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My Very Own Ferrari

Mike Knepper
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

(continued from page 2)

There's more to Ferrari than just baby boomers and speculators. After all, Ferrari isn't out there in the world by itself. Other manufacturers have left their own indelible marks on automotive history: Lamborghini, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Lotus, Jaguar, Porsche. So why is Ferrari the most coveted, the most expensive to own today? There is no simple answer, but it most certainly involves two key ingredients: Enzo Ferrari and racing.

Ferrari was born in Modena in 1898. During the First World War, his father died, the family business was sold and Enzo went into the army. He contracted an illness, was discharged and went to Turin, where he began working in various businesses involved in the young automobile industry. He eventually got a job at Alfa Romeo as a mechanic and ultimately worked his way up to a seat on the factory racing team. Historians have found definite proof of Ferrari competing in only 21 events between 1919 and 1931. He won some crucial races, however, with the most significant in the Circuit of Savio in Ravenna--which he dominated--winning and setting the lap record.

That race also serves as the most widely accepted version of the origin of the car company's distinctive logo. According to legend, the father of an Italian air-force ace, killed in the war, invited the young Ferrari to dinner to celebrate his marvelous drive. There he presented Ferrari a piece of airplane fabric bearing his son's squadron emblem for good luck: a prancing black horse on a yellow field.

In December 1929, Ferrari formed Scuderia Ferrari after Alfa decided to withdraw from active factory participation in racing. Ferrari maintained an agreement with Alfa to continue to race its products--an arrangement that ended in 1939. In December that year Ferrari agreed to build two cars for the 1940 Mille Miglia. Although by agreement with Alfa, these cars couldn't bear his name, they were, in fact, the first "Ferraris."

The first true Ferrari, the 125, was built in 1946 and won seven races in its maiden year, firmly establishing the Ferrari name in international racing. For several years, Ferrari built single-purpose race cars only; then in the early '50s, he began producing dual-purpose race/street cars, which inevitably led to the production of street-only cars along with race cars.

Enzo Ferrari was also building a legend about himself, as domineering race-team manager, as brilliant businessman, as womanizer. His cars became famous as he became famous. No other racing manufacturer was as successful, no other owner as renowned. Then and now, to own a Ferrari of any kind is to own a piece of the legend, to share a unique driving experience with drivers such as Nuvolari, Ascari, Hill, Shelby, De Portago, Moss.

In essence, the legend Ferrari was building on the track could be vicariously enjoyed by anyone for the price of a street Ferrari. While the mythology around the Ferraris of the past continues to grow, it is also being fueled by the continued presence of Ferraris on the track and the company's ongoing dedication to new models that spark the exotic-car-loving public's fantasy. Ironically, the Old Man (as he was affectionately called, although never in his presence) was not very interested in street cars. Racing was his passion; street cars were necessary to feed that passion. He died in 1988, and, with that passion gone, the Ferrari Formula One Grand Prix team has been struggling. But the prancing horse on the Italian-red, single-seat race cars is still a potent part of the Forumla One scene, and some recent changes in the technical staff promise to have Ferrari back in the winner's circle in 1994.

The giant automaker Fiat now owns Ferrari, and its emphasis has been on building and selling street cars at something more than the previous support-the-race-team level. Unfortunately, the recession has hurt Ferrari sales, which were never more than 5,000 cars a year--1,000 in the United States in the best year--but certain to be lower this year. The Italian political and financial scandal has also had an impact on sales inside the country because many potential buyers are reluctant to put on ostentatious displays of wealth.

Ferrari is offering a wide variety of models for 1994. The 348 is the latest in the 3-series of midengined, V-8 sports cars. The 348TS has a Targa-style roof and lists for $117,000. The 348TB coupe is $111,800. The Spyder roadster lists for $121,900. The Testarossa ("Redhead"), now called the 512TR, has a flat 12-cylinder, midmounted engine and lists for $195,600. Although production of the $113,000 Mondial Cabriolet has stopped, there will be models available for some time. The limited-production F-40, often called the fastest production car in the world, was built in commemoration of the company's 40th anniversary and is the most desirable contemporary Ferrari from the viewpoint of a collector/speculator/investor. It was never certified for sale in the United States due to emission regulations from the Department of Transportation. At one time, the wait for an F-40 was two to three years, and places in the waiting line were selling for $1 million. But prices have fallen well into the six-figure range.

And what about the true, collectible, vintage Ferraris today?

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