Racing driver and businessman Enzo Ferrari was famous for founding the prestigious car company that bears his name. He was born in Modena on February 18, 1898. He saw his first race – a legendary duel on the Bologna circuit between Vincenzo Lancia and Felice Nazzaro – when he was 10. He was soon dreaming of one day becoming a racing driver. In 1916 both his father and brother died. When he was 20, Ferrari tried to find work at the car manufacturer Fiat. He wasn’t hired. Instead he found work in Milan as a tester for CMN, another car company. In 1919 he took part in his first race: the uphill Parma-Poggio di Berceto. The next year he became a driver for Alfa Romeo and took part in various competitions for them. In 1921 he had his first accident, swerving off the road to avoid a herd of cows.
In 1923 he won the first Savio circuit near Ravenna. There he met Francesco Baracca, a WWI flying ace. The aviator’s mother invited Ferrari to use the prancing horse logo painted on the side of her son’s aircraft as a good-luck charm. The horse, with an added yellow background – the official color of the driver’s hometown, Modena – would later become the Ferrari emblem. After becoming a dealer for Alfa Romeo and managing its racing department, Ferrari made the giant leap. On November 16, 1929 he created his own team using Alfa cars. Soon, thanks in no small measure to the success of driver Tazio Nuvolari, the Ferrari racing team became one of the most important in the world. In 1932 Ferrari’s son, Dino, was born. He would die when he was only 24. In 1939 Ferrari left Alfa Romeo. He was already so famous that Alfa forced him not to create any Ferrari cars for four years. Ferrari overcame this veto by creating Auto Avio Costruzioni.
In 1943 he moved the company to Maranello, where he produced the first Ferrari. The project used a 12-cylinder 1500cc engine that would eventually become the company’s signature engine, used both for racing and for road cars. Ferrari’s first victory came in 1948. From there forward, his prancing horse knew nothing but success. In 1950 the F1 World Championship was born and Ferrari was among the lead players. In 1952 a Ferrari won its first Grand Prix. The open-wheeled reds won the F1 World Championships four times in the 1950s. Internationally, Ferrari GTs were a huge success – especially one designed by Battista “Pinin” Farina. A Ferrari car soon became the ultimate dream machine. In 1960 Enzo Ferrari received an honorary degree in Engineering. After many other racing victories, in 1969 a financial crisis forced Ferrari to sell 50% of the company’s shares to Fiat. Ferrari won the F1 Drivers’ Championship again in 1975 and 1977 with Niki Lauda. Then, in 1979 Jody Scheckter won the last Championship before Ferrari’s death. Known as “The Drake,” Ferrari died on August 14, 1988. He was 90.