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.
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.
A 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. An 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
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. After 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.
The 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.
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.