Former race driver-turned company founder EnzoFerrari was born 120 years ago Sunday, and the Italian sports car maker is celebrating the anniversary with a photography exhibit of his life at the Enzo Ferrari Museum, on the site of his birthplace in Modena.
The exhibit includes images of il Commendatore during various stages of his life, from childhood to his career as an Alfa Romeo race driver, then a manager and manufacturer. Ferrari died Aug. 14, 1988 at the age of 90.
Born outside of Modena, Italy in 1898. His father, Alfredo, owned a small metal engineering shop that built bridges and roofs for the state railway. Enzo started out as an Alfa Romeo racing driver in 1924 but quickly transitioned to his true talent, preparing the race cars under the Scuderia Ferrari name. He ran Alfa Romeo’s factory team before striking out on his own, first under the name Auto Avio Costruzioni in 1939, then as Scuderia Ferrari, which he founded in 1929 in Modena, fielding mostly Alfa racing cars and motorbikes. The 125 S was the first official car to bear his name in 1947, powered by a V12. Ferrari under his watch went on to produce other classics including the 288 GTO, the Dino series and the 365 Daytona.
The iconic businessman reluctantly agreed to start producing street cars only thanks to the pleading of his accountants, who argued for the need for revenue to cover the overhead of racing and two different factories destroyed during World War II bombings.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) February 18, 2018
According to a 1979 People Magazine profile, he once reacted indignantly to the distraught wife of a Ferrari race team driver who was anguished over her husband risking his life “for a hunk of iron.”
“It’s not just a hunk of iron,” Ferrari replied. “It has a heart and soul, and I give if life.”
Nowadays, Ferrari is looking to expand its product portfolio to hybrids and an SUV, the latter of which might’ve made Enzo squirm. “He was a man with extraordinary vision and ability to manage people and resources as well as a strong entrepreneurial spirit and exceptional courage,” current Ferrari Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “One wonders what he could have achieved if he had had access to today’s technical resources and knowledge.”
For those of us who aren’t likely to make it to Modena, there’s always the dueling Enzo Ferrari biopics to look forward to — the Michael Mann version starring Hugh Jackman and reportedly set for release in 2019, and the Robert De Niro vehicle, though details about that project have been scant since it was first announced in 2015.