70 years of Ferrari: driving old and new

70 years of Ferrari: driving old and new
70 years of Ferrari: driving old and new

Taking one of the newest Ferraris in Britain to meet the oldest in the UK

70 years of Ferrari deserves a pilgrimage. So we decided to honour Enzo Ferrari’s great company by taking one of its fastest new cars, a 488 Spider, on a tour around Britain, to visit some of the UK locations that have become steeped in Maranello history these past seven decades.

First stop, Goodwood, to remember how Sir Stirling Moss took to the wheel of a blue Ferrari 250 SWB in the high-profile Tourist Trophy race. This was apparently part of a trial to see if Moss had what it took to become a lead Ferrari F1 driver. Answer? Yes. He simply disappeared into the lead – and did the same the next year. He was all set to repeat the feat in 1962, but first had to race his F1 Lotus. This was when he crashed; this was when his career sadly ended.

From Goodwood, we head to an industrial estate in Guildford, to remember how, in the 1980s, star F1 designer John Barnard was able to dictate his own terms to Enzo Ferrari. The old man wanted him, but Barnard didn’t want to move to Italy. So the Guildford Technical Office – GTO – was established, creating the Ferrari 641 that almost won the 1990 World Championship until Ayrton Senna drove into it. Today, the building is owned by Gordon Murray Design.

Then it’s to Egham, and the art-deco Tower Garage, where Ferrari’s first UK distributor, Colonel Ronnie Hoare, set up Maranello Concessionaires in the 1960s. Cannily, he created a famous racing team of the same name too, helping cement a hugely successful franchise. It thrived, and he only sold out in 1987: today, it’s part of the Sytner Group.

More miles under the 488 Spider’s wheels takes us to Silverstone, where Ferrari’s first-ever F1 pole position was scored in 1951; driver Froilan Gonzalez went on to score Ferrari’s first-ever Formula 1 victory too. The Aurelio Lampredi-designed 4.5-litre V12 engine may have been a little down on power compared to its rivals, but it was also less thirsty, and it’s this that won the race.

The final stop takes us to Norfolk. A bit of a trek, sure, but we do have a brand-new Ferrari to do it in. The drive gives us time to devour the wonderful engine, massively more powerful than the 1975 308 GTB that you can trace its roots back to. And six times more powerful than the Ferrari we’re off to see – a 1949 166 Inter, the UK’s oldest and, remarkably, only the seventh road-going Ferrari ever built.

It’s a genuine time-warp car, one that’s never been restored, simply cared for throughout its life. The classic V12 engine produces 110hp despite being just 2.0-litres in size, something remarkable for the 1940s. OK, it feels a bit pre-war to drive, and is no precision instrument. But it’s still special, still gorgeous, and has a simply sublime five-speed gearbox.

It’s an honour to drive. And while these two Ferraris split by seven decades are wildly different, both share an attitude. They’re wholly focused on being great driver’s cars, and this is clearly something that’s remained first and foremost a priority throughout Ferrari’s heritage. Here’s to future generations experiencing the same in another 70 years.


Rob Adams

Knowing where to find the date printed on your car tyres could save your life

Kicking up a desert storm - crossing the Sahara in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Ross Brawn interview: 'we are meeting resistance but things have to change in F1'