Unless you've been in outer space recently or you just haven't been paying attention it will probably not have escaped your notice that 2017 marked the 70th anniversary of what for many is the greatest motor manufacturer of them all; Ferrari.
Celebrations have been taking place all over the globe, with epic gatherings involving Ferrari owners, dealers and convoys of Rosso Corsa as far as the eye can see occuring worldwide throughout the year. In the UK alone, Ferrari held a celebratory tour all around the country this summer culminating in the La Ferrari Aperta flagship leading a parade of historic cars around the Silverstone GP circuit in September.
Now, London's Design Museum has finally got in on the party with their very own exhibition - Ferrari: Under the Skin. Spanning the whole 70 year history of one of the worlds most celebrated car makers is no easy task and to find out how the curators had managed it, I went along to see the show.
With personal effects, letters and a startling insight into the life of the man himself. The exhibition is as much about Enzo Ferrari as it is the cars his firm produced. But when you step into the exhibit, you're in for quite an opener.
Once you've stepped through the big red doorway (you'll see what I mean if you go), you are immediately greeted with this sublime looking blood red 125 S. The first car that ever bore the Ferrari name, the 125 S debuted in May 1947. With a 1.5 litre V12 engine designed for Enzo by the legendary Gioacchino Colombo, this engine was a serious bit of kit for its time. It was fitted with three twin-choke Weber 30DCF carburettors and an overhead camshaft which helped it develop a very healthy 118 BHP. Enzo himself specified that the 125 S should be equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, as he believed it would be better suited to Colombos high-revving V12 than a conventional (at the time) four-speeder.
The 125 S notched up the first success of Ferrari's enduring motorsport career. Piloted to victory by Franco Cortese, the 125 S won the 1947 Rome Grand Prix and went on to win six of the fourteen races it entered throughout the 1947 season. Not bad for a newbie!
Stunning though it is, the car shown in the exhibit is actually a replica, albeit one built by Ferrari themselves in 1987 to the original blueprints. It was previously thought that both the original 125 S cars from 1947 had been dismantled many years ago. However there is at least one car in private ownership which is purported to be 125 S chassis number 01C, although this has not been verified by Ferrari themselves.
As befits the name of the exhibit, 'Under the Skin' really does give you a sense of just how much work has gone into and still goes into the incredible creations to come from Maranello over the last seven decades. The 1:1 scale model of the J50, the car Ferrari created to mark its 50 years in Japan in 2016 was a highlight. Only ten J50's were built, and all of them live under the rising sun but if you visit the show you'll be able to see the original full-size clay styling model used in the design process.
As you can probably tell if I tried to list every single thing shown in the exhibit this article would last almost as long as Ferrari itself. So lets concentrate now on some of the cars.
Firstly, the gorgeous 1950 166M Barchettta. One of two cars in the exhibit formerly owned by FIAT patriarch Gianni Agnelli, this little 166 is chassis 0064 and was the 24th of only 25 cars produced. This was the first Ferrari that Agnelli owned and famously stated "Of all the cars I have driven, I can never forget my first Ferrari". In 1966 the 166 was bought by Ferrari Benelux distributor Jacques Swaters, and was owned by the Swarters family for forty six years. The car was also previously displayed in the New York Museum of Modern Art after it had been restored by the Swarters family to Agnelli's original specification.
Perched just in front of the Barchetta is the 1957 250 GT Cabriolet. An fantastically elegant car that was first owned by British Scuderia Ferrari racing driver Peter Collins.
Once he had the car Collins personally had it fitted with disc brakes by the British firm Dunlop who went on to fit the system to the Mark II Jaguar of 1959. The installation was so successful that once Enzo Ferrari had sampled the setup on Collins' 250 GT, he decreed that all Ferraris would be so equipped from that point on.
The 275 GTB 4 of 1967 is often referred to as the most beautiful of all Ferrari. Well, beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but we should all be glad that this car, originally supplied to the revered Colonel Ronnie Hoare of Maranello Concessionaires London, is available for all to see.
Gianni Agnelli is a name that crops up often in the Ferrari story, as well as the story of the entire Italian motor industry. He was the head of FIAT and the richest man in modern Italian history and personally commissioned this one-off Testarossa Spider in 1986.
We don't need no traction control.. Pink Floyd's Nick Mason has kindly lent his glorious F40 to the exhibit.
I'm not sure I can say much more about the F40 than has already been said. Perhaps Enzo said it best when he turned to his management team in the late '80s and said "Let's make something special. The way we used to do it."
And my word did they make something special. The first production road car to breech the 200 MPH barrier, the F40 was the very last model to be personally overseen by Enzo Ferrari prior to his death in 1988. He liked the car very much, as does Pink Floyd drummer and Ferrari legend Nick Mason who has owned this particular F40 since new.
Tucked away in a corner as you walk out of the exhibit is this shy and retiring white car. It belongs to a local chef called Gordon. You'll probably know that his last name is Ramsay and the car in question is his La Ferrari Aperta. The 963 BHP hybrid hypercar represents the absolute zenith of Ferrari development to date and is the crowning glory of the firms 70th anniversary celebrations. Only a handful will ever be built and this is perhaps your best chance to get up close with one. The photo does not do this thing justice.
Of course, there is far more to be seen at Ferrari: Under the Skin than I could capture on my iPhone. Including a genuine 250 GTO that the owner lent to the exhibition and then bizarrely requested that nobody photographed. In the words of one of the stewards at the Design Museum "why would you do that?"
One of the things they do have though, is a cinema screen tucked behind the F40 showing the immortal 'C'etait un rendez-vous'. Perhaps the greatest car film of all time, it features the stratospheric soundtrack of director Claude Lelouch's 275 GTB on an early morning 'commute' through Paris in 1976. Watch it. It's fucking excellent.
And if you're in London, head over to the Design Museum at the bottom of Holland Park. It's on until 15th April 2018. Lunch at Carluccio's in Kensington High Street is highly recommended for the full Italian experience.
You can buy tickets in advance here: https://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/ferrari-under-the-skin