Let's start this book with a joke.
It's a funny little story in which President Ronald Reagan is visiting the Pope. Reagan notices that His Holiness has a golden telephone next to him. He asks about it and the Pope gives him a knowing nod, points toward Heaven and smiles.
Reagan says, "Really, I'd love to make a call."
"You're welcome to," says the Pope, "but it costs 35 million lira, in cash."
Taken aback, Reagan can only say, "Gee, we don't carry that kind of cash with us."
"Sorry, it's out of my hands," explains the Pope.
The very next day, Reagan is meeting with Enzo Ferrari in his office at the Fiorano test track when he notices Ferrari also has a golden telephone. He points to it and comments, "I see you have one of those. Too bad it's so expensive. I'd love to make a call . . . you know where."
"Expensive?" asks an amazed Enzo Ferrari. "It's only 50 lira."
"But," Regan inquires, "why is it 35 million lira from the Vatican but only 50 lira from Maranello?"
Ferrari smiles and explains, "From here it's a local call . . . "
Try telling that same story but substitute the name of other great automotive leaders-Henry Ford, Ettore Bugatti, Soichiro Honda, Colin Chapman-and it isn't particularly funny.
Why? Despite all the genius in the works of these other automotive greats, there simply isn't the Italian soul and spirit in their automobiles that is found in Ferraris. Engineering genius, artistry, value, power, and speed can be experienced in various Bugattis, Hondas, Lotuses, and Fords, but not that something special that makes Ferraris look so good in a strong, passionate red.
Everrecall anyone wanting to be buried in a Ford, Bugatti, Honda, or Lotus? Didn't think so. But in the late 1970s, anyone who read the Los Angeles Times learned about Sandra West, a Beverly Hills woman who requested that she be buried, dressed in a gown, behind the wheel of her 1964 Ferrari. Her wish was granted.
In doing a Ferrari book, the biggest obstacle is other Ferrari books. There are shelves of them, from general histories to highly detailed studies of individual models or series, like the 250 GTOs, the Testa Rossas, or the Formula 1 cars. And they are printed in a grand variety of languages.
Don't even think of Googling the word "Ferrari" on the Internet unless you have plenty of time on your hands.
So why do another?
Two reasons. One is that no one seems to tire of looking at Ferraris. That goes right back to the emotion and passion. The visual power of a 357 Plus race car, the styling of the Superfast 1 show car, the stance of a Berlinetta Boxer, the wonderfully outrageous shape of the Formula 1 . . . these are always worthy of another look.
Second, after more than 30 years of covering Ferrari, the one thing that sticks with me even more than the historical facts are the personal stories that go with them. Phil Hill describing the year he won the Formula 1 championship for Ferrari. Mario Andretti explaining how he dealt with Enzo Ferrari. World Driving Champion John Surtees on quitting the Ferrari team during the Grand Prix season. Carroll Shelby reminiscing about Ford trying to beat Ferrari. And Sam Posey talking us through a hot lap of Le Mans in a 512 M.
In this book, stories such as these are brought to life in one-latte or one-cabernet doses to enjoy, one sitting at a time.
One last thing before you immerse yourself into the following pages. There are, in a sense, two Ferraris. The first is Enzo's Ferrari, the company founded just after World War II. Rebuilt from bomb damage, the company worked hard to get its first cars on the road, then to make Ferrari the most famous and best known race-winning automobiles in the world.
Ferrari's death in August 1988 coincided with a time of amazing growth and strength in the exotic automobile business. Within a few years, however, that began to fade and the business got tougher. This was also the period when great technical strides were being made and Ferrari needed a new leader.
Enter Luca di Montezemolo, who led Ferrari's resurgence in Formula 1 in the 1970s and has helped transform Ferrari from its traditional corporate self into an industrial powerhouse. He oversaw the F1 team's growth into a period of dominance and helped turn the Maranello factory into an industrial showplace. Montezemolo has since become the
chairman of Fiat Auto.
This change at Ferrari began in 1991 and mirrors a similar changing of the guard at another specialist automaker: Porsche. The German firm was bleeding money in the early 1990s before Wendelin Weideking took over and developed Boxsters, Cayennes, and new 911s, making the company profitable again.
It's all a matter of knowing how to transform an automaker with a grand tradition and a deep well of good feeling into a modern, profitable company. It's a trick that Ferrari has managed with skill, and one that a few other well-known car companies haven't seemed
And with that, enjoy. nF