Ferrari

 

Ferrari has been manufacturing annoyingly outstanding cars since 1947, becoming a major player in all professional racing events and staying ahead of the majority of competitors ever since. Founded by rebel spirited Enzo Ferrari, the story of the famous Scuderia is that of dedication, distinction and really, really fast cars.

Having become enamored with driving and car engineering in his youth and having gained substantial race car test driving experience through a series of jobs for different companies in Turin in Milan, Enzo set the base of the red-flagged road legend. Initially, the Scuderia appeared as a conglomerate of sponsors and trainers for Alfa Romeo whom Enzo had worked for as head of the racing department during the late ’30s.

His ties to Alfa Romeo would only last for 2 years as Enzo parted from the company upon learning of their plans to take over his Scuderia. Still bound to racing restrictions stated in his contract, Enzo had little to do except becoming a temporary supplier of tools and accessories for producers like Piaggio and RIV. After moving to Maranello in 1943, Enzo built the Tipo 815 which was the actual first Ferrari and not the 125 Sport as it is mistakingly believed.

The latter was indeed much more popular than the first. Propelled by a 1.5 L V12 engine, the raw, beautifully unfinished model set the landmark for a future highly acclaimed racing dynasty. However, it would not be easy to rise to the rank it holds today. Following several tensions between Ferrari’s wife and Scuderia manager, Romolo Tavoni, a lot of key employess were fired, including Tavoni and some top engineers.

Left paralyzed and unprepared to battle the Jaguar E-type on track, the company could do little to ensure regrowth. Help came from one of the people had fired himself, former chief engineer Carlo Chiti who brought new men on the team to complete the development of the 250 GTO model. The mission of finishing the GTO was successfully accomplished by the Forghieri-Scaglietii duo, among others. The way the car had been built later earned the Scuderia several victories in the Sebring race.

Ferrari would flourish in the 60’s under the magical commanding touch of Forghieri’s engineering talent. Models like the Dino became almost instantly classic hits, resulting in a great increase in sales. The steady cash flow allowed the Ferrari team to further deepen in research and new engine development that was eventually crowned by the ulterior release of the 250 P.

During the mid-60s , Ferrari saw a set back delivered by the Ford GT mark 2 who abruptly ended Scuderia’s winning streak at Le Mans. After safely emerging from a FIA bill banning all cars above 3000cc from entering LeMans and having had to pause the 312 P model project, Ferrari would make acquaintance with a new contender. The menace came from Porsche who dominated racing in the early 70’s , leaving Ferrari dreaming about the title.

Later however, Ferrari would make a spectacular comeback withe their later 312PB model. 1973 saw Ferrari retire form sports car racing to focus entirely on F1. After a life caught between struggle, jet-setting and winnings, Enzo Ferrari passed away a age 90. His demise cemented the maturity of the Ferrari myth as well as it helped boost sales and the overall value of the brand.

Presently, Ferrari is part of the Fiat group who owns the majority of the company’s share. As for Ferrari’s modern days of racing, they are far from being over. Between 2000 and 2004, Ferrari pilot Michael Schumacher went straight for world domination and won the World Driver’s championship four times in a row. Subsequently, Ferrari was the keeper of the Constructor’s Championship for 5 years (1999-2004).

Ferrari has long shed the mantle of sports-car status, becoming an icon while Enzo Ferrari was unofficially appointed Patron Saint of Sports Cars. Curiously enough, Ferrari never made use of advertising, being a brand built entirely though tradition and quality.

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Lamborghini

The story of Lamborghini is very close to a particular fairy tale involving magic beans, giant beanstalks and multi-million dollar exotic car empires. Ferrucio Lamborghini’s “beans” were his outstanding repair skill and passion for mechanics that eventually got propelled him up the sports-cars stalk of standards and earned him a place in automotive history.

Born in 1916 in Italy, Feruccio’s talent was first noticed during the First World War. Through a fortunate twist of fate he was stationed on the island of Rhodes which, because of its positioning, was a rather peaceful place compared to the mainland. His primary job was that of fixing broken engines task that he effortlessly completed, garnering the respect and admiration of his colleagues.

Upon returning to his home near Modena after the war, the mechanical whiz though of establishing his own business. He established a small motorcycle and repair shop that turned out to be a very profitable endeavor. Feruccio had become a somewhat prominent figure due to his mechanical skill which attracted most of clients.

His business later expanded with Feruccio setting a tractor manufacturing facility in response to Italy’s great demand of farming implements. His tractors were built from war-waste and parts taken from derelict vehicles, wreckage, basically every piece of metal that could be saved and used for production.

By 1960, he had expanded in the heating and air conditioning business as well, both having turned out very successful. Feruccio’s entry in the car-making business would soon come after he had build wealth. Connoisseur of everything mechanical, Ferrucio became disappointed with some of Italy’s top car brands for the vehicles they delivered, particularly with their engines. Former owner of Oscas, Ferraris and Maseratis, Feruccio was well aware of car engineering at the time.

One day, Ferrucio decided to pay a visit to Fetrari owner, Enzo, following clutch-related issues he had encountered on one of his models. Enzo, who was not exactly known for his poise and diplomatic abilities, simply sent Feruccio for a walk. Enzo’s behavior triggered Feruccio’s ardent desire to build his own sports car, as an example of what one should really be built like. Fueled by rivalry and passion, the Automobili Lamborghini SpA was founded in 1963.

The plant was built in Sant’Agata near Bologna on a 90,000 square ft area. Employees were soon found to fill the factory that took only 8 months to erect. Among the people brought on the team were top engineers and former Ferrari-workers like Giotto Bizzarrini, Giampaolo Dallara and Giampaolo Stanzani. The first V12 Lamborghini engine was soon designed and became the basis of an ulterior very successful range of cars.

Housed by a Scaglione-Touring body, the engine delivered a spectacular 350 HP. Called the 350 GTV, the prototype was first revealed ate the Turin Autoshow the same Feruccio had founded his company. The car was a hit and orders started pouring in. The GT, as it was called once it entered mass production, was followed by the 450 GT and the four-seater 450 2+2.

All three cars garnered enough funds to allow Feruccio the development a new vehicle that would be the most famous Lamborghini model until the release of the Countach in 1973. The Miura was a very egotistic car: it shared its features with no other cars. Its uniqueness stretched from front to rear bumper and from top to bottom over a beautifully designed Marcello Gandini body. Sporting a transversal mid-mounted engine, the Miura looked like a cross between a mechanical bull and a racing car.

The next successor in the Lambo dynasty was the space-ship shaped Countach which premiered at the Geneva Auto Show in 1975. The Countach was an outrageously appealing display of drawing board brutality. Its futuristic look was further endorsed by the famous telephone-dial rims, 4-liter engine bristling with bull-inspired power and swing-up doors. Although it has an impact hard to comprehend nowadays, the car did have its flaws: high interior noise levels and complete lack of rear view. One could only park the Countach by hanging half outside the car and steer while looking back.

Despite its prestige, Lamborghini would soon be struck by financial-trouble driven orphanage. Following a major set-back of his tractor business in 1974, Feruccio sold the controlling interest (51%) of the Auto Lamborghini SpA to wealthy Swiss industrialist Georges-Henri Rossetti. Further issues causes by the 70’s oil crisis forced the Italian no-longer-owner to sell the remaining interest to a second Swiss businessman, Rene Leimer.

Shortly after the ownership change, Lamborghini was declared bankrupt. Fortunately, help from racing team owner Walter Wolf came right in time and after a series of tests, an improved version of the Countach was developed, the 400S. Wolf’s plans of buying the factory were rejected by the Italian Court who gave it to Giorgio Mirone on February 28ty, 1980. The new owner offered the plant back to Feruccio for a small amount of money but surprisingly, he refused the deal.

Following Feruccio’s refusal, the company would find Swiss tutelage once more, under the Mimram brothers. Under their reign, the company saw a second coming to life, gaining enough resources to resume the development of the Countach with the LP500 S and QuattroValvole being later released. Until 1984, the Mimran brother shad not yet fully acquired the company, having been granted temporary administration of the facility as proof of their skill. The Mimran takeover was the beginning of an extensive healing and later development process, the company having produced a variety of new models such as the gas-guzzling LM004 and 002 off-roaders as well as the exotic Jalpa.

As good as things may have been under Mimran ownership, the company was sold to the Chrysler Corp. in 1987, who would sell it to to a group made of three Far-Eastern companies in 1994 one year after Feruccio’s demise. All three companies were part of a holding owned by Indonesians Tommy Suharto and Setjawan Djody. After a series of complications, the small Italian super car manufacturer was taken over by Audi AG. The German investor resuscitated Lamborghini by focusing its resources into the development of a newer models. Audi played a major role in designing the Murcielago, the car that trumpeted Lamborghini’s comeback. Models such as the Gallardo and the latest jet-fighter inspired Reventon followed. Only 20 something units of the latter were built so far, all of them having already been purchased for a “paltry” + $1,300,000 per unit.

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Maserati

Like most Italian car makers, Maserati was also a family business, born out of pure passion for cars and driving. The Maserati brothers who joined forces to build the company, Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo, Eltore, Ernesto and Mario, were all in some way connected with racing and cars.

On December 1, 1914, Maserati was established in the town of Bologna, Italy and shortly after it began building different racing cars. 3 of the Maserati brothers built racing cars for Diatto but when in 1926 production was suspended, they decided to make on their own models. Apparently, they knew a thing or two about how to put a car together for a race because one of their first creations won the Targa Florio race that same year.

Maserati cars quickly became more powerful, upgrading their engines from 4 cylinders to 6, then 8 and eventually 16 (two 8 cylinders engines mounted in parallel). The trident logo is believed to have been created by Mario, regarded as the artist in the family.

When Alfieri Maserati died 1932, the other brothers kept the company going and continued to build cars and race them. Five years later, in 1937, they sold their shares of the company to the Adolfo Orsi family but kept thier jobs in the company. One of the more important changes that occurred under Orsi management was the relocation of the company in Modena, Italy, where it still can be found to this day.

By now, Maserati cars were showing their mettle on the racing circuit, holding up to the likes of Mercedes, culminating with a win in 1939 of the Indianapolis 500 and again the next year. Their efforts were interrupted by the war, during which time the most notable endeavor was a plan to build V16 town car for Benito Mussolini faster than Porsche could build one for Hitler.

After the war, production resumed with the A6 series which was again destined for the racing circuit. The next step was to assemble a team that would build cars to rival Ferrari and Alfa Romeo on the circuit. In order to achieve this, new engines and chassis were required. It would be this team that will eventually come up with one of the most successful cars: the Maserati A6GCM.

With Juan-Miguel Fangio and other drivers at the wheel, Maserati managed to win the world championship in 1957 in the Maserati 250F. After that year, the company retired from racing after the Guidizzolo accident, but it still continued to build cars for racing customers. Instead, they turned their attention toward street cars.

The first model from this new range was the Maserati 3500 coupe which had an aluminum body and used the same chassis as the Maserati 5000. during the 60s, a few new models came out: the Vignale in 1962, the Mistral Coupe in 1963, the Spider in 1964 and the Ghibli coupe in 1967.

Come 1968, the company was going to change hands yet again, this time it was going to be the French over at Citroen who upped the number of cars that were coming out of production. Overall, it was a good trade, because Citroen took from Maserati its engine technology and Maserati took hydraulics over from them. Models from the 70s include the Bora (1971), Merak and Khamsin.

When the fuel crisis hit in the 70s, Maserati and Citroen suffered a decrease in demand and Citroen went bankrupt. Maserati was taken over by the newly formed PSA Peugeot Citroen group which declared the Italian company in liquidation. Only with help from the government did the company manage to survive.

In 1975 the company was brought back to life by former racing driver Alessandro de Tomaso which also controlled the Benelli motorcycle group. During his time as head of the company models became bulkier and moved from mid-placed engines, to front-mounted and rear-driven.

Not until 1993 and the taking over by Fiat would Maserati truly get back its glory. Fiat bought the company in 1993 and make large investments. They launched in 1999 the 3200 GT, a two-door coupe powered by a 3.2 L twin-turbocharged engine. The transmission was designed and produced by Ferrari which had since bought 50% of the company (despite the fact that Ferrari itself was controlled by Fiat). Ferrari decided to change Maserati into a luxury brand.

In 2005, Fiat bought back Maserati from Ferrari, after the maker from Modena made huge investments in a whole new plant which is one of the most technologically advanced in the world thanks to its high tech devices. Under Fiat, Maserati declared its first profitable quarter for 17 years in 2007.

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ALFA ROMEO

Romeo is not only a thespian Shakespearean character but also represents part of an Italian mechanical deity, devoted to constructing automobiles at godly standards for mortal drivers. It is the Alfa without the Omega for ever since it began producing cars back in 1910, never has its activity been threatened by permanent halting. The Alfa Romeo coat of arms looks like it bears the marks of early religious involvement with a red cross on a white background reminding of the crusades juxtaposed with a dragon headed snake that resembles the devilish creature slain by Saint George but it was actually designed by human heads with only one purpose in mind: devotion and performance.

Although the firm is widely deemed as 100% Italian, its beginnings prove otherwise. The company was originally founded as Societa Anonima Italiana Darracq by French automobile industry entrepreneur Alexandre Darracq with help from Italian investors in 1906. One of the high-rollers, an aristocrat known by the name of Ugo Stella, later became chairman of the newly formed Milano- based corporate entity that would have a hard time selling cars by 1909.

Ugo then took a decisive step by founding a new motor company in association with the other investors and Darracq. The ALFA, an acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili translated to Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company. The early Alfas were undoubtedly some fine pieces of machinery, and helped the company succeed in making cars that appealed to the Italian market and that would later become a corner stone in auto-engineering and design. In 1915, Neapolitan Nicola Romeo – a mathematical teacher – took over the company’s management during World War I and brought significant changes to the factory’s assembly lines in order to comply with the high demand of military equipment at the time.

Alfa Romeo has also been involved in racing, having won competitions ever since the birth of their first 24 HP model in 1910 – which entered the famous Sicilian Targa Florio competition. Soon after its fulminatory start, many victories would come on equally numerous racing tracks all over Europe. The immense success of the Alfa Romeo models throughout the upcoming 5 decades – whose image benefited greatly from their impressive performances in motor racing – did not translate into economic growth for the Italian company. Consequently, Alfa Romeo was purchased by Finmeccanica S.p.A. – a government-controlled industrial group – some 50 years later, in order to avoid bankruptcy.

However, the state would not hold on to it too long and eventually gave it up (again) because of its financial difficulties. Before becoming stray and disoriented, Fiat adopted it as one of the group’s subsidiaries. Alfa has been rolling with Fiat since 1986.

The marque is one of the few European ones currently unavailable in the US, having halted all exports to the North American market in 1995. However, it may be planning a return to US grounds through a mutually beneficial partnership with luxury manufacturer Maserati.

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FIAT

Fiat demonstrates the intrinsic biblical-endorsed power of words through a simple spelling exercise. Fiat. Simple, isn’t it? It sound whole and commanding and besides being and acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, it also means “let there be” in Latin. Mimicking the Genesis show, episode 1, “Let there be light”, a group of skilled business men who bought the factory during the early 1910s, said “Let there be cars”. And there were cars alright.

The first FIAT branded automobile rolled out the factory sometime in 1901. Engineered by talented Ceirano employee Faccioli, the coach-looking car was powered by a 2 cylinder archaic Boxer 3 hp engine. The investment group heads approached Faciolli on developing a front-engined vehicle. Faciolli’s response was not the expected one: he resigned.

Like any company would have done, a replacement was sought and found in the blink of an eye. Enrico took on the job and in a year’s time he presented a new 1.2 liter four cylinder model, developed with technology borrowed from Mercedes.

As time went by, the company gained in popularity and although it was becoming bigger by the day, it still hadn’t exited its lengthy development and research stages. After many tryouts using 4 and 6 cylinder models, FIAT was ready to reveal its first mass-produced car, the 1912 “Tipo Zero”.

Pre-war time was soon to be over and FIAT would plunge in boringly new production stages to cover for aircraft and tank demands. Post-war times however would bring Fiat lots of sales-figures related merriment – the 501 Cavalli designed model was built in over 45,000 units by 1926. After experimenting with some floppy luxurious big engined models, Fiat resumed the development of its highly popular models. The result was the 509, a light weight vehicle that exceeded every FIAT sales record to that time: by 1929, it had sold in more than 90,000 units.

A series of newer models that matched or even surpassed the popularity of those before them were later released, some of the most notable having been the 1932 Tipo 508 Ballila. Sporting 995cc 25hp and 36 hp engines, the car was adopted by foreign producers. License-built rebadged versions of the Ballila were successfully sold in Germany, Czechoslovakia and France.

A few years before the WWII outbreak, FIAT was quick to release the long lived 1500 and Tipo 500 models, the latter having stayed almost unaltered until 1948. When the war came Fiat was enjoyed an even greater popularity thanks to its top-selling models at the time, the 500 and the 1100, almost known as the Millecento. Although no major improvements were made in the immediate post-war years, the Italian company reached the amazing threshold of 1 million units of the 600 model – the Topolino replacement -sold.

Still, Fiat had now ended growing. The 1957 released twin-cylinder Nuova 500 model was built in over 3 million units. In the same tradition of developing immensely popular models, FIAT launched the 124 in 1966, a car that would become one of the most widely known, right next to the 500. The Fiat sports cars had their own share of acclaim, especially the Dino V6 equipped with the 1987 cc Ferrari double overhead camshaft engine.

Speaking of Ferrari, it was later absorbed by Fiat, in 1969 to be precise. The same year, Lancia was acquired. Having turned into a large group, FIAT co-opted Abrth as well in 1971. Presently, Fiat is developing a new range of sedans and city cars and has hi the jackpot with the rival of the 500 and the Punto models.

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