20 Things You Didn’t Know About Enzo Ferrari

Everyone knows something about Enzo Ferrari.

The Driver. The Mechanic. The Engineer. The Mogul. The Father. The Lover. The Fighter. The A**hole. The human embodiment of his own quote: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

He’s been something to everyone, and he’s been, at times, all of these things to us. Which is why we took to the books for a closer look at the enigmatic character who gave birth to one of the most enduring, legendary brands in recorded history. Safe to say that not everything we dug up was positive, but as a whole, it’s difficult not to be slack-jawed when trying to comprehend the scope of this man’s life. 


1. Enzo Ferrari started racing late at age 20, but had been dreaming about it since he was 10.
After watching rickety racers scramble around the track in 1908 at the Circuit of Bologna, Enzo swore to his father that he would someday become a racing driver. In the ten years that followed, Enzo survived World War I, the loss of his father and brother to the flu pandemic of 1918, and his own near death brush with the illness before joining CMN (Construzioni Meccaniche National), a small car manufacturer with a penchant for racing. Enzo worked in their factory, scrapping trucks into small cars, and was offered a chance to race their 15 hp open wheeled racer. He accepted.

2. After leaving CMN he joined Alfa Romeo as a mechanic/racer, where he eventually started the legendary racing team: Scuderia Ferrari.
Few people realize that the DNA for every Ferrari was actually born on Alfa Romeo’s payroll. Enzo built a robust racing team from scratch in 1929, tapping some of the greatest pre-war drivers in Europe to lead the Scuderia to victory. These guys included “The Flying” Tazio Nuvolari — a fiery Bobby Cannavale lookalike who Ferdinand Porsche would later refer to as “the greatest driver of the past, present, or future.”

3. And they beat Hitler’s boys on the track.
In the 1930s, the Nazi-backed Mercedes and Auto Union teams dominated motorsport, but Scuderia Ferrari beat them in 1935… at the German Grand Prix, no less.

4. The famous prancing horse emblem comes from a WWI-era Italian pilot.
Of course every great racing team needs a great emblem, which Enzo borrowed from famed Italian ace Francesco Baracca. In battle he always flew a plane decorated with the horse surrounded by yellow, and a few years after his death, Ferrari met Baracca’s mother, who told him to put the horse on his cars for good luck. The idea stuck with him.

5. Which means that Ferrari’s emblem and Porsche’s emblem come from the same place.
Baracca first put the prancing horse on his plane after he shot down a German pilot over Stuttgart, the hometown of Porsche, as a semi hat tip to his fallen, yet worthy, adversary. As you can see above, the horse is deeply integral to Stuttgart’s coat of arms.

6. Enzo believed competition always brought out the best in people, sometimes to a fault.
He was famous for pitting his drivers against one another, creating little mind games that would often strike fear of unemployment into the hearts of his team. He believed this would drive them to greater success, going so far as to proudly proclaim “…an insecure racing driver is a fast racing driver.” It was a nightmare for many of them, but ultimately, the opportunity to win that Ferrari provided was greater than the mental price tag it came with.

7. That being said, he had the utmost respect and admiration for his drivers.
Gilles Villenueve died on May 8th, 1982, during qualifying in one of Enzo’s F1 cars. He was so grief stricken about the incident that a photo portrait of the legendary F1 driver earned a permanent place in all of his homes and offices.

8. While at Alfa Romeo, Ferarri experimented with some pretty wild designs. Like this dual engine beast.
This is the 1935 Alfa Romeo Bimotore (quite literally, “Two Motors”). There’s a supercharged eight cylinder engine in front… and another one in back. 540 hp meant it could do nearly 200 mph, but having two engines severely hampered its cornering ability, and it never won a race.

9. Fascists inadvertently gave birth to Ferrari as a manufacturer.
Enzo left Alfa Romeo under protest of Alfa taking control of their racing efforts in 1938. A contract clause forbade him from building or racing cars bearing the Ferrari name, or the yellow horse, for four years. During that time, he built an auto part supply company, dubbed “Auto Avio Costruzioni.” Like everything else in Italy, it was seized by the Fascists and forced to manufacture parts and vehicles for the war effort. This would give Enzo a jumpstart on the infrastructure it was going to take to build an auto empire.

10. Oh, and of course, contract clauses meant nothing to Ferrari.
Always the first guy in the room to not give a flying f*ck what anyone else thought, Ferrari found a loophole in his contract with Alfa that allowed him to engineer and build what is considered the first true Ferrari: The Tipo 815, under the Auto Avio Costruzioni name.

11. Ferrari only reluctantly built street cars at first.
After bombing destroyed his factory in Modena, it permanently relocated to Maranello, where it was promptly bombed again. On the second rebuild his accountants begged him to build the facilities necessary to produce street cars as a revenue generator to fund his racing team. He begrudgingly obliged.

12. Those accountants may be why the ugliest Ferrari ever made was actually made in Great Britain.
A big part of the way car manufacturers made their bottom line before the late 20th century was exporting chassis, and sometimes it went horribly wrong. This classic 1954 212 Export was “rebodied” by a British coachbuilder called Abbott. Needless to say, Enzo wasn’t pleased.

13. But the most beautiful Ferrari? 1950s Testarossas were considered obsolete within a few years of production, making them purchasable for under $5,000 in the 60’s.
Shocking as it may seem, there was a time when you could buy one of the 21 Ferrari TR’s for under 50 Benjamins. Because of the extreme rate of technological progress at the time, cars were becoming obsolete over night. Despite the obvious mistake of selling this based on beauty alone, the last time one came up at auction it broke the world f*cking record for cars at auction.

14. In 1961, Ferrari faced a full-on revolt inside his company.
Some of Enzo’s highest ranking managers left the company in a dispute over how much of a role his wife, Laura, should have in the company. This included guys that managed all sales, ran the race team, engineered the cars, and developed prototypes.

15. As a result, those guys built some of the best Italian cars of the 1960s on their own.
Just look at the Bizzarini 5300GT. Giotto Bizzarini had designed much of the legendary 250GTO, and clearly didn’t miss a beat in the days following his resignation. The 5300GT Alloy was born out of a desire to make up for the “imperfections” he had to leave on the 250GTO. Yeah. Nuts.

16. Never short for enemies, Enzo faced his fiercest rivalry with Henry Ford II.
Ford tried to buy Ferrari, but negotiations broke down at the 11th hour over Enzo’s control of the racing team. What followed was the ultimate captains of industry grudge match, and it led directly to the GT40.

17. Duh, Lamborghini hated Ferrari too. 
From our “18 Things You Didn’t Know About Lamborghini” article: Ferruccio Lamborghini famously owned a Ferrari 250GT, which he took in to be serviced at the Maranello headquarters after realizing that the clutch was identical to the one being used on his production line. He politely asked Enzo Ferrari for a replacement part, who replied “You’re just a silly tractor manufacturer, how could you possibly know anything about sports cars?” Like any red blooded Italian, he spit on the floor, walked out and started designing his own sports car. Four months later he unveiled the Lamborghini 350GTV, and one of the greatest rivalries in automotive history was born.

18. But wait! Carroll Shelby hated Ferrari the most.
From our “19 Things You Didn’t Know About Shelby” article: In the fifties, Shelby had frequently driven for the Italian Stallion before severing his relationship with the brand. After the deaths of several drivers including his friend Luigi Musso at the ’58 French Grand Prix, Shelby made it his life’s mission to spurn Enzo, blaming him personally for the deaths of his buddies. This beef led directly to the production of the Cobra Daytona. 

19. Enzo famously said “Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.” Ironically, the last car Enzo ever built before his death, the F40, was the most aerodynamic car of its era.
A lot of people still consider the 200 mph icon the ultimate Ferrari, even though it didn’t have a V12. If there was ever a car that embodied the conflicted, wonderful, tortured genius of Enzo Ferrari, this is it.

20. The Vatican had an Enzo.
Ferrari made 400 of the eponymous tribute supercars, sold the first 399, then donated one to the Vatican for charity. Somehow, the pope didn’t drive it, thereby throwing John Paul II’s reputation as the most baller pope into serious question.

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