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The 10 Most Important Ferrari Cars in History

Ferrari has the enviable position of being the preeminent sports car in the world. The Italian company can attribute much of its status to these 10 cars.

To be certain, not all of Ferrari’s cars have been successes. many cars of the years (some even in recent years) have had a reputation for unreliability, and prices for parts and service have always been exorbitantly high.

On the sporting side, like the NY Yankees, Ferrari has dominated Formula 1 over many decades, though there have been periods of success and there have also been extended periods of disappointment.

However, over the decades, despite competitors that have come and gone, Ferrari remains the gold standard in the automotive world.

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1947 Ferrari 125S and 1948 125F

The first two models from Enzo Ferrari shared the same engine. Both used a Columbo-designed  1.5 V12 engine and Colotti-designed  gearbox (which would become Colotti’s specialty, even making gearboxes for the early GT40s). Chassis was a simple steel-tube ladder frame design with drum brakes at each corner. The 125S sports car was introduced in 1947 (2 produced) followed by the 1948 125F formula (open wheel) car, of which 3 were produced. And of course, without a first Ferrari, there never could have been a second …

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1961 Ferrari 156

Front-engine cars ruled Formula 1 through the 1950s (as they had the Indy 500). In the late 1950s Cooper, a small English team which had adopted mid-engine configuration entered F1 and flipped over the existing order. With a mid engine design, suspension and handling played a greater role than pure engine power, which had always been Ferrari’s advantage. With a new set of regulations requiring smaller engines the switch to a mid-engine was inevitable and Ferrari created the famous “sharknose” 156 for the 1961 Formula 1 season. American Phil Hill won the Championship, but unfortunately his teammate and only competitor for the title died in a crash at the Italian GP.

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1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

There’s not much left that can be said about the ne plus ultra of Ferraris? The were 39 of the V12 racing sports cars built, which won the FIA Manufacturer’s Championship for engines of 2 L in 1962, 1963, and 1964. New, the Ferrari 250 GTO cost $18,000 but immediately after its eligibility lapsed and it was no longer able to compete internationally, prices dropped as low as $4,000. In 2013, it was reported that a 250 GTO sold in a private (i.e. non-auction) sale for $52 million.

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1968 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 “Daytona”

Ferrari offered a bewildering array of car names across the 1960s, so much so that it was difficult for anyone but a Ferrari aficionado to decode the model designation.  the 365 GTB/4, despite its enormous power and capabilities may have suffered the same fate, except that someone it picked up the unofficial nickname “Daytona” (after the Ferrari 1-2-3 at the 24 Hours of Daytona). The name helped capture the public imagination, as did its win in the first Cannonball Baker cross-country race. Then its appearance in the Miami Vice television (even though it was a kit car) drove home the image to general public that Ferrari was THE sports car.

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1975 Ferrari 312T

Ferrari had been on a long dry streak since its last Formula 1 World Championship in 1964. What was most embarrassing to this manufacturer of sporting street automobile, and constructors of the own F1 cars down to the last casting, was that they were being beaten by a bunch of British team that Enzo disparagingly called “garagistes” (garage mechanics) with their “kit cars” – cars where everything short of the chassis itself – engine, gearbox, shocks, radiators, etc. – could be bought off the shelf. Some teams didn’t even construct their own chassis, handing off their drawings to specialist companies. However the power trio of team manager  Luca di Montezemolo, designer Mauro Forghieri, and driver Niki Lauda handed Ferrari its first championship in 11 years and began a string of titles that ran until 1983.

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1987 Ferrari F40

Built to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Ferrari, and considered by many to be the most beautiful Ferrari ever made, the Ferrari F40 looked every bit the race car for the street. Except the factory never intended to race the F40 (though eventually they offered competition-prepared model for privateers). The F40 was a statement on the part of Ferrari, not just the last car in which Enzo was personally involved, but the car that  reclaimed Ferrari’s position as the manufacturer of the fastest cars in the world – becoming the first production car to top 200 mph.

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1999 Ferrari F399

Starting after the 1983 season, Ferrari was again in the weeds, Various different top-level designers and drivers had been brought in to turn the tide, but only when a strong-willed German driver named Michael Schumacher join did the team coalesce behind a driver like it did Lauda. Schumacher had finished second in the driver’s championship the previous season with the F300, a good car which was tweaked to be a great car the following season as the F399. Only a broken leg as the result of an accident at the British Grand Prix kept Schumacher from the driver’s championship, however the points earned by teammate Eddie Irvine and substitute Mika Salo gave Ferrari its first constructors championship in 16 years.

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2003 Ferrari Enzo

What makes the Ferrari Enzo so fascinating is not that it used state-of-the-art Formula 1 technology, but used developments that had been previously banned in Grand Prix racing. The Enzo featured a brand-new 6.0 L V12 and plenty of carbon fiber everywhere. Straight from F1 came the automated gear change. Technologies banned from F1 included electronically-control aerodynamics and electronic ride-height control. Though opinions on styling varied, no one could argue the car was a technological tour de force.

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2013 LaFerrari

Looking to the future Ferrari developed, constructed, and sold the LaFerrari to demonstrate two capabilities. First it’s technical capabilities,particularly against its German and British competitors. and also that a  sports car can provided a high level of performance with environmental responsibility. What makes the LaFerrari most interesting is that Ferrari has developed a version of the KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) from its F1 race cars and integrated the HY-KERS system into it hybrid design.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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