A while back I posted a blog about guitars asking readers if they preferred Gibson or Fender – a classic ‘either or’ question in the vein of Beatles or Stones, Blur or Oasis and PC or Apple. I rather like these ‘either or’ face-offs – and the guitar one proved very popular – so I thought I’d do it again…albeit this time with cars. Rather than the more prosaic but distinctly real world question of ‘Ford or Vauxhall’, I thought I’d begin with the sort of supercar most of us dream about but very few can afford.
So – are you Ferrari or are you Lamborghini?…in other words: are you a Horse or are you a Bull?!
Ferrari was founded by Enzo Ferrari in Italy in 1929. The company had an association with motorsport from its very inception – long before it began producing road cars. In fact, Enzo was reluctant to build road cars at all – and only did so to fund his Ferrari Formula One ‘stable’; the first Ferrari road car (the 125S) appearing in 1947. Of course, Scuderia Ferrari (the Ferrari F1 racing team) is now the most famous and prestigious team in Formula One. The Ferrari F40 – launched in 1988 – was the last Ferrari road car to be personally overseen by Enzo (who died later the same year).
Formula One and Ferrari are synonymous. The role call of legendary F1 drivers chosen to pilot the famous rosso corsa (racing red) cars for the Prancing Horse team is quite amazing – it includes Jacky Ickx, Mario Andretti, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve, Gerhard Berger, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso and, of course, Michael Schumacher (to name but a few). Ferrari is the only team to have competed continuously in Formula One since the inception of the championship in 1950. The sound of a Ferrari Formula One engine at full tilt is a truly incredible thing – check out some in-car laps of circuits on youtube to see what I mean. This is especially true of the Ferraris of the 50s and 60s. My favourite Ferrari F1 car is the 1951 Ferrari 375 – to my mind the best F1 car ever.
It’s a little known fact that, for a car company so readily associated with the colour red, Ferrari’s road cars were originally yellow (ironically the colour most closely associated with arch rivals Lamborghini). Yellow was, however, soon abandoned for red due to red being the traditional racing colour of Italy (and the colour used by Ferrari F1 cars since the 1920s). But how did it come about that the first Ferrari road cars were yellow? The answer lies in the Prancing Horse logo – the emblem of Ferrari itself.
The Prancing Horse (Cavallino Rampante) shows a black stallion on a yellow shield with the letters SF (Scuderia Ferrari) with the colours of the Italian national flag at the top. When Enzo was himself a racing driver the mother of Count Francesco Baracca (an ace World War One fighter pilot who used to paint a red stallion on the side of his plane) asked Enzo to use the stallion image on his car to bring him luck. Ferrari agreed – and painted the stallion black after Baracca was killed in action. Enzo added a canary yellow background to the stallion image to reflect the city colours of his own birthplace, Modena. With this connection to the colour yellow, the road cars were at one time supposed to be canary yellow – although they are now almost universally red.
Lamborghini is a younger company than Ferrari – and might be said not to have come into existence but for Ferrari. Lamborghini was founded by the Italian industrialist Ferruccio Lamborghini in 1963. A little known fact is that Lamborghini started out making tractors – a fact occasionally sneered at by some Ferrari enthusiasts who routinely refer to all Lambos as “tractors”. However, where there’s muck there’s brass and the tractor sales made Ferruccio a very rich man who could indulge his passion for fast cars. In the 1950s he owned Alfas, Lancias, Maseratis, Mercs and…Ferraris. Famously, he didn’t think the Ferraris were good enough road cars – describing them as crudely adapted track cars – and so he determined to set up his own company to build the ultimate grand tourer road car: Lamborghini.
This disdain for motorsport is perhaps the most crucial difference between Lamborghini and Ferrari and lies at the heart of the ideological division between the two great Italian supercar rivals. Ferruccio actually chose NOT to have any involvement in motorsport – viewing it as an unwelcome distraction from building road cars…and Enzo Ferrari only reluctantly built road cars to finance his true passion for Formula One. Nevertheless, some of Ferruccio’s engineers (many of whom had been poached from Ferrari!) began developing a race car behind his back! It went on to become the (road car) Miura – the car that really put Lamborghini on the map. Between 1989 – 1993 Lambo relented somewhat in its anti-F1 stance; actually supplying engines to Formula One – to the Larrousse, Lotus, Ligier, Minardi and Modena teams.
Of course, Lamborghini has its own emblem that has become every bit as iconic as Ferrari’s Prancing Horse. Lambo has the raging bull. The bull logo came about through Ferruccio’s friendship with a breeder of Spanish fighting bulls, Don Eduardo Miura (…you can see where the Lambo Miura got its name). Almost all of Lambo’s cars have been named in connection with bull-fighting in one way or another. A notable exception was its most successful car ever – the Countach. (“Countach!” is, in fact, a slang expression of wonder and delight as exclaimed by the men of Piedmont on seeing an especially attractive woman – making the British equivalent of the car the Lamborghini Phwoar Get-a-load-of-that!)
And what of these two venerable car companies today? Well, the biggest changes as the 20th century has become the 21st century has been on the part of Lambo. After several changes of ownership it is now a subsidiary of Audi – with some car nuts believing the consequent injection of Teutonic pragmatism into Sant’Agata Bolognese’s finest has somewhat tamed the often bonkers and OTT quality of the original Lambos…and other car nuts suggesting it has simply created a perfect blend of reliability, efficiency and sporting prowess. Ferrari, meanwhile, remains determinedly private and iconic and a major force in Formula One (albeit not having the best of times this season in the face of the all-conquering Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber – spot the irony!)
So, to return to the question: Horse or Bull? I find it impossible to say – but, at gunpoint, I suppose I would say this: everything in my heart and soul should point to my saying Lambo (after all, I would choose Gibson over Fender, Stones over Beatles, Oasis over Blur every time). However, I love Formula One and I hate bull-fighting (or any kind of so-called ‘killing for sport’). And those Ferrari Formula One cars of the 50s and 60s are just amazing creations. What to do?! Amigos, it’s a tough one!
I suppose in the real world you’d make the decision with a test drive – and I’m gonna have to sell quite a few more books before that happens and I can leave my Fiat Punto behind (…amigos over to you!). However, a decision must be made. And so, slightly against my own nature and primal instincts (I’ll go head over heart) I’m gonna say Ferrari. (Trouble is, ask me next week and I’ll find a reason to say Lambo!) At least it’s still much the same company as it was when Enzo founded it – and that F1 pedigree just cannot be ignored.
But (even if I had that sorta cash) I wouldn’t have a current model of either tbh – both seem somewhat corporate concerns these days compared to the early days when the opinions of the car enthusiasts, racing drivers and grubby-fingered mechanics quite rightly mattered more than those of the god-awful beancounters in the boardroom and all the various other grey men in grey suits counting up their money. Even worse than this though (if that’s at all possible!), is that today’s cars all seem to opt exclusively for those damned flappy paddle gearboxes that are infecting virtually every so-called supercar like a virus – so I’d have to have a sufficiently old Ferrari (or Lambo!) so it could at least be a manual. Sorry Americans, if it ain’t a stick shift, it just ain’t driving!