They’re zippy, sleek, and the perfect car to steal from your dad’s garage when you’re playing hooky. Read on for some fast facts about the luxury Italian auto maker.
Enzo Ferrari, the famed driver who founded both the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team and automaker Ferrari S.p.A., was born in Modena in 1898. While he logged thousands of miles traveling the world with his racing team, his heart and company remained in Modena and nearby Maranello. Today Ferrari headquarters is in Maranello, where there’s also the Museo Ferrari, an incredible museum devoted to the brand.
In 1923, Enzo Ferrari met the Count and Countess Baracca after winning a race. The pair were the parents of the famed World War I flying ace Francesco Baracca, who had died in action in 1918. As the legend goes, Baracca’s parents suggested that Ferrari adopt their son’s “prancing horse” logo for his racing Scuderia (team), reportedly saying it would “bring him luck.” Nine years later, Alfa Romeo (the team that Ferrari raced for) allowed Ferrari to put the logo on his car for the 1932 Spa 24 Hours. The yellow shield is in honor of his hometown.
Ferrari began his racing career as a driver for C.M.N (Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali) in 1919 and quickly jumped over to Alfa Romeo, where he would be appointed head of the Alfa Corse racing division. In 1939 he struck out on his own and began building race cars after agreeing to not use the name “Ferrari” for four years. In 1940, Enzo Ferrari produced two 815 Auto Avio Costruzioni cars—but these weren’t official Ferraris yet. Then World War II intervened, and Ferrari’s factory in Maranello was bombed by Allied forces in 1944 and again in 1945. After these setbacks, the first official Ferrari, the V12 125 S, debuted in March 1947, two years after the war ended.
Even after Ferrari finally got the ball rolling with that first official model, the 1,500-cubic-centimeter 12-cylinder 125 S, the company didn’t start mass-producing cars—only two were manufactured. The car made its competitive debut at the Piacenza Circuit on May 11, 1947, driven by Franco Cortese. Enzo Ferrari would later call that race “a promising failure” after fuel pump issues forced Cortese to drop out of the race while he was leading.
Once that issue was fixed, it didn’t take long for the 125 S to become a legend. On May 25 it won the Rome Grand Prix at the city’s Terme di Caracalla Circuit, one of six victories Ferrari picked up in a 13-race stretch. Sadly for auto historians, the two cars were not preserved. Instead, Ferrari dismantled both cars and used their parts to make the company’s next models.
Today’s Ferraris come in colors ranging from bright yellow (Giallo Modena) to soft metallic grey (Grigio Alloy), but originally they were all red (Rosso Scuderia). That wasn’t Enzo Ferrari’s decision, however. Red was the color that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) assigned to all Italian Grand Prix racecars in the early years of auto racing. And most people still overwhelmingly choose red as the color for their Ferrari; the color represents 45 percent of Ferraris sold.
In 1969, Enzo Ferrari sold 50 percent of his company to the Fiat Group, a deal that gave Ferrari S.p.A. a needed infusion of capital. Around the time of his death in 1988, Enzo Ferrari and his son Piero Ferrari sold even more of the company, retaining only 10 percent ownership. According to a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the parent company, now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), plans to spin off the Ferrari division by early 2016.
Ferrari’s Tailor Made program allows buyers to personalize every component of their car. This bespoke experience happens at the Maranello factory, where buyers can choose everything from livery colors to interior trims, finishes, and accessories. Three collections are available: Scuderia (racing-influenced selections); Classica (modern takes on the iconic Ferrari GT); and Inedita (innovative and out-of-the-box combinations). Once a buyer makes these choices, they can expect it to take up to two years to receive their car. Famous names like Eric Clapton and golfer Ian Poulter have created their own custom-designed Ferraris.
Those first victories in 1947 were a pretty good sign of things to come. According to the company, Ferrari has taken home more than 5,000 trophies over the decades. Those laurels include 15 F1 Drivers’ World titles, 16 F1 Constructors’ World titles, 14 Sports Car Manufacturers’ World titles, nine victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours, eight in the Mille Miglia, seven in the Targa Florio, and 216 in F1 grands prix, according to the company.
Today’s Ferrari design team works on more than just automobiles. At its 30 outposts around the world, Ferrari rings up approximately $1.5 billion in worldwide retail sales every year. The shops stock Ferrari-logoed clothing, watches, sunglasses, shoes, mobile phone covers and of course, scale models of the cars. But be warned, prices are not cheap: Even a model of the Ferrari F14T at 1:8 scale will set you back a cool $5,400.
In 2013, Ferrari decided that making too many cars was not in the company’s best interests. To combat a potential dilution of the product, annual production would be capped at just 7,000 cars. Despite price tags starting at $200,000 and going well past $400,000, the cap was designed to protect the brand, according to longtime company chairman Luca di Cordero Montezemolo, who told reporters, “The exclusivity of Ferrari is fundamental for the value of our products. We made the decision to make fewer cars because otherwise, we risk injecting too many cars on the market.” But by 2014, Montezemolo was out as chairman. Sergio Marchionne was in, and he’s already ramped production back up to 7,200 with plans to eventually produce 10,000 Ferraris a year.
Ferrari opened its first theme park, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, in 2010. Touted as the world’s largest indoor theme park, it boasts four “Thrill” rides, including the F1-inspired Formula Rossa rollercoaster—the fastest rollercoaster in the world at nearly 150 mph—as well as numerous other family attractions and rides just for kids. Licensed drivers over 21 can even sign up for the “Driving Experience,” a chance to drive the Ferrari California on the streets around Yas Island, where Ferrari World is located. That “ride” alone costs AED 600 (approximately $165) on top of the park entry fee of AED 350 ($95). In May 2015 Ferrari World announced the construction of a new rollercoaster called the “Flying Aces” in honor of World War I flying ace Francesco Baracca, whose logo inspired the Ferrari trademark symbol. It will be the steepest steel rollercoaster in the world.
All images courtesy of Getty Images.