The Birth and Death of Legends
It’s a week featuring the birth of an automotive icon and the death of an automotive icon. They’re two men that were greater than the sum of their parts, yet in no way would they fare well as a conglomerate. One entered the industry as a result of discontent with the other. Ferrari and Lamborghini. Enzo, birth, February 18, 1898; Ferruccio, death, February 20, 1993.
World wars hardened and steered both men. Enzo lost his father and brother and nearly lost his own life in World War I. Upon return from the war, Enzo devoted himself to fulfilling his childhood dream of entering the automotive world. He walked the walk as a mechanic, test driver, factory driver and racer. Later, in World War II, he manufactured parts for the war effort. Two years after the war, in 1947, Ferrari S.p.A. was born.
Ferruccio was a prisoner of war under British captivity during World War II. He returned to his home in Italy to find a country that was ill-equipped to work the farmland after years of devotion to building war machines. He took matters in his own hands. Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A. built the tractors and machines that helped revitalize Italy’s agriculture industry. All the while, his automotive passions grew. In 1948, he modified a Fiat Topolino for entry into the Mille Miglia where he finished, in his words, “in a bar which I entered with the car through the wall”. After the race, he stated that he would reserve speed solely for the freeway.
In the 1950’s, Ferrari built Formula One victors then champions while Lamborghini expanded his agriculture business to become one of the largest in Italy. Now, its near 1960. Here stood two very successful businessmen. One was at the top of the automotive profession. One was near the top of the agricultural profession and was intensifying his passion for automobiles. Their worlds were ready to collide.
Ferruccio owned a few Ferraris like the Ferrari 250 GT Coupe, Berlinetta and 2+2. The man wanted the best – be it from behind the wheel or from behind the office desk. Well, behind the wheel of a Ferrari, Mr. Lamborghini wasn’t far from his board room mindset. The gavel struck in favor of proper balance and solid engines. The gavel struck against cabin noise and the clutch that would slip under acceleration. Ferruccio didn’t stop at judgment. He desired to bring his criticisms to the top of Ferrari. He desired to speak with the man himself, Enzo.
Reports vary. Was there a denied phone call? Did they meet in person? This is stuff of legend. “Ferrari, your cars are rubbish!” … “Lamborghini, you may be able to drive a tractor but you will never be able to handle a Ferrari properly.” … "If you don't like the way I build my cars, why don't you go build one in that tractor factory of yours." … “This was the point when I finally decided to make a perfect car.” Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A., birth, 1963.