I was talking to a Ferrari friend coordinating a visit to the Ferrari
factory in Maranello for another Ferrari friend and it looks as though
my friend will get to enjoy his Ferrari tour but what became clear is
how different things are today than they were in Enzo Ferrari's time. My
visits to the factory weren't planned, choreographed, orchestrated or
stage managed; I just showed up.
The first time I darkened the
door of the factory in Maranello was in 1970. I had flown from Los
Angeles to London where I stayed a few weeks looking for Bentleys to buy
and ship back to California for resale. I scoured the landscape
purchasing cars among them a pristine James Young R-type discovered in
Surrey and a beautiful S1 I found (after enjoying a first class lunch
aboard the train) in Southampton. It was a wonderful life and I
experienced meals at Claridge's,
cricket at Lord's,
pub lunches in the countryside and plays in London's West End--on that
trip I saw Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap
Quayle at the
St Martin's Theatre. I was wined and dined by my
very good friend W.J.D. Clarke
and his family in their homes and
ventured into some very interesting antique shops. I had been making
these trips to London since I was 16 and knew where to go and what to
On this trip, however, I did not return home after
consigning my cars to the shippers and instead took an Alitalia flight
to Milano where I would attend the Italian Grand Prix at Monza (and meet Enzo Ferrari in the process
) and absorb some Italian atmosphere and culture.
The Grand Prix was exciting and Clay Reggazoni won in his Ferrari though
the weekend was was spoiled by the death of Jochen Rindt
who suffered a fatal accident during practice. Jochen became the first
and only posthumous World Champion.
On the Monday after the Grand
Prix, I took the express train to Bologna and then doubled back to
Modena. After walking around the town and finding that the Ferrari
customer service department in Modena to be closed for lunch, I found a restaurant
and enjoyed a wonderful and leisurely-paced luncheon along with some
pleasant conversation with the proprietor. I was especially interested
in his thoughts on the famous neighbors, Ferrari and Maserati, and his
appreciation of their legendary efforts in racing. I told him I was
visiting the Ferrari factory after lunch and he asked if I had an
appointment. Without seeing beyond his question, I told him that I did
not. He called a taxi for me and I took my leave.
told the taxi driver and with a smile he steered the familiar course
and about twenty minutes later he was dropping me at the factory gate.
Approaching a door near the archway over which the familiar
Ferrari logo confirms your arrival at a place of legend, I rang a bell that was answered after several minutes by a man
in a suit. "Hello. I would like to take a tour of the factory, please," I
told him in Italian. He asked if I had an appointment. I felt like
Monty Python's John Cleese when he would answer an awkward question with
"Not as such" but confined myself to a simple "No". I added that I had
come from Los Angeles and that I owned a Ferrari GTO. Though I had, in
the course of the previous two days at Monza, met Enzo Ferrari and the Formula 1
team manager Franco Lini (whom I had originally encountered some months earlier at a
Ferrari Owners Club meeting in Los Angeles), it did not occur
to me to mention this to him. He asked me to wait.
conversation (or series of conversations) had taken place, the result
was that I was beckoned to enter and was taken on a full tour of the
factory by a nice gentleman whose name was Pietro de Franchi. I saw the
production line that included an example of a new model that had not yet
been revealed to the public (it would debut later as the 365 GTC/4),
witnessed an engine undergoing a dynamometer test (what a glorious
sound!), paid a visit to the foundry and--Holy of Holies--the racing
Did I ask to see Il Commendatore or Franco Lini? No.
I'd met them two days earlier and had nothing new to say or ask of them,
but I have to confess that it was impossible to walk around the factory
without feeling Ferrari's presence. Whether he was observing us or I
was feeling his proximity via the cars that were his life's work, I
don't know. It was, however, hallowed ground and, as my friend Paolo
Migliorini Brizzolari said to me, "...it was a very special day
impressed in your memory."
It certainly was.
Great story, Stephen. I wonder what level of protocol would be involved in order to get a tour these days.
Post a Comment