Ferrari's road cars are totally immersive driving machines, but there's no question that the engine provides their heart and soul. The current V8 - which marked Ferrari's return to forced induction following a 30-year hiatus - is one of the most garlanded pieces of engineering Ferrari has ever created. It came first overall in the prestigious Engine of the Year awards in 2017, reprising its 2016 victory, and won the Performance Engine category as well.
Three key areas are responsible for bringing the engine to life: the Foundry, the Mechanical Machining area and the Engine Assembly area.
The process starts with aluminium ingots that are melted in a furnace. The resultant raw material is used for the cylinder block, the crankcase, the cylinder heads and the valve casings. While the smell of overheated metal lingers everywhere, the foundry is not a modern-day Temple of Hephaestus. It's a bright place where automatic tools and machines play an important role. Even the casting of the aluminium alloy, which melts at around 750° C, is done by robot. Sand and resin "cores" inside the die casting machine prevent the aluminium from flooding the die casting machine itself and, once removed, their absence leaves space for coolant passages and complex shapes. It's hard to believe that these objects are crucial to producing 670hp.
But this is just the beginning: after annealing and recovery processes, these components move on to the Mechanical Machining area. Here the aluminium castings change state and are transformed into an engine, which happens when the cylinder block and crankcase are joined.
While this is happening, the crankshafts are taking shape: these are the most important part of any engine. Getting from initial, semi-finished to finished product is a complicated process. First there is the rough machining, before the recovery heat treatment, boring and grinding. Then comes the nitriding process, which takes several days, followed by a second grinding process and a final lapping stage. Overall it takes around 25 working days to produce each crankshaft. This is art and industry together, where humans work side-by-side with romantically named robots like Romeo and Juliet that apply the valve seats to the cylinder heads and install the valve guides.
But for some things - like the final deburring, when rough edges are smoothed off, and the finishing stages - the human touch is irreplaceable. The staffers performing these tasks are graduates of Ferrari's Scuola dei Mestieri, an internal training course that leads to a diploma.
Their skill can be seen in how they resolved a problem with the seal plate, an important part of turbo engines. During the V8's development, consultant turbo specialists concluded that the only way to overcome certain issues was to reduce the engine's performance. But after working around the clock, seven days a week, Ferrari's experts managed to achieve the necessary reliability without sacrificing a single horsepower.
In the Engine Assembly area all the components - from the cylinder blocks to the heads, the crankshaft to the valves - are ready on the benches, and the V8 moves automatically from one position to another, while employees complete various tasks. From here the engine moves on to the shuttle, a large cart that travels over a track between different assembly stations. Thousands of details are added, including the timing chains, the casing that protects the distribution and the electrical system. Then it's time for the completion station, where the twin turbines are mounted, before the engine is sent to the test bench.
After the first testing cycle is complete, the transmission is added and the final verification checks carried out. The engine is ready to move to the Bodywork area, where the Ferrari's "soul" meets its physical form. And at that point, a whole new story begins.