(the image above) The body awaiting the windscreen – the only part fitted by robot. The rest is handmade.
The Nuova Meccanica building (left): crankshafts and engines are milled from solid aluminium billets in here. The engine (right). All major parts are made on site before being ‘dressed’ into a complete unit. Each V12 is assembled by a single craftsman
Its inputs are the same as countless other factories: steel, aluminium, rubber, glass and plastic. But inside, by some unfathomable alchemy, these are turned into some of the most venerated and viscerally exciting products imaginable: the Ferrari road and race cars that have dominated F1 circuits and boys’ bedroom walls for more than 60 years.
It’s more than just a factory, more than just a supercar maker. It’s the headquarters of the national team: Ferrari is Italy, Italy is Ferrari. The cluster of low buildings the company has occupied on the Via Abetone in Maranello since Enzo Ferrari founded the company in 1947 are a place of pilgrimage for the tifosi, Ferrari’s borderline-obsessive fans.
They stand at the gates, photographing the cars as they emerge for their final road test, spearing towards the hills with a hard, hollow howl. Outside, there are Ferrari-themed cheap gift shops, and touts offer a drive in an overworked Ferrari F430 for an extortionate fee. You can visit the official Ferrari Store and its Galleria museum, for a price. But you don’t get through those gates unless you’re a client. And that makes the price of admission £143,870 at the very least.
But Live has been granted rare access to the factory. We’ll be accompanied by a minder and have strict instructions on what we can photograph: nothing related to the Formula 1 team, for instance, and we can only take photographs of the production line from the side and not down its length in case you get the impression that Ferraris are mass-produced.
Ferrari takes itself and its image very seriously. But it’s worth the inconvenience. This is a fascinating time to be here; possibly a pivotal moment in the company’s history. Its aloof, exclusive image is changing. And now it appears the national team might even be for sale.
Ferrari has problems and they all spring from the company’s eternal dilemma – how to eke more profit from one of the world’s greatest brands, when being seen to exploit it might kill it stone dead.
The entrance hasn’t changed much since the Seventies: Niki Lauda and Gilles Villeneuve would recognise the red ochre walls and the yellow Ferrari sign. It looks out over the Via Abetone to the famous Cavallino restaurant, where Enzo’s private dining room has been kept as it was when he died in 1988. Once you’re through the gates you’re left in no doubt as to where you are.
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