Blast from the past: the history of Ferrari

8th March 2023

A Ferrari F1 car and F40 road car

There are few things in life we can liken to a Ferrari. A Rolex watch? Maybe. A Gucci handbag perhaps? The point is, ask anyone in the street to name a supercar and it's all but a certainty that they will utter the F word. There are myriad factors at play here, namely, an enviable brand history spanning the pinnacle of both motorsport and automotive. What’s more, the brand celebrated its diamond anniversary last year and Enzo Ferrari himself first reared his head in a racing paddock almost a century ago. 



Humble beginnings

Having raced for Alfa Romeo for a number of years, a fresh-faced Enzo seized the initiative to launch an independent racing team dubbed Scuderia Ferrari. It turned out to be a masterstroke by Enzo, who then utilised his strong connections at Alfa to become chief of its unofficial motorsport division. 


Following a brief stint heading up Alfa Corse, Alfa Romeo’s factory racing outfit, Enzo established Auto Avio Costruzioni, named as such owing to a four-year non-compete agreement with Alfa. ACC built just two 815 cars before WWII truncated its efforts. Enzo wasn’t one to be dissuaded though and came back with a bang in 1945 with the now Ferrari-synonymous V12 engine. The first car to bear the Ferrari name was the 125 S in 1947 following the expiration of the non-compete agreement. Building cars, however, was simply a way for Enzo to fund his racing exploits. 


Unprecedented Formula 1 success

Ferrari has become synonymous with Formula 1 over the past seven decades and it's easy to see why. Having competed in every season since the championship’s inception in 1950, Ferrari has 16 Constructors’ Championships and 15 Drivers’ Championships to its name, both of which stand as achievements far beyond that of any other manufacturer in the sport. 


Among the team’s iconic line-up of champions are Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen. It goes without saying that Schumacher is the most successful of the team’s drivers, winning an unprecedented five titles on the bounce and 72 Grand Prix. 


Le Mans controversy

Ferrari was the team to beat in the fifties and sixties at the Circuit de la Sarthe winning nine times in a fifteen-year stretch. When the attempted Ford takeover of Ferrari fell through in 1963, CEO Henry Ford II set about beating Enzo’s cars at the great 24-hour race. By 1966, the GT40 was ready to dethrone the prancing horse, ushering in a new era of dominance for Ford in place of Ferrari. 


The next generation

The current crop of Ferrari racers comprise Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc at the wheel of its F1 cars, the latter threatening the challenge for the 2022 title in the early part of the season before the challenge unravelled with several high-profile strategy blunders. Meanwhile, the brand returns to the World Endurance Championship some 50 years after its last appearance in endurance racing’s top category. 

Charles Leclerc on track in his Ferrari F1 car


Early offerings

The aforementioned 815 and 125 S models were made primarily for racing. The 166 Inter would mark a significant shift for the brand becoming its first true grand tourer and from there, the business went from strength to strength. The 250 – now selling for astronomical prices at auction – was the very first series car produced by Ferrari. A front-engine V12 two-seater configuration came to define the brand’s road cars in the fifties and sixties before the Dino introduced the rear mid-engine V6/V8 concept to the range in 1968.



After a sparse few years in F1, Enzo admitted defeat in 1969 and brokered a deal with Fiat to own fifty per cent, enabling the brand to survive and indeed thrive with the additional resources and funding. 


Industry icons

We’ve already mentioned the 250 and the Dino, but over the course of its history, Ferrari has produced some of the most iconic and memorable road cars ever. That list includes but is not limited to the big five (288 GTO, F40, F50, Enzo and LaFerrari), Testarossa, 458, 599, F430, F355 and F12berlinetta. Ferrari’s unique relationship with motorsport means that its cars offer something special, something you can’t quite put your finger on and something that other manufacturers can only dream of replicating. 



The current Ferrari stable features the 296 GTB and GTS, F8 Tributo / Spider, Portofino M, the 812 range, SF90 Stradale / Spider, Roma and its foray into super SUV territory, the Purosangue. The next flagship model, the LaFerrari successor is slated to be released in the next few years. 

A red Ferrari road car on a city street