Ferrari holds a revered place in the story of the automobile. It’s an iconic marque steeped in history. It started from a simple boyhood dream and grew into a tour de force on the road and racetrack. Just hearing the name evokes images of speed, jaw-dropping looks, technological innovation and the ongoing quest for automotive perfection.
With a story steeped in history, challenges, success and failure, the true facts about Ferrari are as fascinating as the cars themselves. Indeed, the best Ferrari car facts are the ones that tell the true story of the most famous Italian sports car maker of them all.
To discover the true story of the most-famous of car makers we’ve delved into the history books to focus on the most curious, interesting and eye opening Ferrari facts. We’ve even thrown in some facts about Ferrari for kids (try saying that fast) so you can astound your schoolmates!
Ferrari Facts 1: The First Ferrari wasn’t a Ferrari
Well it was and it wasn’t. In the 1920s and 1930s, Enzo Ferrari was working for Alfa Romeo, first as a driver and then as head of Scuderia Ferrari, their racing division – getting hands on with some of the most famous 1920s cars in the process. In 1939, Enzo left Alfa to set up his own company but as part of the severance deal, he wasn’t allowed to use the Ferrari name in association with racing or race cars for four years.
Days after he left he set up Auto Avio Costruzioni, initially to make tools and aircraft parts but in 1940 he built an eight-cylinder, 1.5-litre race car called the AAC 815 Tipo. This is one of the great facts about Ferrari that doesn’t actually involve a Ferrari! It was the first car to be completely designed and built by Enzo Ferrari but he wasn’t allowed to call it a Ferrari.
He built only two (020 and 021), both of which raced in the 1940 Brescia Grand Prix but both suffered engine failure and were retired. Car 020 was crushed by mistake in 1958 but car 021 driven by two-time F1 world champion Alberto Ascari survives. It is the star attraction of the Righini Collection, reputed to be the finest private car collection in Italy.
Ferrari Facts 2: The Story of the Prancing Horse
The famous Ferrari logo was the result of a chance encounter between Enzo Ferrari and the parents of an Italian fighter pilot. Francesco Baracca was a World War I air ace who painted a black horse on the side of his plane for good luck.
On June 17th 1923, Ferrari won his first Savio Circuit race in Ravenna and met Baracca’s parents, Count Enrico and Countess Paolina. The Countess said to him ‘Ferrari, why don’t you put my son’s prancing horse on your cars? It’ll bring you good luck. The horse was and will always be black and I added the canary yellow background, the colour of the city of Modena.’
An interesting fact however, is that it took almost ten years for the legendary symbol to appear on a Scuderia Ferrari car – on July 9th 1932 at the Spa 24h race. It did indeed bring him luck. The race was won by the team’s 8C 2300 MM driven by Antonio Brivio and Eugenio Siena. Runners-up were teammates Piero Taruffi and Guido D’Ippolito.
The logo was later seen on the first ever Ferrari, the 125S, and has adorned every car since.
Ferrari Facts 3: Ferrari are the Most Successful F1 Team in History
One of the great Enzo Ferrari facts is that he reluctantly decided to sell road cars to fund his racing team. The oldest and most successful team in Formula One history, Ferrari have competed in every season since 1950 and these record-breaking facts about Ferrari* are simply astonishing!
- Most world drivers’ championship wins – 15 (1952-53, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1964, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1982-83, 1999-2004, 2007, 2008)
- Most world constructors’ championship wins – 16 (1961, 1964, 1975-77, 1979, 1982-83, 1999-2004, 2007, 2008)
- Most world championship winners – 9 (Michael Schumacher (5), Alberto Ascari (2), Niki Lauda (2), Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Jody Scheckter, Kimi Räikkönen (1 each)
- Most wins – 237 (from 1007 races started)
- Most pole positions – 228
- Most drivers’ championship points – 9290
- Most fastest laps – 253
It’s fair to say that as Ferrari car facts go, these are unbeatable!
*correct to the end of the 2020 season
Ferrari Facts 4: The Famous ‘Ferrari Red’ wasn’t Enzo’s Choice
When you picture a Ferrari in your head, it’s usually painted their iconic red. Most true Ferrari lovers believe that red is the only colour for a Ferrari but here’s one of the most fascinating facts about Ferrari that very few people know – red came about by luck.
In the early days of motor racing, the colour of the racing car wasn’t determined by the choice of the owner, the colours of the manufacturer or even the logos of the sponsor as they are today. In the formative years of competitive racing, the governing body that later became the FIA designated each team’s nationality a colour. French cars were blue (Bleu de France), British cars were green (British Racing Green) and Italian cars were red (Rosso Corsa, or ‘racing red.’)
Sponsor-inspired liveries and colour schemes were introduced in the late 1960s but Ferrari decided to stick with red, instantly-recognisable even as they whizz around the world’s F1 circuits at 200mph. Another one of the great Ferrari facts is that in the 1990s, over 85% of all their road cars were red, though today it’s around 50%.
According to Ferrari there are nine shades of red available, the most popular of which is the original and the best – Rosso Corsa.
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Ferrari Facts 5: Ferrari have their own Theme Park
This is one of the great Ferrari facts for kids – in 2010 Ferrari opened Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. It is a huge theme park which is home to Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster. It makes you feel like you’re at the wheel of an F1 car, accelerating from 0 – 150mph in an organ-shifting 4.9 seconds and topping out at 4.8G!
Built on Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates, it is packed-full of fantastic Ferrari fun including roller coasters, thrill rides and incredible immersive experiences. The roof is home to the world’s largest Ferrari logo and the Flying Aces ride honours Francesco Baracca, the man who gave Enzo Ferrari the Prancing Horse logo.
Ferrari Facts 6: Ford almost bought Ferrari in the 1960s
‘Almost’ being the operative word, and leading to another of the great but little known facts about Enzo Ferrari. In the early 1960s, Ford decided they wanted to start a racing team. They didn’t have a sports car in their portfolio (the Mustang was two years away) so instead of spending millions of dollars creating one, they decided they’d spend millions of dollars buying one. At the time Ferrari were selling road cars simply to fund their exploits on the track and, in addition, they were struggling financially and needed a capital injection.
Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari, two of the automotive world’s fabled titans, went head-to-head.
Ford made his way to Maranello with what has been described as a ‘militia of lawyers and executives’ to close a multi-million dollar deal. Ferrari reportedly had with him his lawyer, an old man from the village where he lived. There were a few final details to be ironed out but Ford believed the deal was ostensibly done.
All was going well until Ferrari noticed a clause in the contract that said Ford would control the budgets and make all the decisions pertaining to his beloved racing team. That was too much. He would never sell under those terms and he and his lawyer got up and walked out. It wouldn’t be the first automotive face-off Enzo would be part of. The deal was off.
So incensed was Ford that he famously said to his executives ‘build me a car that will crush Ferrari at Le Mans’, and that’s exactly what they did. They built the iconic Ford GT40.
Ferrari Facts 7: Ferrari own their own Race Track
Located close to Maranello in the town of Fiorano Modenese, the Fiorano Circuit is a privately-owned track used for the development and testing of Ferrari’s race and road cars.
The 1.8-mile long figure-of-eight circuit was built in 1972 and has been modified over the years. It includes specific sections from racetracks around the world so the F1 cars can simulate exact driving conditions. Other elements of the track are designed to test brakes, engine flexibility and the effect of forces on fuel and lubrication. A Ferrari fact that’s not widely known is that it’s even possible to wet the whole track to test different tyres and to see how their cars perform in the wet.
The track backs onto the Maranello factory and Enzo Ferrari’s former office still sits (as it was left when he died) close to the pitlane. It was positioned exactly where he wanted so he could watch his beloved cars being honed to perfection. It was also from where he watched F1 races on his TV when he couldn’t attend in person.
Each Ferrari records a timed lap. The F1 car record (55.999 seconds) was set by Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari F2004 and the road car record was set in 2019 by the stunning Ferrari SF90 Stradale at 1 min 19 seconds.
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Ferrari Facts 8: The Most Expensive Car Ever Sold at Auction is a Ferrari
This is one of the Ferrari car facts that everyone knows – Ferraris are one of the most expensive car brands in the world. As an example, the Ferrari SF90 Stradale is an eye-watering £375,000. However, that’s pocket change when compared to how much money changes hands when classic rare Ferraris come up for auction.
At the time of writing (February 2021), the list of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction features no less than seven Ferraris. Here for the fans of Ferrari facts, is the top 10 list with the price paid at the time of sale:
- 1935 Duesenberg SSJ – $22,000,000
- 1956 Ferrari 290 MM – $22,005,000
- 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 – $22,550,000
- 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale – $26,400,000
- 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spider – $27,500,000
- 1956 Ferrari 290 MM – $28,050,000
- 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 – $29,600,000
- 1957 Ferrari 335S – $35,730,510
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO – $38,115,000
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO – $48,405,000
Clearly, if you want a truly vintage Ferrari, you’re going to have to raid your piggy bank or see what you can find down the back of the sofa…
Ferrari Facts 9: The Pope Owned a Ferrari
One of the most fascinating of all Ferrari car facts is the story of the gift to the Pope. The Ferrari Enzo is a stunning 6.0-litre V12 supercar with a 0-60mph time of 3.1 seconds and a reported top speed of somewhere north of 220mph. With an initial production run of 349 cars to be bought by invitation only by Ferrari’s best customers, they company decided to up the run to 399 cars. All sold instantly.
Not comfortably with such an odd number, Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo decided to build one more as a gift for His Holiness Pope John Paul II. In di Montezemolo’s handwriting on the underside of the boot lid it says, ‘Questa Enzo unica nella storia della Ferrari quale segno della solidarietà per chi soffre ispirata da un Grande Papa, Giovanni Paolo II.’ ‘This Enzo, unique in the history of Ferrari, as a sign of solidarity for those suffering, inspired by a Great Pope, John Paul II.’
Thanking them for such a generous gift in January 2005, with typical humility the Pope suggested it be auctioned with the proceeds donated to the victims of the tsunami that hit southeast Asia weeks before. Sadly the Pope died before the auction took place but true to their word, Ferrari returned to the Vatican with a cheque for $1.1m which was presented to Pope Benedict XVI.
The buyer took the car to America where this most coveted and historically important Ferrari Enzo in the world was sold again in August 2015 (with only 179km on the clock) for $6,050,000.
Ferrari Facts 10: Enzo’s Final Concept was the F40
One of the most iconic Ferrari cars of all time, the F40 was designed to celebrate Ferrari’s 40th anniversary. At the time it was one of the fastest, most expensive and most powerful cars in the world. The 2.9-litre twin-turbo V8 was capable of almost 200mph and a 0-60mph time of 4.7 seconds. Numbers that may seem almost pedestrian today, but in 1987 they were world-beating.
The planned production run of 400 cars was increased to a total of 1,315 between 1987 and 1992 and those in the know regarded it as the most aerodynamic car of it’s time. Ironically, Enzo Ferrari was quoted as saying, ‘aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.’
Among the most poignant of all Enzo Ferrari facts is that this sensational car was his final legacy. It was the last car personally approved by Il Commendatore and – for many – it’s the greatest road-going Ferrari of them all.
Ferreri Facts at your Fingertips!
So there we have it, the best Ferrari facts for you to astound your friends, family, work colleagues and schoolmates! Check out our other outstanding Motoring History articles for more astounding facts and stories from the automotive world.
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