You always know a Ferrari when you see one. These Italian sports cars are among the most desired cars on the market today, and they’re one of the most coveted symbols of wealth and status in the world. Anyone who drives a Ferrari makes a big impression on those around him.
Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the company, never wanted to build racecars-he wanted to race himself. He got his start working for other car companies and racing in his spare time. He worked for a company called CMN, designing worked for Alfa Romeo, racing their cars in local races to mixed success. He never did win fame and fortune as a racecar driver.
Ferrari founded his company, Scudiera Ferrari, as a sponsorship company for racecar drivers. The word Scudiera is loosely translated as “team;” the name of the company in English is something like “Team Ferrari.” Originally founded as an independent company, it soon became a division of Alfa Romeo, sponsoring and managing the company’s in-house racing team.
During World War II, Alfa Romeo was taken over by Mussolini as part of the war effort-but Ferrari’s division was too small to bother with. Ferrari left Alfa Romeo, but the government required him to use his business to help the war effort. For a while, he sold aircraft parts and machine tools under the name Auto Avio Costruzioni Ferrari.
After the war, however, Ferrari moved his factory to Maranello. The factory was bombed in 1946, and soon rebuilt with a wing for producing road-legal vehicles. The first one was the 1947 125S, equipped with a powerful V-12 engine. The commercial cars produced by Ferrari were recognized for their performance and aesthetic appeal, and soon became status symbols.
The Scudiera-“Team Ferrari”-was influential in racing from the end of World War II, when it started entering competitors into the European Grand Prix. In 1950, Ferrari’s company sponsored drivers in the first Formula 1 World Championship. A member of the team, Alberto Ascari, won the championship the next year. Luigi Chinetti, one of the Scudiera’s drivers, eventually opened up the company’s wing in North America: the North American Racing Team. Chinetti also sold Ferraris in America, keeping Ferrari’s business funded through its early years through sales to wealthy Americans.
Although the prestigious sports cars sold for a lot of money, the profits they generated were not enough to keep the company from hitting financial trouble in the 1960’s. Ferrari was forced to allow Fiat to buy a stake in the company, and after a lengthy negotiation process Fiat bought a small share in 1965. In 1969, the company increased their share to 50%. Ferrari stayed on as managing director of the company until the early 70’s, and even when he left the position he continued to have a strong influence on the company. He died in 1988, at the age of 90.
Enzo Ferrari was known for his eccentricities, including his famous contempt for his commercial customers. He was always reluctant to build road cars. He was upfront about the fact that he only built and sold commercial cars to fund the racing end of his business. Despite his enormous success with commercial vehicles, Ferrari claimed to dislike his customers because they bought his cars for the status symbol, not for performance.
Ferrari had a son, Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari, whom he groomed to be his successor. He sent Dino to engineering schools in Switzerland and encouraged him to develop new ideas for the company. Unfortunately, Dino died at a young age from muscular dystrophy before he could fulfill his father’s dreams for him. After Dino’s death in 1956, Enzo Ferrari wore sunglasses almost every day in his honor. The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, an Italian racetrack, was originally named after Dino alone; Enzo’s name was added after his death in the 80’s.
Fiat increased their stake in the company to 90% in 1988 after the founder’s death. Today, Fiat has an 85% share in the company. Mubadala, a Saudi Arabian investment firm, owns a 5% share. Enzo’s second son, Piero, owns 10% of the company and acts as Vice President.
Today, Enzo Ferrari’s cars live on as symbols of wealth and status, and his racecars continue to make an impact in the world’s most prestigious racing competitions. He never did make it as a professional racecar driver-but with all his success in the field, his was a life well lived.
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