A Brief History of Ferraris

Ferrari: the very name conjures an immediate association with speed, power, la dolce vita, racing circuits and a flair that is synonymous with Italian car brands. From the famous prancing stallion badge through to its racing red livery, these fabulous sports cars have the track embedded in their DNA.

Beginnings

In 1929, the company’s founder, Enzo Ferrari, established the Scuderia Ferrari team to race Alfa Romeos but he eventually decided to produce his own racing car in 1939 after falling out with Alfa. His first effort was the eight-cylinder Tipo 815 but production came to a rapid halt with World War II. Peacetime brought the 12-cylinder Tipo 125 in 1947, the first of many Ferraris to compete on the racetrack.

Formula One kicked off in 1950 and by 1951 Ferrari won its first race at the British Grand Prix; by 1952, it dominated F1 with its Tipo 500 car, a feat that was repeated over many seasons to come. Today, Ferrari is the oldest and most successful F1 team, with 16 constructors’ and 15 drivers’ championships currently to its credit, and still going very strongly in the 2010 season.

On the Road

This expensive track racing had to be funded in some way so Enzo Ferrari begrudgingly produced the road-going V12-engined 125 Sport in 1947. This was followed by an impressively long list of exceptionally fast two-seat grand tourers such as the 250 GT and 275 GTB coupé that regularly beat up Europe’s autostrada and autobahns.

However, these early Ferrari road models were designed principally for speed and performance, providing customers with a thoroughbred GT sports car rather than a luxurious and comfortable drive. Every bump in the road and revving of the engine through the gears was felt by drivers who often bought these cars for kerb appeal over performance. Yet even by the 1960s, the interior on Ferraris could best be described as functional with little consideration given to creature comforts that might reduce performance.

Speed with Comfort

The move towards a more luxury concept began with the Dino mid-engined car in 1968, making for a smoother and more balanced drive. Other manufacturers were now producing cars like the E-type with the now-usual creature comforts such as leather trim and sound dampening, trading a little performance in favour of a more enjoyable ride.

Ferrari had to respond and, by 2002, drivers could experience the 220 mph V12 six-litre-powered Enzo, at the time the fastest legal car on the highway.

Although F1 developments were embedded in this amazingly fast sports car, drivers had the choice of three drive options: Sport, Race and Super. The drive was further enhanced by electronic control systems that helped control the car such as ABS and smart suspension, all of which assisted with driver enjoyment. You no longer needed to be a Schumacher to safely drive one of these very special sports cars at high speed and in comfort, true luxury indeed.

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