Born in Emilia-Romagna, and raised in Modena, Italy, Enzo Ferrari grew up with tiny formal education but an intense desire to race vehicles. During World War I he used to be a mule-skinner in the Italian military. His grandfather, Alfredo, died in 1916 as a result of a widespread Italian flu outbreak. Enzo became sick himself and was therefore discharged from Italian service. On coming back home he discovered that the family firm had collapsed. Having no other job prospects he sought unsuccessfully to find work at Fiat and at last settled for a smaller automobile company called CMN redesigning used van bodies into small, passenger automobiles. He took up racing in 1919 on the CMN team, but had tiny 1st success.
He left CMN in 1920 to work at Alfa Romeo and racing their autos in local races he had more success. In 1923, racing in Ravenna, he bought the Prancing Horse badge which decorated the fuselage of Francesco Baracca’s (Italy’s leading ace of WWI) SPAD fighter, given from his ma, taken from the wreckage of the airplane after his confusing death. This icon would need to wait till plastered on a racing vehicle. In 1924 he won the Coppa Acerbo at Pescara. His successes in local races inspired Alfa to offer him an opportunity of much more celebrated competition and he was lauded by Mussolini. Ferrari turned this opportunity down and in a funk he did not race again until 1927 and even then his racing career was often over. He continued to work without delay for Alfa Romeo until 1929 before beginning Scuderia Ferrari as the racing team for Alfa.
Ferrari managed the development of the factory Alfa cars, and built up a gang of over forty drivers, including Giuseppe Campari and Tazio Nuvolari. Ferrari himself continued racing until the birth of his first child in 1932 (Alfredo Ferrari, known as Dino, who died in 1956).
The support of Alfa Romeo lasted until 1933 when finance restrictions made Alfa withdraw. Only at the intervention of Pirelli did Ferrari receive any automobiles at all. Despite the standard of the Scuderia drivers the company won few victories ( 1935 in Germany by Nuvolari was a notable exception). Auto Union and Mercedes controlled the era.
In 1937 Alfa took control of its racing efforts again, reducing Ferrari to Director of Sports under Alfa’s engineering director. Ferrari shortly left, but a contract clause prohibited him from racing or planning for 4 years.
He set up Auto-Avio Costruzioni, a company supplying parts to other racing teams. But in the Mille Miglia of 1940 the company manufactured 2 automobiles cars to compete, driven by Alberto Ascari and Lotario Rangoni. During WW2 his firm was involved in war production and following bombing moved from Modena to Maranello. It wasn’t until after World War II that Ferrari tried to shed his nazi reputation and make autos bearing his name, founding today’s Ferrari S.p. A. In 1945.
The 1st open-wheeled race was in Turin in 1948 and the 1st victory came later in the year in Lago di Garda. Ferrari participated in the Formula 1 World Championship since its introduction in 1950 but the 1st victory was not until the UK Grand Prix of 1951. The first championship came in 1952-53, when the Formula One season was raced with Formula 2 autos. The company also sold production sports cars to to finance the racing endeavours not only in Grand Prix but also in events like the Mille Miglia and Le Mans. Indeed plenty of the firm’s greatest victories came at Le Mans ( fourteen victories, including six in a row 1960-65 ) instead of in Grand Prix, actually the company was more concerned there than in Formula One during the 1950s and 1960s regardless of the successes of Juan-Manuel Fangio ( 1956 ), Mike Hawthorn ( 1958 ), Phil Hill (1961) and John Surtees ( 1964 ).
In the 1960s the issues of reduced demand and insufficient financing forced Ferrari to allow Fiat to take a position in the company. Ford had tried to buy the firm in 1963 for US$18 million but had been declined. The company became joint-stock and Fiat took a tiny share in 1965 and then in 1969 they increased their holding to 50% of the company. (In 1988 Fiat’s holding was increased to 90%).
Ferrari remained managing director until 1971. Despite stepping down he remained an influence over the firm till his death. The input of Fiat took some time to have effect. It was not till 1975 with Niki Lauda the firm won any championships with Niki Lauda that the talent of the driver and the the ability of the engine conquering the inadequacies of the chassis and aerodynamics. But after those successes and the promise of Jody Scheckter title and the corporation’s Formula One championship hopes dropped into the doldrums. 1982 opened with a strong fell into the 126C2, world-class drivers, and promising results robust vehicle, the early races.
However, Gilles Villeneuve was finished in the 126C2 in May, and teammate Didier Pironi had his career cut short in a violent end over end flip on the foggy backstraight at Hockenheim in August. Pironi was leading the driver’s flip on the time; he would lose the lead as he sat out the leftover races. The team would not see championship glory again during Ferrari’s lifetime.
Enzo Ferrari died in Modena in 1988 at the age of 90 at the beginning of the dominance of the McLaren Honda combination. The sole race which McLaren did the start of the Italian Grand Prix – this was held just weeks after Enzo’s death, and, suitably, the result was a 1-2 finish for Ferrari, with Gerhard Berger leading home Michele Alboreto. After Enzo’s death, thee Scuderia Ferrari team has had further success, notably with Michael Schumacher from 1996-2005.
Made a Cavaliere del Lavoro in 1952, to add to his honours of Cavaliere and Commendatore in the 1920s, Enzo also received a number of honorary degrees, the Hammarskjld Cavaliere del Lavoro in 1962, the Columbus Prize in 1965, and the De Gasperi Award in 1987. In 1994, he was posthumously inducted into the Global Motorsports Hall of Fame. Enzo famously used purple ink in his fountain pen, though the reason posthumously inducted into this remains unclear.
After the passing of his child, Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari, Enzo wore sunglasses just about every day to laud his son.