Ferrari Enzo Biography
Ferrari was born on February 18, 1898, in the northern town of Modena, Italy, to
a middle class family that owned a small foundry. His father's company made
sheds and gangways for the railroads in Italy. Ferrari was never interested in
school. He had other aspirations. "As a young man it is said that he had
three great ambitions-to be an opera singer, a sports journalist, and a race car
driver". He lacked the talent for the first, never applied himself to the
second, but the third was what drove his life. His parents, on the other hand
wanted him to stay in school and become an engineer.
In 1916, however, Ferrari's life
changed and he left school. Italy was at war and his brother and father were
drafted. As for many other families in Italy, WWI was a disaster for the
country. Italy entered the war in 1915 on the side of the allies. Italy had at
first maintained a neutral stance, but the country became involved because of
the promise of land. If Italy would assist the allies, it would receive land
after the war as compensation. During the war 600,000 Italians lost their lives.
Included in that number were Ferrari's brother and father both dying, in 1916,
of diseases they contacted while in the Army.
Ferrari left school after the deaths
in his family. He too was drafted into the war. Because the war was not
proceeding the way that the allies had planned Italy needed additional men to
fight. The younger Ferrari spent a couple of months shoeing mules for the
mountain artillery. He then contracted a deadly flu, but survived whereas many
others did not. The flu epidemic in 1918 took more lives than there were
casualties from the war itself.
Ferrari was released from the army
with a letter of introduction from his colonel. When he returned home, he, like
others needed to rebuild his life. The family business had collapsed after his
father's death. Yet Ferrari needed to find work and to support his widowed
Ferrari took his papers and went to
Fiat to apply for a job. He was turned down and had to look elsewhere. His first
job after the war was test driving for the Vespa company. While test driving, he
participated in the first post-war motor sporting event. Ferrari continued to
race and in 1920 started to work for Alfa Romeo. Ferrari was starting to become
a recognized name.
Mussolini seized the government on
January 3, 1925 and led through a totalitarian form of government. He was in
control of every aspect of the government. Ferrari was awarded an honour from
the Fascist regime of Cavaliere dell'ordine della Corona d'Italia and elevated
to Commendatore. Ferrari received these honours because he had won numerous
races for Italy in Mussolini's eyes.
Ferrari experienced an emotional
breakdown in the late twenties and stopped racing for a short time, but in 1927,
he returned. He continued to race for Alfa Romeo until his son was born, in
1932. Although Ferrari was a good racer, his talent was in the direction of
organization and handling of small details. He worked for Alfa Romeo for nine
years, but Ferrari wanted to design his own cars. After being released from his
severance agreement with Alfa Romeo, Ferrari started his own car business.
However, a stipulation of his release was that he could not race or design
anything under his name for four years.
With the second world war taking place, the car racing battles were stopped, and Ferrari became involved with war production. During the war, the allies bombed his shops and he moved the factory to Maranello. After the war, Ferrari was shunned for his "reputedly too-enthusiastic support of the old Mussolini regime". For people that knew Ferrari, this was not surprising. He was a hard man. In his lifetime he did not make many friends. He told people that he had never taken a vacation, and preferred to work at the factory.
1946, Ferrari designed the first car that would carry his name. His empire
continued to flourish as did the Italian economy. The fifties were a time of
economic boom, mostly for the north. Italy was becoming a world economic power.
As with any economic boom, there are also hardships. For Ferrari, the end of the
boom came when his son, Dino, died of muscular dystrophy in 1956. This also led
to the end of his marriage to Laura, who never got over the death of her only
son. After he and his wife separated, he moved into an apartment at the factory.
He started to work seven days a week and throw himself into the business.
Following the death of his wife, he publicly announced that the son of his
mistress was his new heir.
In the fifties the Ferrari racing
company experienced numerous accidents, one of which led to Ferrari's indictment
for manslaughter. One of his drivers lost control of his car and was killed
along with spectators in the stands. Ferrari was acquitted of the charges, and
he "urged strict new safety regulations to protect both drivers and the
In the years that followed Italy
went through another crisis. In the sixties, the economy declined. During this
time Ferrari was also experiencing economic troubles. He sold part of his
company to Fiat in 1965, which kept it going for a few more years. In 1969, Fiat
assisted him again and bought the up a total of 90% of the company, with the
stipulation that he would control until his death.
Ferrari stepped down as president of
the company in 1971. However, he continued to run many aspects of it, including
control of his stock interest, until his death in 1988.
It was said of Ferrari that:
"He was a difficult man, for
sure, a hard man most definitely, but measure his personal achievements against
any potential rival and one is left in no possible doubt that here was a great
man' indeed, including the likes of Messer Bugatti, Bentley, Rolls and Royce,
simply pale into insignificance. Enzo Ferrari was a man who left an indelible
mark upon our world".
(from an article by Terri Wagner)
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