Career Summary:

Enzo Ferrari

  • February 18, 1898
  • August 14, 1988
  • Italy
  • Not Active

Enzo Ferrari (1898-1988), who created the world's most famous automotive brand Ferrari, is definitely one of the greatest personalities in the history of automotive industry and motorsport.

He was nicknamed „il Commendatore“ (Commander) because of the big respect that everybody had about him. His other nicknames were „l'Ingegnere“ (the Engineer) or „il Grande Vecchio“ (the Great Old Man), revealing the core of his life story.

Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari

Doubts about Enzo's birthday

Such an extraordinary man had an extraordinary beginning of his life. Enzo himself claimed that he was born on February 18, 1898, in Modena, in a family of metal workshop owner Alfredo Ferrari and his wife Adalgisa Bisbini, but due to a heavy snowstorm, his father reported birth in a local registry office on February 20. Another story from Enzo's family is stating that he was actually born on February 20 and the birth registration followed on February 24.

No matter what is the correct date, Enzo Anselmo Giuseppe Maria Ferrari was born in late February 1898, starting one of the greatest stories in the history of automotive industry and motorsport.

Enzo visited first race in 1908

Enzo's initial interest for racing appeared when he was ten years old and visited Circuito di Bologna together with his father and older brother Alfredo. He witnessed a victory of Felice Nazzaro and gets an inspiration to become a racing driver.

For that, he had to wait for the First World War to finish. During the war, he served in the 3rd Mountain Artillery Regiment of the Italian Army. He was seriously sick and was discharged from the army in 1918. Unfortunately, his father and his brother didn't survive flu pandemic and they died in 1916.

Enzo Ferrari racing driver

Enzo Ferrari was active in racing from 1919 to 1931

Starting a racing career in 1919

After the war, Enzo was searching for a job. He was rejected at FIAT so he found a job as a test driver at Torpedo company. His next job was with Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali (CMN), a company from Milan that was building cars.

In that period, he made racing debut with company's car, driving a CMN 15/20 at 1919 Parma – Poggio di Berceto hillclimb race. He finished fourth in the 3.0-liter category. Later that year, he participated at Targa Florio but didn't finish the race.

Enzo joined Alfa Romeo in 1920

In 1920, young Ferrari joined a racing department of Alfa Romeo. In the following years, he participated in many national racing events. He scored several victories, including two consecutive triumphs at Savio Circuit in Ravenna, but his the greatest win was at Coppa Acerbo in Pescara in July 1924.

That win convinced people at Alfa Romeo to give Enzo a chance to race in more and more prestigious events. Although he was deeply shocked by the death of his teammate Antonio Ascari in July 1925 at French Grand Prix, Ferrari continued to race with Alfa Romeo and recorded some notable wins in the following years.

Enzo founded Scuderia Ferrari in 1929

During his racing years with Alfa Romeo, Enzo Ferrari was using a prancing horse as an emblem on his cars. He started to use that emblem as a memory to the Italian fighter pilot Francesco Baracca, who he met during the war. Later that emblem became one of the most famous logos in the automotive industry.

In 1929, Enzo founded Scuderia Ferrari, his own team that was acting as a racing division for Alfa Romeo. Enzo himself was driving for his team but also some talented drivers that later reached international glory, such were Tazio Nuvolari or Giuseppe Campari. Also in 1929, Enzo Ferrari was knighted for his sporting merits and given the title of Commander (Il Commendatore).

Enzo Ferrari racing driver

Enzo Ferrari raced with Alfa Romeo until 1931

Retiring from racing after son Dino's birth

Enzo Ferrari married Laura Dominica Garello in 1923. Their son Alfredo (Dino) was born in January 1932 and that initiated Enzo's retirement from racing. Enzo's second son Piero was born much later, in May 1945. His mother was Enzo's mistress Lina Lardi.

Scuderia Ferrari ended its cooperation with Alfa Romeo in 1933 because the Italian manufacturer withdrew its support due to financial problems. However, the team was running Alfa Romeos until World War II stopped racing activities. The greatest success in that period was Tazio Nuvolari's win at 1935 German Grand Prix, where he beat dominant German manufacturers.

Founding a new company in 1939, moving to Maranello in 1943

Enzo re-established his cooperation with Alfa Romeo in 1937, becoming the sporting director of their new team Alfa Corse. After a disagreement with Alfa's managing director Ugo Gobbato in 1939, Enzo Ferrari founded a new company Auto Avio Costruzioni. The previous contract forbad him to build race cars so the company based in Modena was supplying parts for other teams.

The next milestone year in Enzo Ferrari's storyline was 1943 when he moved his company from Modena to Maranello, beginning a strong connection between the city and the legendary company that still exists.

Enzo Ferrari in his office

Enzo Ferrari in his office

Ferrari S.p.A. has been founded in 1947, first Le Mans win in 1949

After World War II ended, Enzo Ferrari was ready to switch his interest on building cars under his own name and the Ferrari S.p.A. had been founded in 1947. The sweet revenge and the first win ahead of Alfa Romeo cars came in 1949 at Lago di Garda.

Then, the first major victory followed in June 1949 at 24 Hours of Le Mans where Luigi Chinetti and Lord Selsdon (Peter Mitchell-Thomson) took a victory in the #22 Ferrari 166 MM.

Ferrari is present in Formula 1 Championship since the beginning

In 1950, Scuderia Ferrari entered the inaugural season of the Formula 1 World Championship and today it is the only team to be present in the championship from the beginning. The first F1 Championship victory came in July 1951 at British Grand Prix by Jose Froilan Gonzalez in a Ferrari 375. Later that year, Alberto Ascari won two times and finished second in the championship, behind Juan Manuel Fangio (Alfa Romeo).

In the third F1 season, in 1952, Alberto Ascari finally captured the first championship title for Scuderia Ferrari after winning six of eight races in a Ferrari 500. That year, Scuderia Ferrari also made its first and only attempt at Indianapolis 500 but Ascari didn't finish the race. In 1953, Ascari was a champion again.

Dino and Enzo Ferrari

Alfredo 'Dino' Ferrari (left) with his father Enzo and other engineers

Dino Ferrari died in 1956

The tragedy struck Ferrari family in 1956. Enzo's son Dino, who suffered from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, died in June 1956, at the age of 24. Dino was an engineer and he worked for fathers company. After his death, the car he was working on was named Dino. Twelve years later, Enzo named the Dino series of lower-priced sports cars after his son.

In 1963, Enzo founded the Dino Ferrari  High School in Maranello, still active today. In 1970, the racing circuit at Imola was named Autodromo Dino Ferrari and changed a name to Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in 1988, after Enzo's death.

Ferrari was selling sports car since 1953

Parallel to building race cars, Ferrari started to build and sell sports cars in 1953. It caused that many other teams and sole drivers were running Ferrari cars all over the world.

Sometimes, it wasn't good, such at 1957 Mille Miglia where Alfonso de Portago crashed into the crowd and killed himself, his co-driver and nine spectators. Because of that accident, Enzo Ferrari was even charged in a criminal prosecution that was finally dismissed in 1961.

Enzo Ferrari 1956 JM Fangio

Enzo Ferrari with one of his F1 champions Juan Manuel Fangio

Enzo's team gained great success at Le Mans and F1

During the 1950s and the 1960s, Scuderia Ferrari collected eight victories at 24 Hours of Le Mans, including six in a row from 1960 to 1965, and six Drivers'championship titles in Formula One.

After the first win at Le Mans in 1949, the next came in 1954 with Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant in a Ferrari 375 Plus. In 1958, Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien triumphed in a Ferrari 250 TR. Then, six wins followed between 1960 and 1965 with a variety of cars:  250 TR, 330 TRI/LM, 250P, 275P and 250LM.

In Formula One, after two triumphant years of Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio was a champion with Ferrari in 1956. The next Ferrari champion was Mike Hawthorn in 1958, then Phil Hill in 1961 and John Surtees in 1964.

Enzo Ferrari celebrated last F1 championship title in 1983, died in 1988

After 1965, Ferrari never won again at Le Mans. In Formula One, Scuderia Ferrari was waiting for the championship title until 1975 and Niki Lauda's triumph. He repeated that in 1977 and Jody Scheckter added one more title in 1979. Then, there were no Drivers' titles during the 1980s, only two Constructors' titles in 1982 and 1983.

Enzo Ferrari passed away in August 1988, at the age of 90. In the meantime, he merged with FIAT in 1969 and sold 50 percent of his company, but retained control of racing activities. Until Enzo's death, FIAT's share in Ferrari had been increased to 90 percent. Today, Enzo's son Piero owns 10 percent of Ferrari company.

Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari

Photos: Scuderia Ferrari, Ferrari Magazine, Keytone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images,