A while ago, my girlfriend and I took a trip to the wonderful Italian region of Tuscany. We had a great time, enjoying each kilometer of those awesome twisty roads topped only by the beautiful scenery. After criss-crossing the whole region from the hills to the sea, it was time to go back home. But we decided it would be a shame to end the trip just yet. So, while driving along the autostrada towards Bologna, the decision was made and we set course to Maranello, the Mecca of every Ferrari enthusiast – Supercar territory.
As the sat nav was guiding us through the town of Maranello, we started noticing all the the Ferrari shops, Ferrari cafes, Ferrari test drives, Ferrari garages, Ferrari restaurants and every now and then a Ferrari screaming by. Prancing horses everywhere. You really can’t miss that in this town, the mythos Ferrari is BIG and that the people are proud of it. On some occasions even a bit over the top. In Maranello, there are three things one shouldn’t miss – the Ferrari factory, the Ferrari museum and the Fiorano test track. Sadly we didn’t have that much time to visit all three and also some of them require reservations in advance, which left us with the Ferrari museum or Museo Ferrari as it is called.
Right upon our arrival at the museum car park we were inundated by some beautiful ladies in Ferrari shirts offering us test drives. We dismissed them politely. But not for long. My main focus at this point was the museum. I got my camera gear ready and we went for the main entrance. The facade was covered in mirrors and in front of it, greeting us, a huge sign sporting that famous logo. A group of seniors just completed a tour so it seemed to be the right time to enter. The museum boasts a large exhibition of various cars spread across six halls each with it’s own theme and purpose.
We started with a selection of classic formula and Le Mans racers like the 1989 F40 Competizione, 1961 250 GT SWB, 1963 250 Le Mans, 1951 166 F2 and many others. You can really take a look at some of the most beautiful metal, but you can never touch of which you are always reminded by that yellow line. All round on the walls there were interesting and informative graphics. In one corner a gathering of models of Ferrari supercars, past and present and in the opposite corner a table with models of all the past F1 racers. Another nice and interesting touch was the F1 pit wall displaying lots of different telemetry data throughout a F1 grand prix race. Along the way one could also admire the carbon ceramic brakes and a cross section of the double-clutch gearbox of the new LaFerrari. Interesting stuff this. But the elefant among those elderly cars was the 599XX in bright glossy red and matte black, looking particularly evil. You could tell that this machine was built for speed.
Before we got to the next hall there was a sort of hallway, displaying two cars, some of the archived documents and to the side, the entrance to the cinema. We decided not to bother with the cinema but instead, we enjoyed the presence of the gorgeous burgundy red 1966 275 GTB 4 and the fantastic 1970 512 M race car, both connected to the legendary Steve McQueen. The first one is his actual car, which he bought during the filming of Bullit and is now sitting there all restored and pretty. The walls were decorated with a film strip displaying various celebrities who also owned Ferraris in their lifetime. But the second car was even more special, because it was the very car that was used in the movie Le Mans where Steve McQueen had the starring role. A nice piece of automotive history.
Stepping out of the time machine, in the next hall, we were presented with some of the more in-your-face supercars of the recent past. There were the 288 GTO, F40, F50 and Enzo, and beside them the F1 race cars they were inspired by. We really took our time in this one, examining every single one of them. Next to the F40 you could also find the second GTO model Ferrari ever made, the 288 GTO. Beautiful. I just couldn’t stop staring at it. In the far back, behind the F50, there was a nice array of recent F1 engines.
One thing I was excited about to see in person was the new LaFerrari. Since the actual production car wasn’t ready then, they were showing off clay models at various design stages. In the middle of them all was the final design, displayed on a rotating platform, just as it was at the unveiling at this years Geneva auto show. It looked unbelievably gorgeous, even better than in the photos.
The next thing I was impressed to see were a few of Ferrari’s test mules up close. Each one mangled to squeeze in various new technologies like HY-KERS, V8 & V12 engines, advanced suspension systems, future models etc., hidden from peering eyes under bodies from older Ferrari models, sometimes covered in something that looked like black garbage bags. The only tell tales what Ferrari might have been working on were those various bulges, scoops and oddly placed exhausts, firing up rumour mills.
Our tour was slowly coming to an end as we were about to discover the last hall. The victory hall, a sort of a grand finale, which is dedicated to Ferrari’s success in Formula 1 racing. Inside the atmosphere was almost religious. The lights were dimmed, one whole wall was covered in trophies and helmets of all their Formula 1 drivers. In the middle of it all were the eight Formula 1 cars with which Ferrari had won F1 world championship titles in the noughties, raised on a plinth like roman goddesses and flooded in a soft red light. Dramatic.
Like in many museums at the end there was the shop, jam packed with everything they could put a Ferrari badge on. People were going mad for it. Browsing books, shuffling through shirts, drooling over scale models, men and women, young and old, all mystified by the same thing, the black prancing horse on yellow background. I guess the one thing that caught my eye, since I’m a collector myself, were the die cast models. The models were incredibly detailed, built with a lot of attention to detail and exceptional quality. But like the rest of the merchandise, a bit overpriced.
We saw a lot of gorgeous, beautiful cars, rare examples one normally doesn’t come across in their daily lives. Amazing machines which were – each in their era – ahead of their time and each and everyone of them with the same racing pedigree which lies behind that black and yellow badge. Visiting this museum is something I would definitely recommend to anyone who has even the slightest drop of petrol in their veins and as far as we are concerned – we’ll be back.
But the story didn’t end there. As we were leaving the museum we decided to check out one of the test drive facilities next door, because their enticing fleet of cars made us rather curious. Parked in the small car park where some Ferrari Californias, a pair of 458 Italias, a 458 Spider and a F430 Scuderia. It was nice to see these beauties since they were not present in the museum and as a bonus we were able to take a seat in them and check them out more closely. A nice trick to lure people into one of those pricey test drives.
At that point I really didn’t fancy driving any of those Ferraris, because something a bit more – what’s the right word – ah yes, insane, caught my eye. Parked in the corner, lonely, under a cheesy billboard was a screaming green Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera. I walked towards the beast, stopped at the drivers door and opened it. As I moved the racing harness out of the way and climbed into the drivers seat I took a look around the cabin – there was alcantara and carbon fiber everywhere. I put my hands on the small and chunky wheel, clicked the shift paddles behind it and immediately thought “I have to drive this, right here and right now!!!” I looked at the missus who was standing in front of the car and right away she knew from the look on my face what I was thinking.
We went inside the office to see if it was even remotely possible for me to drive it. The price for 10 minutes of driving the lambo was, shall we say, manageable. Transactions were made and papers were signed. Lorenzo, my instructor, grabbed the keys and we went for the car. I sat down in the drivers seat, Lorenzo rode shotgun. He helped me with the 4 point harness, explained some of the buttons and then started the engine. It was like he woke up a sleeping lion. The engine screamed to life and then settled into a burbling idle. He made a gesture and we drove off. I was trying to soak in the moment, but all I could think of is when am I going to give it the beans. So I asked Lorenzo and he replied in an Italian accent: “But of course, when I say go, you go”. So right after we exited the next roundabout he said “GO”. I floored it and the Gallardo took off like a rocket. A massive kick in the back and a rush of adrenaline. Unfathomable. We did this a number of times. But too soon the time was up and we arrived back at the car park.
I stepped out of the green Lambo with my body full of adrenaline and with the biggest smile on my face. A short but incredible experience. This was something I would never ever forget.
With me still crunching numbers and calculating in my head, how I could possibly ever own such a car, we headed home. While slowly leaving Maranello, we drove past the Ferrari factory, so for one final stop I hopped out and took a quick photo of the entrance with the big yellow letters – F E R R A R I.