“Sensual, emotional, highly-strung things”; the writer, Eric Dymock, was talking about Ferraris.
Of all modern cars that go very fast, Ferraris have the greatest glamour,are cocooned in the most melodramatic mystique. Robert Daley, an American journalist, underlined this when he wrote about the marque and its enigmatic creator in his classic study of motor racing, ‘The Cruel Sport’. This was a controversial book, but it was praised, despite their reservations, by drivers like Moss, Clark and Graham Hill. It was called “one of the epic books” by Phil Hill. Here are the words set down by Daley about Ferrari in 1964. Some of the statistics may date with the years: the essence of what he said, and the power with which he said it, will not.
There are no roads where cars are raced which have not known the banshee wail and frightening agility of Ferrari race cars.
Ferraris have sped to victory in Florida, Venezuela and Australia, through the soundless forests of Germany, the chic and haughty streets of Monte Carlo, the mountains of Mexico, the deserts of North Africa.
They have won races lasting two hours.
They have won races lasting seven days.
Ferrari drivers have won live World Championships since 1952; in the nine seasons that the sports car World Championship existed, Ferrari won it seven times.
No other marque can match the record in victories of the blood-red cars.
Nor their record in death.
In 1953 in Argentina, a Ferrari slewed into the mob, slaughtered about fifteen people and maimed many more. In Italy during the 1957 Mille Miglia, a Ferrari rocketed off the road and struck down eleven. In Cuba during the 1958 Gran Premio, a Ferrari killed seven. At Monza, Italy, during the 1961 Grand Prix, a Ferrari killed sixteen. Six drivers under contract to the Ferrari factory, skilled professionals, have crashed to their deaths since 1955. The man whose cars bring glory and death to so many was a mysterious figure, a recluse who never went to races, who was rarely seen in public, who appeared to suffer intensely each time a driver is killed, who seemed to love his drivers like sons, but then sent his cars out the next week anyway.
Enzo Ferrari, was a stern, unapproachable man. All who came in contact with him deferred to him. No one sat down until he did. He had no intimates. He was addressed only as Commendatore, the rank to which he was raised by the Italian King before the war, in recognition of the glorious victories he had won for Italy. Commendatore Ferrari grew up in Carpi, a village nine miles north of Modena, present capital of the Ferrari kingdom. He was a mule-shoer in the Italian army during World War I. After the war he had a short, undistinguished career as a race driver, taking over about 1925 as team manager for Alfa Romeo. When the Alfas quit racing, Ferrari bought the team of cars and raced them under his own name. Most of the great drivers of that epoch worked for him: Nuvolari, Varzi, Campari and others. In 1939 Ferrari came to Modena to build his own cars. War began. Worried about possible bombings, Ferrari moved the factory to Maranello, 10 miles west, and spent the war making machine tools.
The first Ferrari cars appeared after the war. It is said that the transition from tool making to cars was made thanks to the devotion of workers who laboured on the cars after hours. This is part of the legend which surrounds Ferrari. Today Ferrari’s factory domain covers an area equivalent to two city blocks, and no one enters it without a pass. At Christmas, 1962, Ferrari claimed that every car he would build in 1963 had already been ordered. To produce 600 cars a year Ferrari employed about 300 men. And to produce a dozen racers a year he employed forty more, which gives a fair idea of how the man thought and what he really loved. Each racing car cost Ferrari at least 40,000 dollars. He was no philanthropist. He did not lose money. The cost of racing was met partly by starting and prize money, partly by a subsidy paid Ferrari by the Italian automobile industry; and part of it could be written off as advertising for the luxury models. The Ferrari marque has been the most successful that has ever raced, and it is the only one that has gone on and on in every type of racing, year after year, without stopping. Other marques (Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and some of the new bentleys always withdrew from time to time for lack of manpower or money or simply because they had no real need to keep racing. Enzo Ferrari always saw to it that the manpower and money were there. The need he had supplied from deep inside himself: racing was rooted in his soul. The perfection of the racing automobile, the perfection of the breed, was all he lived for. He was an autocratic man. Things had to be done his way, or not at all. Harry Schell once called him “an impossible man to work for”. The designers and engineers Ferrari employed rarely last more than a year or two. Team managers seldom lasted longer. The cars were true Ferrari cars. They mirrored Ferrari, and no one else. Ferrari’s engines are always more powerful than other marques can mount. Ferrari was not an engineer, but he knew engines. He had insights. He forced his ideas on his engineers and if one engineer quit, he got another. And his engines stayed more powerful than anyone else’s.
His cars were tougher, stronger than others, and breakdowns were far less. “My cars must be beautiful,” said Ferrari. “But more than that, they must not stop out on the circuit. For then people will say, ‘what a pity, it was so pretty’.” And his voice was tinged with disgust. He could lose with honour, provided it did not happen too often; he could never break down with honour. Because Ferrari cars are stronger, they are also inherently safer. All drivers recognised this, and admired it, even if they could not admire Ferrari personally. Ferrari was an archconservative. He wouldn’t change anything until it got defeated in race after race. His cars were bigger and heavier than the others, and he did not care. “They have more horsepower,” Ferrari said stubbornly, “and they don’t break down.” He rarely paid any attention to what drivers said. Their suggested improvements were ignored. He appeared to love his drivers, but no one believed he really did, and many who worked for him in the past despise him. The very best modern range of the new ferraris on show, be sure to check this site.
The central fact of Enzo Ferrari’s life was death. But not the death of drivers. It was the death in 1956 of his son, Alfredo, called Dino, of leukemia at the age of 25. The boy had been bedridden part of every year from the age of 16. He kept asking his father why his body was so feeble when his mind was so alert, so eager to live. Ferrari had no answer. He had had much experience in death, but death had never been personal until now. Ferrari had planned that the boy should be the greatest automotive engineer of all time, that his own name would be perpetuated by the greatness he had left behind in his son. This was his dream, all bound up in the son he worshipped and knew was going to die. Ferrari had not accustomed himself to Dino’s death. He kept Dino’s memory alive in every possible way, even ordering the boy’s name embossed on the engine blocks of the race cars. Every day he was in Modena, Ferrari visited Dino’s tomb, locked himself inside and brooded. Associates say he went there when drivers were killed, too. Ferrari’s life had become his cars. He worked twelve to fifteen hours a day, Sundays included. “A man has no need of entertainment,” he said. “Entertainment only distracts from his duty. If a man has his duty, that is enough.” Ferrari was said to be wealthy, but all the money went back into his cars. He lived with his wife and three dogs in a fiveroom apartment over the warehouse in Modena, and when he went to the factory in Maranello he drives a Fiat.
His two oflices were starkly furnished. The only ornament in Maranello was a big, black bordered picture of Dino with votive lights burning under it. In Modena there was a similar funereal picture of Dino and, standing in a row on a shelf, photos of his six contract drivers for the year. The snapshots and the men were impermanent. Any errant breeze or any minute error of judgment at 150 miles per hour could blow one over. Ferrari would not negotiate with drivers. They took what he offered, or they left, and the pay was less than elsewhere. At the end of one season, Phil Hill and Dan Gurney asked for raises. Ferrari fired Gurney. Wanting to keep Hill, he then announced that Hill was retiring from the sport, and would not drive a Ferrari in the United States Grand Prix the next month. Hill did in fact drive a Ferrari in that race. “Ferrari decided to give me one last ohance,” Hill said glumly. “And I took it.” He did not get the raise. Ferrari made little effort to sign the best drivers each year. The best drivers signed with factories which offered the best terms; with Ferrari there is no question of terms. Ferrari’s drivers usually had a flaw, and usually it was the same flaw: a need to drive faster than is, for them, safe. Ferrari’s drivers were usually men who crash a great deal: Musso, Portago, Castellotti, Trips, Behra, Rodriguez and Willy Mairesse. Such men were nervous, inaccurate, non prudent men. They drove very fast; they had tremendous desire to excel.
Never mind the peril. They appealed to something in Ferrari. Ferrari also hired Tony Brooks—for a year. And he kept Phil Hill and Oliver Gendebien for many years, always, it seemed, against his better judgment. The primary reason Ferraris have crashed more than other marques is that so many Ferrari drivers have had this temperamental flaw. There are some good competitors here,the cheapest new and used rolls royce cars. The secondary reason is that Ferrari would always hire six drivers for three cars—the regulars had to push to the limit to stay ahead of the reserves. Nor would Ferrari name a team leader as all other marques always did. He left the drivers to settle for themselves upon a team leader. If this meant a dogfight for first place during a race, Ferrari would watch from Modena with an amused glint in his eye. In 1961 Hill and Trips were virtually tied for the World Championship.
The Ferrari cars were so strong that year that one or the other had to win each race, nothing else could challenge. Both drivers desperately wanted Ferrari to name a team leader; it is dangerous to race it out in identical cars. But Ferrari never said a word. Finally in the next to last race, the Italian Grand Prix, Trips stalled at the start. Hill got off to a big lead. As Trips hurried to catch up, he must have thought: this is the break that will settle the World Championship, a bad break for me; I must hold my foot down, hold my foot down. If Ferrari had named a team leader ‘ one way or the other, Trips would not ‘ have driven those first two frantic laps in such a heavy-footed panic. They were the last laps of his life. The next year Hill hardly even tried. The Ferrari was again somewhat slower than other cars, but probably not as slow as Hill made it look. At the factory in Maranello, men watched Ferrari, and then publicly expressed Ferrari’s thoughts. Hill has lost his enthusiasm, they said. Hill said: “They think I should go out there in an inferior car and sacrifice myself to the honour and glory of Ferrari. There have been too many sacrifices already. I won’t be another. I won’t be one of their sacrifices.