Over the past couple of weeks, every designer, auto industry insider, and general enthusiast I’ve spoken with thinks Ferrari’s new F8 Tributo is the hottest thing visually to come out of Maranello since, well, properly aged aceto balsamico. The car is a thoroughly modern Ferrari, all while bringing back the sensuous curves, refined surface treatments and detailing that were hallmarks of a number of the marque’s finest.
While one should pass final judgment after seeing a car in outdoor light, if the bank account was big enough, I would have thrown caution to the wind and the local Ferrari dealer would have had my F8 deposit two weeks ago. And if my pockets were much deeper still, here are several Ferraris that, based on visuals alone, would be in the garage, waiting for the F8 to join them:
A pontoon fender Testa Rossa remains the greatest car I’ve ever driven, and chassis 0714 is the visual treat of the lot. Ferrari and coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti made 21 such machines in 1957-58, and to this day there is nothing that looks like a pontoon fender TR. The proportions, soft curves and details still bewitch the eye, but that black-red color combination is what sets this TR apart from the others, and would make it the first car in my dream collection.
Amusingly, Sergio Scaglietti told me the Testa Rossa was one of the very few cars where he stepped back to admire what he and his craftsmen had done; usually, they were too busy getting the next car out the door to do that! That it has aged so well is also a testament to the man’s innate talent, for he said he designed everything “by the eyes alone.” He took inspiration from Pininfarina, and some of the other design houses, and would then create something that was all his own.
Color plays an even bigger role in another choice: 2003-04’s Enzo. That car’s chiseled look was certainly cutting edge 15 years ago, and that wasn’t by accident. Both Sergio Pininfarina and Lorenzo Ramaciotti told me that Ferrari CEO Luca Cordero di Montezemolo was pushing Pininfarina to do something quite extreme, and after the first presentation of scale model variants to Montezemolo, the team changed its approach and decided to do a car based on Ferrari’s then current Formula 1 design language. Even today the F1 tie-in is quite apparent, especially when viewing it from the front.
While I still find the Enzo’s form a bit awkward thanks to a slightly odd cabin-to-body ratio, the whole shape truly sings in this spectacular silver. Ironically, I purchased this car at auction for a collector friend, and was most sorry when he sold it. So you can keep your red, yellow and black Enzos, for I will take this one!
- Silver also works beautifully on the 360 Challenge Stradale and, like the Enzo, that color was a key component for the model making it into my imaginary “visuals” collection. The way the Italian flag-inspired multi-colored stripes play off the exterior and red interior is superb. From the rear, that black “Challenge Stradale” grille is a purposeful touch, and a nice contrasting color to the car’s silver/light blue hue.
This Ferrari was the first “CS” I ever drove, and did it make an impression by being exactly what you expect an exotic car to be—loud, rambunctious, a bit feisty, incredibly responsive and very rewarding behind the wheel. It’s involvement with a capital “I,” and that color combination makes it visually stunning, as well.
- Ferrari’s 250 SWB is a shape that looks good in most any color, but my personal collection would have this blue example, the New York Auto Show car in 1960. In conversations with Sergio Pininfarina, he said the 250 SWB’s form “was the first of the three quantum leaps in Pininfarina designs on Ferraris.” With perfect proportioning and exquisite detailing (i.e. lack of unnecessary ornamentation), it’s easy to understand why he said that. Plus the SWB was certainly a highpoint in the evolution of the “berlinetta” shape that the coachbuilder started in 1947 with Giovanni Savonuzzi’s fastback design on the car.
This particular 250 SWB resides in what is likely America’s greatest collection of Italian machinery, and did it ever look stupendous in the evening light. It was an absolute treasure on the road: a truly involving and all-encompassing sensory overload that’s far more nuanced and thus long-lasting than today’s face crushing, g-force number experiences. The car resides in what may be America’s greatest collection of Italian machinery, and while there were more valuable and rare cars in it, this is the one I would take home.
- It’s an interesting paradigm that one of the cars that truly defined Ferrari’s design language—and most especially on its mid-engine models—was never badged a Ferrari when it was made. In the mid-1960s Enzo Ferrari was quite reluctant to go with a centrally mounted powerplant in a road car, and it was Sergio Pininfarina who basically willed it into happening. It had a 6-cylinder engine rather than a 12, and was badged a Dino rather than a Ferrari.
The prototype debuted in 1965 as a concept car, and went into production in 1968. Sergio Pininfarina notes the Dino is “the second quantum leap in Pininfarina designs on Ferraris” (interestingly, the third was the Enzo), and the car was universally lauded in period reviews. For instance, “In all of motoring history,” Mel Nichols, a former editor at England’s CAR magazine, observed in his test, “there have been few vehicles so balanced, integrated and complete as this one.”
Which remains true today. On the road a Dino is absolutely sublime, with the right amount of power to have fun and feel the car’s performance in an immersive, involving way. But since we are talking aesthetics here, this Pininfarina masterpiece is up there with the best. It is perfectly proportioned, with curves even Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida or Christina Hendricks would yearn for.
In sum, it appears that Ferrari may be returning to an essential design ingredient found in many of its greatest road cars and endurance racers: grace. And now that the shape is done with, the question becomes what colors should the car be….