Ferrari now operates Classiche programmes all over the world. But none is quite like the original…
By Dan Prosser / Saturday, November 6, 2021 / Loading comments
Nowadays you’ll find the engine foundry at the far side of the factory, housed within the building closest to the new entrance on Viale Enzo Ferrari. The gleaming facility is so vast you stand on the mezzanine on one side and struggle to make out the far wall in the distance. You don’t hear any clanging or banging, nor see sparks fly high into the air or lathes peel silver curls from billets of aluminium. Instead there is a persistent hum from the rows and rows of automated machinery that reach out before you.
There isn’t much romance in this foundry. How different it must have been a few decades ago when Ferrari still manufactured its engines in the much smaller building adjacent to the original factory entrance on the opposite side of the Maranello site. Inside you’d have found a noisier, busier and more invigorating kind of foundry where engine blocks, heads, crankshafts and pistons were forged, milled or cast by skilled craftsmen.
It mightn’t be the foundry any longer, but for the last 15 years this building has been home to Ferrari’s Classiche department. Beneath its roof, master technicians and mechanics painstakingly restore some of the most valuable classic Ferraris in existence, whether built for competition or the road, meaning this old place behind the famous archway still has the power to stop you in your tracks.
I walk through the glass doors and into the immaculate workshop, pausing beside a 1951 Grand Prix car. This is the Ferrari 375 that Alberto Ascari drove to victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Italian car, driver and GP, and the winner, no less – its value scrawled on a piece of paper must resemble a telephone number. It’s just a couple of days from being returned to its owner following a two-year restoration.
Alongside it sits a burgundy 1957 250 GT Berlinetta ‘Tour de France’, another fifties Grand Prix car beyond that. The pale grey floor is spotless and large photographs of Ferrari’s most iconic racing cars hang on whitewashed walls. I turn and spot a black 250 GT California Spyder, which appears smaller in the metal than I’d imagined, then a row of Rosso Corsa 288 GTOs and a Testarossa, partly concealed beneath a blood red cloth cover.
If you switched on their headlights they would illuminate one of just two 365 P2 Spyders ever built. Chassis #0828, it was raced at Le Mans in 1966 by Belgian squad Ecurie Francorchamps, retiring after 14 hours with engine trouble. Some are hidden beneath cloth covers that cling to sumptuous curves, while others are lifted into the air on ramps. A number of cars are wheelless on axle stands and several more have their bonnets removed to reveal their engines. Each of the 20 or so cars in here seems to be at a completely different stage of rebuild to the next, but every single one of them has paintwork so smooth and lustrous I have to force myself not to stroke them.
Ferrari Classiche was founded here in 2006 as a specialist restoration and certification division. Nowadays there are Ferrari Classiche operations around the world with several in the UK alone, but this was the original. Any Ferrari more than 20 years old is eligible for the Classiche programme. Though there are brilliant Ferrari restoration specialists everywhere, only Ferrari itself through its Classiche operation can certify a classic road or race car’s originality – these cars, rubber-stamped by the factory, fetch greater values than non-certified examples.
My tour guide tells me the purpose of Ferrari Classiche is ‘to keep alive the heritage of this company’. You’ll see no replicas in here – instead, authenticity is everything. Its ultimate purpose, impossible though it may be, is to bring every classic Ferrari back to its original condition. A few dozen cars pass through here each year, only 20 or so of those stopping by for a complete 18-month restoration.
It’s all made possible not so much by the great skill and care of the men and women who work here, but by the exhaustive records Ferrari has kept since day one. Behind a glass partition you’ll find the archive, housed within a far smaller room that’s lined on three sides with shelves packed floor to ceiling with lever arch files. One free-standing shelf in the middle of the room, several metres across and taller than me, contains documentation for every single one of the first 29,999 Ferraris produced.
The deep red folders are branded with the Classiche logo. My guide pulls one out at random, roughly from the middle of stack, and opens it. He then lifts from that the complete paperwork for a single car – a 330 GT built in February 1966. The documentation details every significant thing about that car and its identity, right the way down to the oil used in its engine. The original buyer’s details are in there too, as are the particulars of the car’s first service sixth months after it was delivered to its owner in Germany. Even the original drawings to which the car was manufactured are in that file.
Every car Ferrari has produced since the first in 1947 has a similar file, all of which have been digitised. I see beautifully intricate engine drawings spread across large drawing boards, indicating they are still referenced to this day. The archive also includes a comprehensive record of Ferrari’s factory racing efforts, with an entry for every single Grand Prix and sports car race it contested detailing the date and location, the cars entered, the results (good or bad) and because Enzo didn’t tend to travel to races but wanted to be kept abreast every single thing anyway, the mood of the drivers before the flag dropped.
Somehow these archives are even more bewitching than the inconceivably valuable cars the other side of the glass. How I would love to potter around here for a day, pulling files out at random and imagining for a moment who it was that took delivery of a 275 GTB in 1968, or an F40 in 1989. I would spend a good deal of the day poring over the files for December 1986, the month I was born.
Then I would dream of buying my first Ferrari. Whether you support the Scuderia’s scarlet red racing cars or not, and if you love the road cars the factory produces today or find yourself unmoved by them, visiting the Classiche department and leafing through the archive is a strangely affecting reminder that there really is no other car company quite like the one Enzo built.
- Ferrari SF90 Assetto Fiorano | PH Review
- Parma-Poggio di Berceto hillclimb | Secret History
Source: Read Full Article