How Enzo Ferrari Started Out: The Birth of an Automotive Visionary

With little or no formal education, Ferrari began life on February 18, 1898, in Modena, Italy. His love for race cars also began as a child, when his father took little Enzo to his first car race. The family ran a mule-skinning business until Enzo was called into the Army during World War I, but during these years both his father and brother died of the widespread flu outbreak. Enzo also became extremely ill during this pandemic and was discharged from the Army in 1916, only to return home to find that the family business was in ruins.

Enzo desperately wanted to work for Fiat, but could not get hired there. “I knew my family needed me and Fiat was a dream job, but they did not want me,” Enzo once said. Instead, he took a job with a smaller automotive manufacturer, Construzioni Meccaniche Nazionali, or CMN. He began there designing truck bodies into smaller passenger cars, but would move to the racing team in 1919.

Ferrari did not find early success as a race car driver for CMN. This initial failure did not persuade him to give up racing. He would move to the Alfa Romeo racing team in 1920 and begin having success racing these cars in local races around Italy. “The most important victory is the one which has to arrive,” Ferrari said after becoming a successful driver on this smaller circuit.

As Ferrari's victories began to increase, so did Alfa's interest in him. Alfa decided to offer him a racing career on the larger world circuit, but Ferrari turned them down and quit racing. He continued to work for Alfa during this time and finally, in 1929, started the Scuderia Ferrari racing team under the ownership of Alfa Romero. This decision developed into a life-long dream of developing his own brand of race cars and then, into one of the world's most desired sports car brands.

Ferrari would eventually get married in 1932 to Laura Dominica Garello and have a son, which he named Alfredo after his father and brother, but called him Dino. Alfredo was not a healthy child and would die in 1956 from muscular dystrophy. However, Ferrari did have another son with his longtime mistress, Lina Lardi, in 1945, which he would name Piero, but would not recognize him as his son until his wife's death in 1978.

“The only true love is that between a father and his son,” Ferrari would say after the death of Dino during one of his rare interviews. Though he worked a lot of his career for Alfa, he did design and manufacture his own cars under the Scuderia Ferrari racing team. There he would build his race team into 40 competitive and championship drivers.

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