Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain

| 27 Sep 2019
Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain

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Imagine the things you would find hidden away if you lived in the same place for more than 50 years. The possibilities are probably endless. Heck, they are even if you own the same car for a few years.

Imagine what it’s like for Ferrari, which has been in Maranello for eight decades. A 1948 166S was found in the engine works. Nobody knew it was there; nobody had missed it.

This is one of the earliest Ferraris, as original as they come. The interior is bare, the paint cracked, but it runs and has been driven by Luigino Barp, gamekeeper of the Classiche department at Maranello.

One of the cars now of the heritage fleet in Italy, a 275GTB, was also found in the factory, this one in the machining plant. Its colour was wrong but that’s been rectified via the files in the vaults and it’s now regularly on the road on various events Ferrari holds around Italy.

Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain
Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain
Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain

Nor does it stop with cars.

“Two months ago we found a room full of drawings of F40 and F50,” says Barp, who everyone here knows as ‘Gigi’. “We have the original drawings for the 125, we found them six months ago in the middle of nothing. That’s why we need to keep fixing things [around the factory].

“This is the soul of the factory. We have to discover how to fix all things before I move, this is my heritage that I will give to the factory.”

Gigi has been a part of Ferrari since the late ’80s: “The first job I had was on the 208’s turbocharger. It was over pressure, so I was recording the pressure in one hand, and also the rpm and speed. Half a turn, quarter of a turn with an allen key and my test driver said, ‘Ah, now it’s okay.’

“I moved to endurance testing on the 348. We had to crash test every car, doing 50,000km per month. I had 12 cars to manage with 24 drivers and we’d drive day and night, on normal roads, in the mountains, city and highway for 45,000km.

“After that we’d go to Nardò and the last 5000km was full gas. We’d do one lap, another in fifth, then fourth, third, second, first gears, destroying the gearbox and engine. It was 32 years ago but today we do the same test – we stress the cars to a point the customer won’t be able to.”

Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain

Now Gigi is spearheading the Classiche Department, which decides and judges on the originality of every classic Ferrari from its base in the old engine works.

“Whenever someone collects a brand new car from the other side of that wall,” he says, looking to the long, white wall tastefully decked with huge historical prints, “they always want to see through that window.

“The real aim of this part of the factory was to certify the originality of the car. That was the first step and we are able to do that thanks to all the documentation we have. Everything on the car has to match the documents: the suspension, engine and gearbox. We accept a little modification: colour, for example might not be original, so we will note it and accept. But not engine or exhaust.”

The Ferrari family is still hands-on, with Enzo’s son Piero sitting in on the monthly meeting to discuss the latest projects, certification requests and more.

“We get sent photos and see, car by car, whether it is original or not and whether we can accept it. If it is then I will send out this book and the certificate, signed by Piero Ferrari. The special book is like a passport, signed by me, but there has to be engagement from the owner.

“Every 24 months the car has to be checked by one of our specialists – it can come here or someone from Classiche will go. Before, we didn’t have this, you had the book and could do what you want.”

Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain

It’s worth owners’ while, and their few thousand euros, to have their car certified. RM Sotheby’s, for example, will only accept Ferraris with a Classiche certificate.

“If you don’t have this, the value will be 25 to 30% less,” Gigi adds. “It’s a tough job, roughly we do 30 to 50 cars per month.”

The nondescript office in the corner holds the key to each car’s originality. Its walls are stocked with box files for cars and models, split across the centre by glass displays holding original typesets with which to stamp chassis.

Even these little strips of metal send your mind scrambling at the history they’ve been inanimate witness to. Compiling and filing the datasheets, drawings and notes is a never-ending job, he says.

“The woman moving around us is trying to fix all things, but it is a disaster. The records were all over the factory, and we are now trying to collate it all. It will be a lot of work, three or four years for just this area, but we have to continue. Behind this room we found a mountain of documentation that we need to certify; every day we find something special.”

He goes to the earliest file in the collection so far catalogued, dated from April 1951, its paper held together by a thread. The ink on the drawings is fading, and it’s quickly safely back in its sheath and returned to the shelf.

“You can see everything on these: the assembly sheets, the chassis, the engine, the gearbox and test on the bench, and even some specific notes that are written.

“We have other books that are something special,” and with a sigh he returns to the shelves. “These are all the tracks, all the results of the races, the starting grids – whatever you need to know is right here. And these we have since 1952.”

Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain

The leather-bound books of Formula 1 minutiae must be priceless. “These are what Enzo needed at the end of every season – he was a tough boy, very tough. All handwritten. Because Enzo didn’t move from the factory, at the end of the race and no matter where, he needed to know exactly what happened within two hours. Someone would phone and someone would write.”

Later, when slowly guiding us around the department floor, he recalls the time he met the great boss. “We had gone to test something and Enzo was sat under his fig tree, eating fig after fig.”

It’s not all admin at Classiche. Dotted around that factory floor are a handful of Ferraris being fettled ready for the Classic Cavalcade owners’ tour, sports racers beside tourers. In the distance are engines being rebuilt, leather stitched, bodywork finished.

Lessons being taught, too, because the experienced team members pass on their knowledge to two understudies each.

Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain
Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain
Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain

Not all owners send their cars to Maranello to be rectified or restored, with 70 workshops based in after-sales around the world.

“Nine of them are in the UK [out of 12 dealers], because you English are fantastic for this kind of idea,” he jokes. “If you have a crash, or you find something that seems to be a Ferrari but you aren’t sure, you can go to a dealer and we will send someone.

“Before, we’d sometimes accept a car here and it will turn out to be a fake, so it’s better for us to send someone.”

Gigi is unabashedly proud of his work. But of the recent work undertaken, one car stands out: “The 340 that was presented at Pebble Beach. It was just a chassis and we found the engine, it was just a piece of rust – but it had the right numbers.

“They found the car in the desert in Texas, with a Chevrolet engine and Buick gearbox. We didn’t have the body because it was fibreglass and been used for racing. So we found the pictures, repaired the chassis, and worked for 14 months rebuilding completely the body.

“Imagine, this car was bought in ‘52, raced at Le Mans and came second in its class, and we rebuilt it in 14 months. It was complete satisfaction.”

Classic & Sports Car – Behind the Ferrari Classiche curtain

His personal highlight is bedding in a customer’s Daytona Competizione at Spa after they’d fixed a steering issue. But he gets more pleasure in seeing Ferraris on the road, and in the fact that their work allows that to happen.

“Before Classiche it was difficult, but because we have the drawings we are able to repair the cars. It means they have the ability to drive. After we repair the cars I test them personally – that’s a tough job! – and I sign the car off. It’s the best part of my life, driving them on the road.”

He regularly gets to drive the Ferrari 375 that Giuseppe Farina raced at Indy, to keep it warm and in good health for a customer.

“Tonight I’ll drive two more,” he adds. “I like English cars, I have an E-type. Enzo said it’s the most beautiful car and it’s true. It’s fantastic, though reliability is something to discuss…” he laughs. “But I like the shape. It’s magnificent.

“But if you sit in a Ferrari, you feel it; nothing else gets close. The difference between our customer and the new car customer is that they are in love with the car. It is not a simple toy. It is a part of their passion, their life.”


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