Ferrari Birth of the Red Goddess

Author / Editor: Andrea Gillhuber / Rosemarie Stahl

One colour, one sound, one legend! On 12th March 1947, Enzo Ferrari sat down in his Ferrari 125 S for the first time and turned on the V-12 engine with an engine displacement of 1.5 l. The "Red Goddess" was born. What many people do not know is that the Ferrari 125 S was not the first car produced by Ferrari. It is "only" the first one with his name. The reason for that can be found in the modern "Ferrari Myth".

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Ferrari celebrates its 70th anniversary in September.
Ferrari celebrates its 70th anniversary in September.
(Source: Ferrari)

Enzo Ferrari was a trained mechanic who had already taken an interest in combustion engines as a child. It was at his father's metal fitter’s shop where he carried out repairs and first worked on developing engines. After his application to be a factory driver for Fiat, the motor manufacturer, failed, Ferrari began looking for private sponsors in 1919. He had managed to gather enough money together with his personal savings to construct his own car and take part in races throughout the region.

The way he drove helped him to his initial victories and also brought him the necessary attention, which led to the position he had hoped for as the operational test driver with Construzioni Meccaniche Nazionale (CMN). The Alfa Romeo racing team became aware of him thanks to him being placed high in mountain races. He switched over and became Alfa Romeo's head factory driver by 1920.

The foundation of Scuderia Ferrari through motor racing

Nine years later, he took the next daring step and founded Scuderia Ferrari. Even with his own racing team, he continued to drive Alfa Romeo vehicles. After finishing his active racing career, he became the Alfa Romeo team's acting head. The company actually wanted to incorporate Scuderia, although the plan led to a rift appearing between Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. For that reason, Scuderia Ferrari became an independent racing team in 1939 and Ferrari was ordered not to construct any competition cars under the name of Ferrari for the next four years.

Enzo Ferrari subsequently founded Auto Avio Costruzioni Ferrari, which initially manufactured machine parts, and flouted the agreement. Along with Alberto Massimino, he constructed the ACC Type 815 for the Mille Miglia 1940, a race along public streets. This vehicle was in fact the first Ferrari, although the agreement with Alfa Romeo made it impossible to give the car the name of the company's founder. The cancellation of races coupled with the Second World War put an end to development continuing on the racing car.

Ferrari finally concentrated fully on the already mentioned machine parts during the war and transferred the company's headquarters from Modena to Maranello in 1943. When the war ended, he had partially rebuilt his destroyed factory and dedicated himself to building racing cars.

By 1947, it was all under way: Along with the former Alfa Romeo engineer, Giacchino Colombo, Enzo Ferrari built the first Ferrari for international motorsport: the Ferrari 125 C (Competizione), also known as 125 S (for sport). Two models were built, each equipped with a V-12 engine and with an engine displacement of 1.5 l, a 60° fork angle, an overhead camshaft for each cylinder bank as well as single ignition.

The first Ferrari was not destined for motor sporting success, however, although a road car did come about as a result of the racing sports car. From that moment on, Scuderia Ferrari was the racing division of the automobile manufacturer, Ferrari. It was thanks to design specialists such as Pininfarina, Scaglietti, Bertone and Vignale, who were responsible for the extraordinary design, that Ferrari became both famous and popular.

Cars that later became myths and legends

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Italian automobile manufacturer had to deal with its own difficulties. In the 1960s, Ford had wanted to absorb Ferrari but was ultimately unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the Americans were able to outdo the Italian racers in international motorsport. Another phenomenal racing competitor was Porsche and it was only with Fiat's entry in 1969 that Ferrari mustered up the funds to successfully position the 512 S at the beginning of the 1970s. From then on, it was quiet for the red racers from Maranello.

It was only in the 1980s that a special cult started to form around Ferrari. There were a variety of reasons for it. Hollywood definitely contributed to its publicity: The road-faring versions of the racing car became the preferred vehicle for testers of the series. Subsequently, Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs drove a black, and later white, Ferrari Testarossa in Miami Vice from 1984 to 1989. A Ferrari 308 GTS was as much a part of Magnum as the moustache and Hawaiian shirt. In the cult 1986 film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", the truants spent the day in New York in a 1960s Ferrari 250 GT Spyder.

Enzo Ferrari's death in 1988 led to an increase in demand, especially for classics, as there was a lot of doubt as to whether the Italian sports car would have a future without the company's founder. This, in turn, led to the evocation of the "Ferrari Myth".

Racing legends themselves also contributed to the fascination of Ferrari. Niki Lauda won the Formula 1 title in 1975 for Ferrari. The 1976 struggle for the title with James Hunt in the Hesketh 308 is legendary, which Lauda lost in the last race of the season. Gilles Villeneuve went on to become the hero of the Ferrari owners due to his driving style, but it was only with Michael Schumacher that Ferrari was able to rise to new heights in the 1990s and 2000s.

Ferrari is one of the most successful racing teams in history, with 16 conductor's and 15 driver's world championships.