing with many different drivers.  The cost of racing is higher than the winnings so the flawed business plan was solved when Enzo’s

Photo by Chuck, The Car Guy

Photo by Chuck, The Car Guy

friend, Luigi Chinetti, a successful racer and former coworker from Alfa Romeo who had emigrated to the USA during WWII, convinced Enzo that if he built street cars, wealthy people would buy them.  The decision saved the company and has provided us numerous great cars throughout the years.

Unfortunately, economic downturns in the 1960s and the OPEC created oil shortages in the 1970s almost ended the exotic car company’s future as Enzo tried everything he could to hold to his exacting standards. Sale of a 50% stake in his company to Fiat helped with cash flow but the use of V12 motors and no compromise engineering was still too expensive.  Reluctantly, Enzo tried a new V8 engine, mid level priced car in the market.  MagnumPIAfter some initial interest, and a perfect product placement in what would become a popular TV show (Magnum PI) sales soared. The pricing of the V8 powered cars enabled additional buyers, and these mid level Ferraris quickly outsold all previous Ferraris combined.

Now, Ferrari still produces some of the most extreme sports cars on the planet, combined with a mid level car that still outperforms most people who try to drive them. Their latest struggle is that Fiat has acquired Chrysler. Cross brand collaboration within the Fiat family of cars has happened many times recently with Maserati (The MC12 and Enzo), Alfa Romeo (8cCompetizione), Lancia (Stratos), and Fiat (500 695 Tributo Ferrari). Luca di Montezemolo, hand picked by Enzo as head of Ferrari, just announced his retirement in frustration with Fiats plan to perhaps stretch that cross brand support into the Chrysler side.

All of the history and current drama aside, touring Modena, the birthplace of Ferrari and the Enzo Ferrari Museum which is dedicated to Enzo’s history, and the Ferrari Galleria dedicated to racing success past and present is clearly exhilarating. These spaces are filled with the cars, items, and history of Ferrari. You had better appreciate the color red, as the places are filled with plenty of it. With the national racing color of Italy being shades of red, where France was light blue, Germany had silver, England used dark green, it helped people to distinguish there home cars while watching races.

ferrarimuseum-18The Enzo Ferrari Museum is built down into the ground and when viewed from above looks much like some sort of race duct on a modern race car. Once inside it is open floor plan with the cars selectively placed on modernistic pedestals and spotlighted from above. Grouped by age, the cars progress from the early Alfas (borrowed from the Museo Alfa Romeo) to the modern Enzo Ferrari, the only car named after the founder. As you walk the museum, the lights suddenly dim, and the entire white ceiling and wall space becomes display screens for movies profiling Enzo and the racing and company history. As the movies talk about a specific car, the spotlights highlight that car on display. The presentation lasts about 25 minutes and then the lights are all back on bright for another 35 minutes. Next door, is the former family home of the Ferrari family and a portion is open with displays of smaller items through the years from logo samples to Enzo’s trademark sunglasses. These displays are designed to remain static and are dedicated to the history of Enzo Ferrari who died in 1988.

Entering the Enzo Ferrari Museum with the Ferrari family home on the right.

Entering the Enzo Ferrari Museum with the Ferrari family home on the right.

1987 F1 car

1987 F1 car

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Part of the movie presentation that displays on the walls and ceiling.

Part of the movie presentation that displays on the walls and ceiling.

1932 Alfa Romeo 8C2300 Spider Corsa with the 1935 Alfa BiMotore behind.  Both products of the Scuderia Ferrari team.

1932 Alfa Romeo 8C2300 Spider Corsa with the 1935 Alfa BiMotore behind. Both products of the Scuderia Ferrari team.

1937 Alfa Romeo 158 built by Scuderia Ferrari, the race division of Alfa Romeo.

1937 Alfa Romeo 158 built by Scuderia Ferrari, the race division of Alfa Romeo.

One of the 2 built, 1940 Auto Avio Costruzioni 815.  It was the first car to be fully designed and built by Enzo Ferrari.

One of the 2 built, 1940 Auto Avio Costruzioni 815. It was the first car to be fully designed and built by Enzo Ferrari.

The 1987 F40 with the yellow 1966 275 GTB4.

The 1987 F40 with the yellow 1966 275 GTB4.

Though shown at the 1980 Turin Auto Show, Enzo Ferrari refused to make a production run of the Ferrari Pinin as it had two too many doors.

Though shown at the 1980 Turin Auto Show, Enzo Ferrari refused to make a production run of the Ferrari Pinin as it had two too many doors.

A perfect Dino GT.

A perfect Dino GT.

An identical recreation of the first Ferrari 125 S from 1947.

An identical recreation of the first Ferrari 125 S from 1947.

A wire frame 250 GTO was the Quality Control jig for the GTO body panels.

A wire frame 250 GTO was the Quality Control jig for the GTO body panels.

The 250 Berlinetta Lusso sits next to its Maserati competition.

The 250 Berlinetta Lusso sits next to its Maserati competition.

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This 1953 ARNO XI Hydroplane with a twin supercharged V12 set a world speed record at 241.7 KPH.

This 1953 ARNO XI Hydroplane with a twin supercharged V12 set a world speed record at 241.7 KPH.

Logo changes throughout the years are displayed

Logo changes throughout the years are displayed

Enzo's trademark sunglasses

Enzo’s trademark sunglasses

Down the road in Maranello, the Ferrari Galleria seems to always be undergoing remodel or expansion… each time I have stopped some construction is going on to add something and this latest visit was no exception. Displays follow the racing of the past, then many of the development cars that lead to either race or street cars, a championship room dedicated to recent Formula 1 success, and then modern race cars from the Sports or GT racing series like Le Mans, Daytona, or the Challenge Series. The Galleria displays will continue to change with time as new cars and successes earn their spot in the limelight.

Galleria entrance

Galleria entrance

Samples of the myriad of Ferrari colors

Samples of the myriad of Ferrari colors

Evolution of the F1 Cockpit

Evolution of the F1 Cockpit

2009 Ferrari F60

2009 Ferrari F60

1989 F1 car

1989 F1 car

1985 F1 156

1985 F1 156

Since the originals were cut up and gone Ferrari recreated a 156 Sharknose

Since the originals were cut up and gone Ferrari recreated a 156 Sharknose

1970 512 M

1970 512 M

Ahhh, the famous butts that sat in these seats.

Ahhh, the famous butts that sat in these seats.

1951 Ferrari 166 F2

1951 Ferrari 166 F2

1951 Ferrari 166 F2

1951 Ferrari 166 F2

Looking inside the 1957 500 TRC.

Looking inside the 1957 500 TRC.

1954 750 Monza

1954 750 Monza

What appears to be a Ferrari P4.

What appears to be a Ferrari P4.

Recreation of Enzo's office.

Recreation of Enzo’s office.

Trophy Wall

Trophy Wall

F1 Championship room

F1 Championship room

2008 F1 Constructor's Championship winner

2008 F1 Constructor’s Championship winner

From back to front:  2003 360 Challenge Stradale, 2013 458 Speciale, 2007 430 Scuderia, 2006 430 GTC-GT2, and the 2011 458 GT2 car built by AF Corsa.

From back to front: 2003 360 Challenge Stradale, 2013 458 Speciale, 2007 430 Scuderia, 2006 430 GTC-GT2, and the 2011 458 GT2 car built by AF Corsa.

1987 Ferrari F40 bi-Turbo Motor

1987 Ferrari F40 bi-Turbo Motor

One of the displays shows race and street wheel development and changes.

One of the displays shows race and street wheel development and changes.

Display of the 2008 India Tour and 2005 China Tour, 612 Scaglietti cars. In the back is the odd green colored 599 test vehicle for the HY-KERS electric motors.

Display of the 2008 India Tour and 2005 China Tour, 612 Scaglietti cars. In the back is the odd green colored 599 test vehicle for the HY-KERS electric motors.

A stretched Ferrari 348 was the rolling test mule for the Enzo V12.

A stretched Ferrari 348 was the rolling test mule for the Enzo V12.

Project F150 cars in the foreground with a final LaFerrari in the back.

Project F150 cars in the foreground with a final LaFerrari in the back.

Project F150  (LaFerrari)development cars.

Project F150 (LaFerrari)development cars.

LaFerrari

LaFerrari

Full size Ferrari sculptures along the walkway next to the Galleria

Full size Ferrari sculptures along the walkway next to the Galleria

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50 Years After the Fairlane Committee

20 Sep

FairlaneInnThe Ford Mustang has lasted for 5o years with the latest car being as highly anticipated as the rush was for the initial car in 1964. The assembled group of young product planners had been hand picked by Lee Iacocca. Named the Fairlane Committee after the new Fairlane Inn where they met weekly in a private dining room, their charter was to help Ford Motor Company create a new identity with an emphasis on the 18 to 34 year old customer. That age group was estimated to be the ones buying 50% of all new cars from 1960-1970.  Per Lee Iacocca’s book “We met at the hotel because a lot of people back at the office were just waiting for us to fall on our faces, I was a young Turk, a new vice president who hadn’t yet proved himself. My guys were talented, but they weren’t always the most popular people in the company.”
They went through tons of market research and targeted their product towards a group that preferred floor shift, included females, the growing middle class, and the new teenage baby boomers. The Fairlane Committee also recognized the value of buyer emotions. Eventually they successfully got the 1962 line up of Fords to have Vinyl roofs, 4 speeds, and more powerful engines and by 1963, had a marketing tagline of Total Performance.
Meanwhile, the Committee had narrowed their targeted customer to 4 possible types; two car families, women who wanted low maintenance cars, low on cash young people, and sporty people. To hit the target, the car would have no expensive engineering, no independent suspension, nor overhead cams. It would need to be a 4 seat car, about the size of a Jaguar, with a long front hood, implying power, and sell for around $2500.
The design teams struggled at first to come up with the right look. In July of 1962, with two weeks to go before the design deadline, Iacocca had all the designers within Ford compete to submit the best design. By mid August, the winning design and clay mockup was complete.
Initially badged and nicknamed Cougar, it was rejected by the corporate decision makers. Eventually, Iacocca won over Henry Ford II with the caveat that, “…you have to sell it. It’s your ass if it you don’t.”IMG_2439
Built on a Falcon, using upgraded parts from the Fairlane. The initial bodies had structural failures and needed stiffening after testing. They were able to keep its weight down to just 2449 pounds, and the cost was within the goal as well. As the car neared completion, the name became the next hurdle. Though Cougar was an option, the list of names was reviewed and Iacocca helped them finalize on Mustang. The logo switched from a cat to a horse.
In a publicity stunt in late 1962, an unrelated special project mid-engine car at Ford was branded as a Mustang and ran hot laps around Watkins Glen racetrack prior to the US Grand Prix with none other than Dan Gurney at the wheel. It had nothing to do with the real Mustang project, 63protobut it did heighten awareness of the upcoming car. The following year, Ford had finished a real Mustang prototype in time to run at Watkins Glen before making the car show circuit. The launch of the car happened on April 17th, preceded by an ad campaign that started the evening prior, with newspaper ads starting the day of.
The first day, Ford sold 22,000 Mustangs. Within a year, they’d sold 418,812 total. Now, after 50 years, total production is nearing 10,000,000 Mustangs and still selling well. It has earned its status as a true American success story.2015-Ford-Mustang-Live-Shot-Main-Art
The latest design has been hyped well, from being placed at the top of the Empire State Bldg, to plenty of photos and details.  Anticipation is high for the actual 2015 launch, which should happen any day now. Nice Mustang legacy.

Putting a Few Miles on Alfa Romeo’s New 4C

3 Sep
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Enjoying the winding roads of the Monterey Peninsula.

The Alfa Romeo 4C has been getting a lot of press coverage of late, and the anticipation of the coming car is huge.  Sure, it has it’s detractors but every car will.  For the most part the coverage has been extremely positive, especially about the fun factor, or DNA as Alfa Romeo calls it.  A few months back, I toured the Maserati factory in Modena, Italy where the Alfa 4C are assembled.  It was extremely cool to see the carbon fibre tub and all the sub sections coming together along with the body panels being installed.  Can’t travel to Italy soon?  You’re in luck as The Science Channel on TV has been showing a very informative episode of How Things Are Made that features the Alfa Romeo 4C.  If you missed it, you can always ask me… I have it saved. 

After my factory tour, they allowed me a little seat time in the car, but as soon as we pulled out onto the roads of Modena, I was told to drive slowly and easily.  After only a short time on peaceful pretty roads just north of town, I was back in the lot at the factory with the car.  No speed runs, fast corners, hard braking, or DNA usage.IMG_7690

That changed in mid August as I pulled out of the parking space in sunny California.  This time, it was a US spec Alfa 4C with no restrictions on speed or style.  All they asked was that I return in an hour and to try to not hurt the car as they had to show it the next day at Concorso Italiano.  I had that in mind as I gently drove off into the scenic countryside on the Monterey Peninsula.  Sharing the car with Sean Russell, an Alfa dealer from San Diego, he endured the view from the passenger seat as I tried to get close, but not quite wreck the car.

The fit and finish of the inside of the car is extremely good, and the look and feel of the interior material is excellent.  Stitching, dash display, controls are all pleasing, sporty, and in view.  Compared to Lotus Elise, Tesla, and other smaller cars, this is a visual treat that fits.  The seat doesn’t adjust, as they are fitted to the owner upon purchase, so some may complain but the setup fit my 6’2” size extremely well, especially for spirited driving.  There is excellent visibility out the sides and front, but enjoy the mirrors to the rear.  I had no problem backing up the car, as I quickly adjusted to what I could see.  The nose drops away but I never felt like any portion of the wide car was a mystery as the car feels the same as its dimensions. 

IMG_7755If I’m going to complain about anything, it will be the transmission and perhaps its simply that I’m old.  After driving a manual transmission since 1974, I really like shifting exactly when I want to.  Even using the DNA Sport setting the car helped me with that decision.  Otherwise, the car will go down as the most fun Alfa I’ve ever driven.  The handling is beyond exception with an incredible balance and sure footed effort around every corner.  Bumps half way through corners provided no tail wag or hop that my GTV6, Sport Sedan, or Milano would provide.   Acceleration was smooth and strong and under most situations the paddle shifting was fast and easy… perhaps too easy.  Downshifts were equally quick throughout the 6 speed shifting.  The engine makes great music as you run up the revs, with each gear change adjusting the tone, you have no need for the infotainment system in the car.  There is no risk of cell phone use or texting as it would distract from the experience with the car. IMG_7733

The low weight of the car is quickly noticed in the responsive steering and easy braking.  Though there is no assist with the steering any forward movement at all and the thick steering wheel turns easily.  The stop pedal gives excellent feedback as the large brakes bring the car to a stop so quickly it made my behind pucker a little. 

Overall, the car is not going nearly as fast as you think you’re going.  Any well dressed guy in BMW M5 will blow your doors off until you get to a corner, then he’ll be worried about his dry cleaning bill while you easily pass on the inside line.   The treat is that the car feels and sounds amazingly fast and you don’t care if it isn’t. 

I was worried about who would be selling these cars at dealerships.  Not any more, as after I climbed out, I realized these will sell themselves.  The looks, handling, sounds are exactly what makes an Alfisti’s heart race.  The car is a ton of fun, even if you’re driving to visit your mother-in-law.  Go place your order as soon as they put up their Alfa dealership sign.

Words by Fred Russell   Photos by Sean Russell