Here’s What Car Folks Actually Think of Enzo Ferrari (Spoiler: It’s Not All Good)
If you love ogling vintage sports cars or are just into stylish period films, you’ll find the Ferrari movie full of your favorite eye candy. This biopic, starring Adam Driver, tells some of the story of the man behind the car company. But you might be surprised to hear why not all car fans are into the Ferrari brand, or the man who founded it.
First of all, Ferrari’s cars are a perfect example of the Italian sports car: a machine striving for poetic perfection in both form and function. This is one reason Enzo Ferrari famously insisted on front engine, RWD cars (even after mid-engines proved to handle better). This is also one reason behind the obsession with design that led to some of the most elegant vehicles of all time.
But the downsides of this philosophy can be poor reliability, a high price, and expensive repairs. I’ve seen more than one Ferrari parked because its owner couldn’t afford to have the body removed or engine pulled out again for some basic repair. So Ferrari’s, like most Italian cars, have a divisive reputation.
But whether you love or hate Ferraris, let’s shift from the vehicles to the company itself. It’s interesting that despite having a $100 million car collection, Jay Leno doesn’t own a single Ferrari. He has plenty of Italian cars, and vehicles that are notoriously hard to work on. So what gives?
After automotive enthusiasts debated the topic for years, Leno finally revealed his zero Ferrari status is because of the ‘Dominatrix’-like customer service that Ferrari is famous for subjecting owners and buyers to. He said of going into the dealership, “It’s like rich guys that go to a dominatrix. ‘Oh, she kicked the crap out of me, it was fantastic.’ That’s great, I mean, some guys like that. I don’t.”
One issue the retired Late Night host has is Ferrari’s habit of adding more money on the price of a car when a celebrity (such as Jay Leno) shows interest. In addition, Ferrari has long been selective about who can even buy its cars. Want a special edition? The salesperson will ask you how many Ferraris you already own. They may even wonder at how well you know the dealership owner. No tire-kickers allowed!
So what about the actual man, Enzo Ferrari? One criticism I’ve heard multiple automotive enthusiasts repeat was that Ferrari put his drivers at unnecessary risk. His engines were always cutting edge, but his brakes were often outdated designs. In the Adam Driver film, he’s shown dramatically urging his drivers to risk their lives to win, not to touch their brakes even if they are headed for a crash.
The first important subtlety is that when two race cars enter a corner, there’s a sort of game of chicken over which one will keep the most desirable line through the corner and which one will brake. The second important subtlety is that when Ferrari started racing, many factory race car drivers were ex-pilots and veterans. It has become obvious that many of these men were suffering from trauma and were an especially vulnerable population.
Other sports car fans are quick to defend Ferrari. And there’s no arguing he had a genius for overseeing some of the most incredible racing teams and sports cars in history.
So if you’re seeing the new film, perhaps keep an old Italian saying in mind: Se non è vero, è ben trovato. It roughly translates to, “Even if it’s not true, it’s a good story.”
Next, see the MotorBiscuit review of a modern Ferrari in the video below: