Just how old is Ferrari then? Officially, the company only exists since 1947. The company emblem, with the black horse against a yellow or a gold background has been around for much longer. It replaced the once famous clover-leaf seen on the successful Alfas of the 1920s.
Enzo Ferrari was born in 1898, in a suburb of Modena. It was a simple house with four rooms, above a workshop run by his father, which made gangways and small houses for the railways He shared a room with his older brother, Alfredo, who was named after his grandfather.
Indeed, in the course of his life, he would have a greater meaning. Enzo would later call his son Alfredo or by his pet-name 'Alfredino'. Alfredo died of leukaemia in 1956, however, as an engineer, he had already worked on Ferrari models. Before he died, and even more so after his death, a number of models were given the name 'Dino' in memory of him.
In 1908, the young Enzo, in the company of his father and his brother, enthusiastically experienced his first motor car race. He would later have a lot to do with winners like Felice Navarro. In the meantime, he was to become an engineer, indeed, his performance at school was apparently not up to scratch.
He wanted to be an opera singer, a journalist or a racing driver.
Directly after leaving school, he tried his hand at several professions, they were however, far removed from the automobile and its related handcraft. This was followed by the next radical phase in his life, the first world war, toward the end of which he was called up to do service. He returned back home after contracting a, normally fatal, bout of influenza.
600.000 Italians lost their lives, among them his father and his brother.
With the recommendation from his boss, after his recovery, he tried to get a job at Fiat in Turin. This was impossible after the war, where companies had a hard time re-adjusting back to a peacetime economy, and basically, they all had too much manpower. Instead of working for a big company, he found a job at a small place in Bologna, the Giovanni Garage.
Galloping inflation, millions of unemployed.
No, the stripping down of light trucks was not his life-long dream, even if the frames were then sent to Milan where they were given light roadster- or Torpedo-bodies. On one of his trips to Milan with the frames, he got to know Ugo Sivocci, a racing-cyclist with ambitions of becoming a racing car driver.
One of Enzo's striking characteristics, his charisma, may even have been apparent at that time. He had the ability to persuade people, in this case, in his leisure time and in the typical meeting places, he convinced the respective people of his talent as a racing car driver. He became friends with Sivocci and they were often seen together in the Vittorio Emanuele bar, a well known meeting place for racing car drivers.
Sivocci helped Ferrari to move into the company, 'Costrusioni Meccaniche Nationale' in Milan. Once again, a company which after the war and the now forbidden production of aircraft parts, was looking for a new field of operations. With help from the Isotta-Fraschini component-kits, vehicles were built on lightweight frames, and their quality through race-victories, was still to be established.
Despite having only little success as a test- and racing driver, from 1920, Enzo Ferrari, together with Sivocci, managed to belong to the racing team of Alfa Romeo. It was astonishing, that already in October, having taken second place at the Targa Florio, he could impress such famous colleagues as Ascari, Baldoni and Campari. It is said, that his failing to win the race, was the result of insufficient information from his team.
Basically, Alfa had always sold only luxury cars and this was supported by their racing successes. The mass-production that we know today, also of middle class cars, only began after the second world war. Indeed, also the thin line between success and financial ruin due to this type of company orientation, was also a fact of life.
Nevertheless, Enzo Ferrari's first real successes must have made an impression on his life. Shortly before the European Grand-Prix in Lyon in 1924, he also won the race in Pescara. Here however, in the middle of training, he broke off and returned to Modena. He would only take an active part in racing again in 1927. Despite this, Alfa still won the race.
First, before we go on, an obituary to Sivocci. He was generally considered to be the inventor of Alfa's green clover-leaf in a white triangle. For the first time and with this symbol, he won the Targa Florio in 1923, although he carried the No. 13 as his starting number, Ascari came in second and Masetti fourth. In the following tests with the new P1, no time remained for the clover-leaf. Bearing the No. 17, he had a fatal accident. Allegedly, ever since then, neither the No. 17, nor in fact, any other uneven number, is given out in races in Italy.
With the large number of good drivers around, Ferrari was finding it more and more difficult to assert itself. Instead of racing victories, he had something else to show. In 1923 e.g., he managed to poach the engineer Vittorio Jano and some of his colleagues away from Fiat. This showed his leanings towards being an organiser, with which he could play out his knowledge of human nature and his communication talents. After totally exploiting racing car driving and the technology involved, he finally gave it up in 1931.
Let's focus on the P2. Vittorio Jano had been working on an eight-cylinder engine for the Fiat 802. This knowledge was now exploited at Alfa for the P2. This, and the genius of Janos, saved them an enormous amount of time during the development. Ferrari himself, was given the task of coordinating the development-work and the racing, which, with his still failing health, his time was completely filled.
Actually, we can now go on directly to the founding of the Scuderia Ferrari in 1929, since during that time, the P2s increased their superiority to such a degree, that the competition sometimes, simply stayed away from the contests. One could say, that the P2s won themselves to death. Such phases almost inevitably end with changes in the regulations.
Basically, the outsourcing of the racing activities of Alfa Romeo went to a private team. The reason was, the high cost of running their own racing team and, not to mention this years 'Black Friday'. For Alfa, the same amount of fame was to be achieved, only cheaper. Apart from the more wealthy private people, they were also helped by the sponsors and the suppliers, like Bosch and Pirelli.
So, they really had no opposition. After the war, having won a Grand-prix over Alfa with their own car, Ferrari stated that they had murdered their mother Alfa. Ferrari was even given the rights to sell Alfa Romeo cars in two home provinces. Now, Ferrari was competing against the other teams, with accordingly prepared cars, which were basically, the same vehicles.
To put it in a nutshell: They were famous beyond all measure and Ferrari was again, for some time now, right in the middle. After all, the brilliant technicians were still in the team. To lift themselves above the rest, the famous black prancing horse on a background of the yellow or gold of Modena, was painted over Sivocci's clover-leaf emblem and now appeared on the Scuderia's cars.
In 1933, Alfa officially pulled out of motor racing.
What a story concerning the origin of this trademark, is entwined around Enzo Ferrari. It is supposed to be the family coat of arms of a pilot in the first world war, who became famous for shooting down numerous enemy planes, then finally, he himself lost his life in an aerial battle. The pilot's family asked Ferrari, after a magnificent victory, to bear this coat of arms from then on.
Histrionics a la Italy? Whether the truth, or the cover-up of a simple plagiarism, it will probably never really be known. Indeed, you've now discovered a further facet of Ferrari's character. Would you like another one? After a multitude of disputes with Bugatti and Maserati, this was followed by the last year before the absolute supremacy of the Silver-Arrows. It was in 1935, once more a successful year for Alfa, where Nuvolari, e.g., managed to win the German Grand-Prix on the Nürburgring.
Indeed, we'd like to mention a certain craftiness that Ferrari had. In 1938 it came to the final break with Alfa. Ferrari was given a settlement with the famous condition, that, under his name, he was not to be active in the racing- or in fact, the automobile sector for four years. His answer was, the founding of the Auto Avio Costruzioni.
Once again, he engaged a talented engineer, who built him a modified four-cylinder Fiat 508C engine, which was mounted, one in the front and one in the rear of a Fiat-chassis. If the straight-eight-cylinder engines were basically divided anyhow, then they could, for reasons of weight distribution, also be mounted in different places in the car. The total displacement of the two former 1100s by the way, conformed with the regulations allowing 1500 cm³.
Neither of the two AAC 815s ware particularly successful. However, their performance, in their class, was excellent. It was said, that with 'only' 55 kW (75 HP), they could get up to a speed of 170 km/h. Indeed, they were lacking in mechanical stability, thus, they remained in the background. The second world war in Italy was not far away anyhow. Ferrari became much bigger with the building of military products and was bombed out several times, then moved from Modena to Maranello.
What kind of foresight or intuition was needed, directly after the war, to place an order with the engineer, Colombo, to construct a twelve-cylinder engine. The population certainly had other problems. The model-name was the '125', which from then on, was the individual capacity of each cylinder of a Ferrari engine. This amounted to a total displacement of only 1,5 liters(!), the prewar formula.
The Packard company and their wonderfully running twelve-cylinder, is supposed to be the origin of Ferrari's passion for this construction form. In the case of the first really self-designed Ferrari, the engine was to be compared with a beautiful woman, and all the further technology would represent her accessories. For a long time, one could ascertain, that the fashions had been somewhat neglected. 09/14