Finally! Beauty Returns to Maranello
“For that, I’m ready to write the check.”
It’s been quite a while since those words jumped to mind when seeing a new Ferrari model, but that’s what happened when photos of the F8 Tributo hit the web last week. The F8 will have its official debut at Geneva, and while one shouldn’t pass final judgment until a car is seen in person in natural light, the more I stared at the images the better it looked, the F8 tugging at my heartstrings as if the world’s strongest magnet was placed next to this helpless piece of metal.
And that’s how it should be. For decades, Ferrari consistently offered the world’s most beautiful cars. Their shapes influenced everyone from the almighty (back then) GM and the rest of Detroit to the AC Ace and thus Shelby’s Cobra, and even the Japanese. It was like a model’s design was as big a part of Ferrari’s DNA as was winning races.
Which, in truth, it was. “For my father, coachwork was very, very important,” Piero Ferrari told me. “He was an engine-oriented person, so that was first. But second was coachwork, for style was (critical)…I remember many times my father…watching a prototype that wasn’t painted, just sitting there in bare aluminum, and he’d say, ‘I don’t like this radius here. Make it bigger, make it sharper.’”
It showed. Throughout the first decade of Ferrari’s existence Italy’s top coachbuilders and others vied to cover Enzo’s magnificent V12s and robust chassis in the most dramatic, functional and/or artistic shapes possible. Then, in the mid-1950s Enzo settled on Pininfarina in Turin and Scaglietti in Modena. Both were masters of harmony, a word that isn’t heard much in today’s automotive design lingo, and beautiful cars kept coming.
Over the following five decades Pininfarina designed the vast majority of Ferraris, and much of that firm’s timeless ethos transferred over to Enzo’s company. On many models there was nothing that jarred the eye, as their shapes and details seemed to effortlessly integrate into one beautiful “whole”—even when they were quite startling.
Then somewhere along the way, Ferrari lost those fundamental values. Elegance and timelessness gave way to a certain toughness, or even rudeness as one designer (who has more than one Ferrari on his resume) put it. Plus there has been an industry-wide “slave to the wind tunnel” mentality, where many performance car manufacturers somehow feel pleasing aesthetics should be completely disregarded in an unwavering pursuit of downforce and other aero measurements for statistical bragging rights. In a good number of cases those “rights” make for supremely ugly cars, ones that have aerodynamic qualities that can never realistically be fully utilized on the street.
Thankfully, the Ferrari Centro Stile took that design brief and tossed it aside. For as the new F8 illustrates, Pininfarina wasn’t alone in making perpetually beautiful Ferraris. So in addition to the Tributo, here are several other Ferraris I would buy just for the looks alone:
The 375MM was really the model that put Ferrari in the “Big Dog” camp. Just 24 were produced from 1953-55, with 10 being road-going, custom coachwork machines that were realistically the fastest thing one could buy. Those road cars were only slightly more civilized than their competition counterparts, and all were capable of 170 mph and more.
The 375 MM seen here is chassis 0416 MM, one of the seven berlinettas made by Pininfarina. Just about any of the 375 MM variations could have been included here, but I chose 0416 because the famed coachbuilder was instrumental in bringing the fastback design to the street, and eventually making the form synonymous with Ferrari.
One of my all-time favorite Ferraris is this particular 250 Tour de France. Built in 1956, it is the first of two that Carrozzeria Zagato created that year, and is an absolute masterpiece of proportions and detailing. Vladimiro Galluzzi was the commissioning client, and he told me his wife was hoping they would get a convertible, so the car’s roof was painted white to look like a spyder with the top up. That “double bubble” form and color is a lovely contrast to the body’s dark blue hue and shape, and unfortunately that shade and many of the details were a bit lost when the rear ¾ view slide was scanned
Ferrari made just two 315 S in 1957, and both were bodied by Scaglietti. As seen on Pininfarina’s 375 MM and Zagato’s 250, this competition spyder is a masterful blend of proportions, curves and function. The 315 S was a seriously fast machine, when top speeds were pushing 180 mph and more, and being stopped with drum brakes (can you say “cojones”?)! This particular 315 S won 1957’s (and the last ever) Mille Miglia, and played a key role in Ferrari’s winning that year’s endurance racing championship.
250 LM Speciale
In 1960 Enzo and his men began experimenting with the mid-engine configuration, and in 1963 Ferrari’s 250 P became the first “middy” to win Le Mans. The 250 LM that debuted a few months later at the Paris Auto Show was in many ways a fully enclosed 250 P. The model was designed by Pininfarina, and proved quite robust and very successful in the hands of privateers. In 1965 the North American Racing Team’s 250 LM (chassis 5893 GT) was the last Ferrari to win Le Mans.
A few months before that victory, this fabulous one-off (chassis 6025 GT) was shown at the Geneva and New York Auto Shows. It’s another of my all-time favorite Ferraris, as the fastback window brings great balance and harmony to the shape. Intriguingly, designer Leonardo Fioravanti told me he completely redesigned 6025 GT’s shape so every body panel was subtly different from the competition cars. And the white with blue stripes and red interior remains as striking today as when it was new.
It was quite tempting to put a 288 GTO on this list, for it is certainly one of the most beautiful Ferraris. And its successor the F40 would have also been a good choice. While Pininfarina did both, the competition F40 LM gets the nod because its fixed headlights superbly integrate into the F40’s shape, and give the car a visual punch that the flip up lights of the production version do not. Throw in competition five-spoke wheels and adjustable carbon fiber rear wing for even more attitude, and it’s easy to see why there was enough customer requests to build approximately 20 in total.
Returning to the current day and the F8 Tributo, Ferrari’s Centro Stile has created a car so beautifully turned out that Pininfarina could have done it. As founder Battista Pininfarina said of his company’s work: “The interrelation between the body of a beautiful woman and that of a Farina-designed car is that both have a simplicity and harmony of line, so that when they are old one can still see how beautiful they were when they were young.”
All that and more are quite apparent in Maranello’s newest, and had me ready to write a check. There is just one problem, though: the amount in my bank account…