The death of Ferrari

young enzo

On this day…. August 12th


Enzo Ferrari, whose blood-red autos raced at the front of the pack for decades, was buried yesterday near his hometown of Modena, Italy. He died Sunday at the age of 90.

No cause of death was given, but Mr. Ferrari was known to have suffered from kidney disease.

For automotive enthusiasts, the Ferrari symbol – a black stallion prancing on a yellow field – became synonymous with hair-raising power and acceleration, precise high-speed handling and fabulous exclusivity and expense. While Detroit has cranked out millions of cars every year, Ferrari has averaged about 1,000 a year since its founding after World War II – with higher production in recent years. Some were racing cars, while others were playthings that sold for more than $100,000 and could break speed limits in first gear and reach speeds approaching 200 miles an hour. Above All, ‘His Passion’

”He was not an engineer or a manufacturer, but a great impresario,” said David E. Davis, editor and publisher of Automobile magazine. ”Ferrari was always surrounded by great designers and craftsmen, but it was his passion that created the cars.”

Phil Hill, a member of Mr. Ferrari’s racing team and the first American to win a world driving championship, remembered him as ”a tough guy, a demanding guy to work for.”

During the Italian Grand Prix in 1961, Mr. Hill complained that the windshield on his car was not designed well and was impeding his driving.

”He took it personally,” Mr. Hill recalled. ‘‘It was the only time he got really angry with me. He said, ‘Maybe you ought to just put your foot down harder.’ ” Personal Involvement

Mr. Ferrari was devoted to auto racing for most of his life and he supervised racing-car operations at the factory until his death. He had formally resigned from the presidency of the company in 1977, citing his age and poor health.

”Racing,’‘ he told The Times of London some years ago, ”is a great mania to which one must sacrifice everything, without reticence, without hesitation.”

Mr. Ferrari’s formal education ended with high school. But, reflecting the pre-eminence of his cars and company, he was awarded an honorary engineering degree from the University of Bologna. Yet he told The New Yorker magazine years ago that he liked to be called a construtorre – a constructor. He personally supervised the tiniest details of engine and chassis design, leaving the building of the bodies to makers like Pininfarina and Ghia.

Scores of drivers who had raced for Mr. Ferrari over the years gathered at a 40th anniversary celebration in Modena last fall to reminisce about racing triumphs and tragedies. Special Moment

Mr. Ferrari was physically frail and remained seated as he addressed the drivers. It was a ”warm, emotional event,” Mr. Hill said.

Mr. Ferrari’s life was not always marked by happiness. After several spectacular crashes in the 1950’s in which Ferrari drivers and spectators were killed, the Italian press branded him a ”Saturn” – a devourer of his children.

He was indicted for manslaughter, and acquitted, after the Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago ran off the road in 1958 and killed some spectators while driving a Ferrari in an Italian road race.

During the same period, his only son at the time died of nephritis, and he and his wife separated. Served in Italian Army

Mr. Ferrari was born on Feb. 20, 1898, in Modena. His father took him to see his first car race when he was 10 years old.

During World War I, he served in the Italian Army artillery, where he shod mules. After the war, Mr. Ferrari applied to Fiat but was rejected. He found work as a test driver for a small car company that later introduced Vespa motor scooters. Fiat bought more than half of Ferrari in 1969, and now controls the company.

A few years later, Mr. Ferrari joined Alfa Romeo as a race driver and won his first race in 1924. But he never considered himself an ideal driver, partly because he could not stand to push machines to their destructive limits in the name of victory. He gave up racing in 1932 when his son Dino was born and managed a racing team for Alfa Romeo.

Mr. Ferrari made plans to build his own racing machines, but was stopped from doing that with the onset of World War II. In 1951, when a Ferrari beat an Alfa Romeo for the first time, he is reported to have said: ”I have killed my mother.” Attracted Great Drivers

As his cars earned a reputation for extraordinary performance, Mr. Ferrari attracted some of the most celebrated drivers of the era, including Tazio Nuvolari, Niki Lauda and Alberto Ascari, as well as Mr. Hill and Dan Gurney, another American.

His drivers won more than 4,000 victories, and the Ferrari team took 13 world titles, including nine in the Formula One category since 1952.

In his autobiography, ”My Terrible Joys,” published in 1963, Mr. Ferrari wrote: ”One must keep working continuously; otherwise, one thinks of death.” He told several writers that he had never taken a vacation, preferring to work at the factory in Maranello, near Modena, during the hottest days of August when most Italians were on vacation. Stayed Near Hometown

A tall, commanding figure with white hair and blue eyes who almost always wore sunglasses in public, he rarely strayed from Modena; and he seldom attended races, although he followed the progress of the Ferrari team from written reports and on TV.

Mr. Ferrari was an agnostic. Nonetheless, during a visit by Pope John Paul II to the plant in June, the Pope spoke with the bed-ridden industrialist by telephone.

The announcement of Mr. Ferrari’s death from the factory said his second son, Piero, was at his deathbed.

Mr. Ferrari was buried in San Cataldo, outside Modena.

(NY Times, obituary. By DORON P. LEVIN, Published: August 16, 1988)

2 responses to “The death of Ferrari

  1. There are not many names that can stir so many emotions,lotus,williams,moss,stewart are but a few however it’s hard to imagine f1 without the contribution of Ferrari..Thank-you Enzo,i hope you realise what a legacy you left behind

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