With the value of Ferrari classic cars ever increasing, the Ferrari Classiche department at Maranello carries out a fundamental task: certifying authenticity. And, if requested, it will also guarantee faithful restoration of the original model
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Past the square, on the left. Ferrari Classiche is there, in the historical part of the plant, where the foundry and the experiences department once were.’ The hand pointing through the window of his office, through the half lowered Venetian blinds, is that of Piero Ferrari, Enzo’s son, Vice-President of the Company and President of the Ferrari Classiche Certification Committee (COCER).
I met him in this role, so that he could guide me around those corners where it all began. Where the Ferraris of old, those that created the legend, took shape, and where they return today to find that shape again. Or even just to have a check-up, to ensure that they have not lost their shape. ‘We are interested in the “zero moment” of a car; when it drives out of the gate for the first time,’ Piero says as we approach the entrance to the Classiche Department, a large glass door that will only open if you swipe a magnetic card. Once inside, it seems as though those historic walls give off noises, voices, even aromas, such as the magical one of burnt castor oil.
You have the sensation of perceiving “His” presence, that of Il Commendatore, Enzo Ferrari. You can imagine his figure as he goes around checking, encouraging his men. Bringing us back to reality is a 250 Testa Rossa, up on a ramp. Nearby, there is a 250 Le Mans with its engine bonnet raised; here it is known as a cofango, because it combines the function of the bonnet (cofano) with that of a mudguard (parafango), covering the wheels. Collectors’ cars arrive from all over the world. People who usually have more than one Ferrari; sometimes famous personalities. Customers who entrust precious cars to Ferrari Classiche, relying totally on its exclusive heritage: its archive. In the room to the right of the entrance, all shelves and box files, with a large table for consultation purposes, the details of every single car built from 1947 onwards are conserved. There are the assembly dossiers of all the models, there is an invoice for every specimen. There are the construction designs of any component and the various internal communications concerning modifications or customisations. ‘A truly unique data source,’ says Piero proudly, ‘which, in the event of the original spare parts of the period not being available, enables us to reconstruct the component perfectly by following the design. That’s a service that only Ferrari, as a Company, can provide, by certifying these spare parts de facto.’ Ferrari Classiche therefore guarantees an expert restoration. Yet, there are many collectors who entrust their vehicles to Ferrari Classiche solely to request their certification.
To be able to affirm that their cars, with their engine, chassis and transmission numbers, and with that body, actually fully correspond to one that Ferrari had sold on a certain day in a certain year. ‘There are easy cases and there are difficult cases. That’s how we define them,’ Piero explains. A 328 GTB with two owners, a few thousand kilometres on the clock and services always carried out in an authorised workshop is an easy case. A car from the 1950s or 1960s, without the same engine anymore, maybe with reconstructed parts, could become a difficult case. ‘Racing cars are the most complex,’ Piero adds. ‘They never end their lives with the same components with which they were born. To certify them, we have to reconstruct their sporting career, compare the photos of the time in which they were sold with those of the races they took part in. We often ask for advice from the people who worked in the old racing department. We have to trace each possible modification and take everything back to that famous zero moment.’ There are some exceptions for those cars documented as modified outside of Ferrari and with demonstrable historical records. You need only think of Count Volpi di Misurata’s 250 GT SWB, known as the Breadvan, or Giannino Marzotto’s 166/212, nicknamed l’Uovo (The Egg). Taking a car back to its original state may even mean intervening radically. The restoration philosophy of Ferrari Classiche came about from the certification criteria. ‘Years ago, at Pebble Beach, I was with Sergio Scaglietti, who, seeing a small boat for which he had created the bodywork, said: “I didn’t remember making it so beautiful.” The restoration had gone way beyond the appearance of the car as new. So, we avoid over restoring, or rather, when we fit a renovated component, or we reconstruct it, we don’t go beyond what the technologies of the time were.’ Even if those of today are better and more advanced: ‘We are even very demanding with the materials; for example, with the metals that were used, and so that we ourselves use, for the alloys.’ Which is why, in the case of a difficult certification, when faced with a suspicious component, Ferrari Classiche carries out a metallographic examination, to analyse the structure of an alloy. On the day of our meeting, Piero had participated in a session of COCER. ‘There are a couple each month,’ he says. ‘I chair them and I’m always the one who signs the certificate that is issued when we approve a car.’ The commission has just appraised 30 or so proposals; five or six were difficult cases, while two cars were held back because, if a car is not certified, Ferrari Classiche tells the owner how problems can be resolved, allowing them to submit it to the commission a second time. ‘One of today’s held-back cars has a rear axle case with no number and the alloy seems to have a different shape from the original,’ says Piero. ‘We will advise the owner to look for another, an original spare part from the period or coming from a car of the same type. Or else he can rely on us to reconstruct it based on the original design and with corresponding materials.’
Could a car be accepted if, for example, it has an engine of the right type, but the serial number doesn’t correspond to the one on the Company registers? ‘The owner has to provide all the documentation that certifies the origin of that engine,’ Piero insists. ‘If a Daytona arrives here with an engine number that originally belonged to another Daytona, we have to find out whether this second car exists and whether, in such a case, it has yet another engine in it. We have to be able to cross-reference all the numbers. Such research is long and demanding, but certainly never dull.’ Once the history is reconstructed and the anomalies documented, does a car with an engine number that is not its own have the same pedigree of another of the same, all-original, model? ‘There are no degrees of certification. The car either passes or it doesn’t. But the certificate may contain notes highlighting and describing what we call “acceptable non-conformities”.’ For example, the external and internal colours: if a car was originally gold and the owner has repainted it red, the commission accepts this, but writes it on the certificate. ‘The same happens with the wheels of the 275 GTB. Many people like spoked Borrani rims, but we know the model wasn’t made that way. Those rims were sold as spares.’
A Ferrari Classiche Certification, a structure that came about in 2006 from an idea that also came from Piero Ferrari, is an increasingly prestigious document. This is demonstrated at auction, where, in recent years, a model accompanied by such a certificate has a recognised advantage. ‘Some people have even forged our document,’ Piero laughs. ‘That means it really counts.’
Da issue 23, Yearbook 2013