Enzo Ferrari's Legacy Comes Home
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AT age 22, Enzo Ferrari sold the house where he was born to buy a racecar, and although the founder of the renowned sports car company failed in several attempts later in life to buy back that house, as of Saturday it has become a museum dedicated to his memory.
The Enzo Ferrari Birthplace Museum, in this city of 175,000 between Milan and Bologna, includes the house where Ferrari was born in 1898 as well as a new building designed with a shiny yellow aluminum roof made to look like the hood of a car, air vents and all. The house is attached to the workshop of Ferrari's father, a carpenter and mechanic for the Italian railway.
"I remember coming once to see the house when I was a kid, but it wasn't with my father because he never wanted to come back," said Piero Ferrari, Enzo's son, the auto company's vice chairman. "He always said that if he couldn't buy it, he didn't want to go into a house owned by other people. He asked me if the staircase near the entrance was still there."
The staircase is indeed still there, leading up to the room where Enzo was born; the Ferraris lived in the house until Enzo was a young adult. Those small, freshly painted rooms now house the offices of the Fondazione Casa Natale Enzo Ferrari, the foundation behind the museum's construction. The museum starts in the attached workshop, where multimedia presentations recount the life of the racecar driver who made the leap to manufacturer of legendary sports cars.
Memorabilia include the dark glasses that Enzo always wore after his son Dino died in 1956 of muscular dystrophy, as well as Enzo's birth certificate and the violet pen he used to sign documents.
Ferrari adulation is nothing new in Italy, or abroad. A Ferrari theme park, promoted as the world's largest enclosed amusement park, opened in Abu Dhabi in 2010. Though the auto company does not own the park, it lent its name and was closely consulted during construction. There is also the Ferrari museum in Maranello, not far from Modena, where the car company has its headquarters. The Ferrari myth also crossed the Atlantic, but Enzo, once a daredevil on the track, never followed. He died in 1988 in Maranello.
"My father became famous in the U.S., but he never went there because he was afraid to fly," Piero Ferrari said. "He also never took elevators, because he was afraid of those, too. In the late 1920s he got blocked in an elevator in Palermo and after that he never rode one again."
The museum's new building, spectacular on the outside with its yellow roof and curved glass facade, will hold temporary exhibits of historic racecars of all makes. The first exhibit will have 21 cars, a mix of Ferraris, Maseratis, Alfa Romeos and Fiats that Enzo Ferrari raced in and built, including a 1914 Alfa Romeo 40-60 and a Ferrari 125S from 1947, the first car to carry its maker's name. Visitors are greeted by the roar of racecar engines and an all-white interior with display areas made to look like car dashboards.
The museum was designed by a Czech architect, Jan Kaplicky, before his death in 2009. Mr. Kaplicky's architect partner, Andrea Morgante, an Italian, completed the exterior following the original design and did the interiors himself.
The next exhibit, starting in June, will be on the rivalry between Ferrari and Maserati, which is based in Modena and now also owned by Fiat.
Local and national governments, the European Union and several banks contributed the 18 million euros, or about $24 million, invested in the museum. Like Enzo, the museum did not manage to buy the building where he was born; it obtained a long-term lease. As for what became of the car that Enzo bought with the money he made selling the house, that remains a mystery.
First Published March 11, 2012 12:01 am