Just before the war Ferrari opened an office at Modena and started building his own racing car in the neighboring village of Maranello. He had already adopted as his symbol the Ravenna Horse from the coat of arms of Italy's World War I Air Ace Major Baracca. He converted to machine-tool production during the war but saw his factory bombed by the Allies and stripped by the Germans, so he started afresh when the war was over.
Ferrari's first racer—a 1,500-cc, 8-cylinder model that won a closed-circuit event near Modena with the late World Champion Alberto Ascari at the wheel—was produced in 1940, and since then the prancing black horse has adorned the side panels of four world champion cars and hundreds of other victorious red machines.
The Mille Miglia, Italy's murderous 1,000-mile, open-road test of men and machines, has been a special Ferrari happy hunting ground. Every Mille Miglia after 1947, except for 1954 (the year of Ascari's Lancia) and 1955 ( Stirling Moss's Mercedes) was won by a Ferrari, and this year the screaming red projectiles swept the first five places. First and foremost was the brilliant 12-cylinder, 3.5-liter model which is shown here in cutaway form.
There is an Italian saying which runs: "Donne e motori, gioie e dolori" (women and engines, joys and anguish), and probably no man in the world savors keener joy or suffers greater anguish over automobiles than 58-year-old Ferrari. For six days of the week he labors to improve the light, low, powerful machines that have made him famous, and on the seventh, as likely as not, he endures the slow-drip torture of awaiting the results of races in which Ferraris have been entered. So extreme is Ferrari's absorption with what he claims to be his guiding passion-technical progress—that he never goes to the races himself any more; he is afraid that his nervousness might be communicated to drivers and pit crews.
When the racers come back to the factory, Ferrari and his aides dig deep for evidence of mechanical flaws. They spend hours examining, with infra-red rays, all metals which have been subjected to strain. Ferrari knows no rest until the rays have told him the latest ploy of what he considers his greatest enemy: metal fatigue.
Winning a race means that he is on the right road to technical development. Losing, equally interesting to Ferrari, means that there is a new problem to be solved. He is agitated, and his eyes have a glassy stare as he scrutinizes every component until he is on the road to a solution. But he readily admits that he could not live without this kind of exhausting probing.
"When I decide to take part in a race," says Ferrari
, "I don't think of my competitors. I don't say to myself: 'I must beat Maserati' or 'I must beat Mercedes.' The importance of any race is the technical result; given the same weather and road conditions, if records are broken there has been technical progress and progress in driving skill. If records remain the same, there is cause for disappointment. If records are not reached, there is cause for anger and greater work, greater planning, greater striving.
"The results of a race are only due 50% to the car. When you have created a car that can win, you are only halfway. The moment has come to find the driver. It costs more to develop a racing driver than any number of cars. The young driver with conspicuous talent leaps rapidly onto the racing horizon but, whatever his talent, he must race for several years before he becomes a good racing driver. During those formative years, he must have the luck to remain alive when he meets with his first inevitable accidents. To know the maximum speed he can attain he must run considerable risks. If he never risks leaping off the road, it means that he has not sought his maximum speed.
"When I was a boy, I often looked into the mirror and asked myself: 'What have I been put into the world for?' The doubt and the travail never leave me. When I hand over the car to a driver and shake his hand in the courtyard of the factory here at Maranello, I cannot escape the thought that I may be going to his funeral in a few days. When Ascari died, I couldn't sleep for a great many nights. He was like a son to me. I often ask myself: 'If I hadn't built racing cars, would so many of my friends have died?'
"Human progress requires its martyrs but I am alone, faced with the great dilemma of whether I am really doing something useful when I hand over a car to a young driver to get his experience on. I know that if a man once started calculating the risks he would never race and he would never build racing cars."