Feature: Inside the Ferrari factory

By: David Dowsey, Photography by: Filippo Alfero

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Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory Inside the Ferrari factory

Unique Cars puts on the red overalls and goes behind factory walls to see what it takes to build, repair and restore a Ferrari

Feature: Inside the Ferrari factory
Inside the Ferrari factory

First published Unique Cars magazine, issue #277 (Sept-Oct, 2007)

Inside the Ferrari factory

Just over 100,000 Ferraris have been made over the past 60 years and the majority are still burning rubber. To their owners they are precious jewels; to the casual observer they are simply expensive toys. However you put it they are certainly valuable.
Ferrari knows this only too well. That’s why they have made a commitment to their ‘family’ that no matter how new, old, or ‘ordinary’ the car, they can give it the very best treatment.

Unique Cars has just returned from Maranello where we learned how Ferraris get the silver service; how they are made, how they are maintained and how they are brought back to life.


BIRTH OF A LEGEND

You might be horrified – or merely surprised – to find out where your family sedan comes from. Got a German car? It could have been built in South Africa and your Japanese sports car might come from China.

But if you have a Ferrari it came from Maranello, Italy. Full stop. Every Ferrari leaves through the factory gates; it’s central to the Ferrari philosophy.

Despite their limited production of around 6000 examples per annum the Ferrari factory is vast. Housing a small hand assembly line, engine works, foundry and wind tunnel – the Formula One department is also housed close by but is shrouded in mystery – the Ferrari factory, which has a total area of 252,000sqm and employs about 2000 people, is equipped to handle almost any part of the design and build process.

Central to their philosophy – that the worker is in the middle of the Ferrari universe – is the Formula Uomo (Formula Man) project. Initiated by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo it aims to create the ultimate in working environments. In the mechanical machining area for instance the facility is air-conditioned to 23 degrees year-round, features natural light and real trees. And unlike many factory working environments it is almost whisper quiet.

In this building engine parts cast in the on-site foundry are polished and finished ready for the engine department to assemble into V8 and V12 powerplants. Walking through the factory I nearly trip over past and present models resting on the shop floor: GTO and GTO Evoluzione, F40, 355, 275 GTB, Daytona, 250 Lusso, 456 Barchetta. "That is to remind the workers of what they are creating," PR man Matteo Torre tells me.

In this facility one can witness best practice in the latest technology alongside precious handwork. In one section of the building are a couple of robots, christened Romeo and Juliet, which fix frozen valve seats in place, while nearby another robot silently ‘finishes’ crankshafts inside a glass booth.

In another part of the factory is the assembly facility where the cars emerge from a pile of parts into gleaming Ferraris. The facility has two lines – lineo otto cylindri for V8 models and lineo 12 cylindri for V12 machines.

The V8 models move station every 34 minutes; the more complicated V12s every 58. The first assembly station has the job of fixing the engines in place. Gradually the bodies make their way down the lines where workers hand assemble the various parts of the car – electrical looms, dashboards and trim, wheels and brakes until the car is complete and ready for testing on Maranello’s public roads.

Meanwhile in another part of the building dozens of leather workers intricately complete the Poltrona Frau interiors. Single cow hides are thoroughly checked and imperfections clearly marked. They are then laid on a table where a technician, using a laser cutting machine, selects the best parts of the hide for the exposed sections like seat facings and dashboard.

Small workstations are occupied by women who fashion the leather sections into recognisable interior parts on their sewing machines. The finished trim is then fixed in place on the assembly line. In the ‘leather shop’ many of the workers’ benches are signed by past drivers and feature photos and small model cars. The Ferrari passion is palpable.

Naturally enough there are parts of the factory that are off limits. But we did spy, growling around the roads linking various factory departments, a heavily disguised machine looking at first glance like the famous 250 GT SWB ‘bread van’ of the early-1960s. It was of course a prototype of the next Ferrari to hit the showrooms. We could tell you all about it but…


FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE

A couple of facts: Ferraris are extremely expensive, very fast, technically complicated and these days, constructed from aluminium. Trying to repair one without the requisite training is like a 92-year old man trying to give birth. Impossible.

Ferrari is more than aware of this and so they take their after-sales care very seriously. So seriously in fact that Ferrari wanted Unique Cars to witness the lengths they go to in order to set things right when a Ferrari owner gets things very, very wrong.

Located just outside the factory walls is the new SAT (Servizio Assistenza Tecnica – Technical Assistance Department). It is here over two days that we undertook classroom and workshop instruction – just like real Ferrari technicians – to get the inside line on the latest techniques in repair and diagnostics. For a mechanical disaster like me, it was both technical and heavy going…

Day One consisted of training in the intricacies of aluminium construction and repair. Ferrari has gone the all-aluminium route in its bid to shed weight. It’s a great material for cars – that is until you stack one. Then you have a problem, possibly a very big problem.

Aluminium does have advantages over steel but it also has its complications. It’s lighter but aluminium is not as strong so more of the material is needed to match steel’s robustness. And for the body technician aluminium presents many challenges.

A Ferrari’s aluminium extrusions and pressings cannot be successfully stretched back into shape after a prang. Like a drink can, it’s designed to be formed only once. Crush it and you can never mould it back in place.

Many people can get a body looking straight, we are told and a gleaming new coat of paint can deceive but the consequences of having a subsequent accident in a poorly-repaired Ferrari are too graphic to contemplate. So no, young Johnno down at Dodgy Brothers’ Panels is not going to be able to fix your Ferrari adequately.

In the result of an accident – even a seemingly innocuous one – your local Ferrari technician will have the car placed on an Italian-made and designed Car Bench. It’s very clever and logical to use and since Ferrari has gone to aluminium technology it is a must for any Ferrari-approved repairer.

Designed to be used by one technician, it’s a platform for testing the tolerances on an accident-damaged Ferrari. Using a system of movable jigs technicians can test for chassis misalignment. Any parts that are damaged or out of whack need to be cut out and new sections – with interior sleeves fitted for strengthening – need to be welded in place.

Welding aluminium is about as foreign to me as knitting teapot cosies. But I gave it a red hot go and the results were non troppo terribile. I get the feeling judging by my tutors’ faces that I might need a bit more training before they let me loose in the Ferrari factory unescorted...

So if you have a 599 GTB Fiorano with a July 2007 build you have no need to worry; I didn’t put it together. Someone with an Italian name like Giuseppe or Luigi did it for you. And they did a better job than I would have!

Totally spent and confused I returned for Day Two: electronics. Hmm, I know what a light switch is for but that’s about the extent of it so I knew I was in for a long day.

Diagnosing engine and gearbox problems these days requires some serious training. Continued maintenance of knowledge is necessary too as the goal posts keep moving all the time as new technology develops. Approved Ferrari workshops are all equipped with the correct diagnostics computers to get ‘inside’ the hearts of engines and gearboxes these days.
It’s all very clever and eliminates the need for any guesswork.

Got a problem with your F430? A technician can plug in a palm-sized device under the car’s dashboard and presto the problem reveals itself on a computer screen. Of course that’s just the beginning. There is the little matter of repairing or replacing parts that may require the removal of an engine or gearbox. That’s when more traditional spanners and wrenches come into play.

My two days at the SAT really did give me a new appreciation of the skill and knowledge of the people who work on these complicated cars. Back in Australia/New Zealand there are 33 technicians, six service managers, three service advisors and one warranty manager looking after local Ferrari customers.

While another couple of days may have come in handy before I tackle Sam Newman’s V12 rebuild it did give me an insight into the huge responsibility that rests on the shoulders of anyone who dons the famous red overalls.

At the end of the course I was presented with an official passaporto which Ferrari technicians use to clock up training experience. Mine includes two days of training so with my chest pumped out I approached Ferrari’s front desk and in my best Italian begged them for a job. "No signore, tu sei molto stupido," I was told. I hope that’s Italian for "Yes sir, we are very interested."


POLISHING PEARLS

Located inside part of the original factory right near the famous gated entrance and opposite Enzo Ferrari’s old office is Ferrari’s Classiche (classic) division. It’s a one-stop shop for Ferrari customers wanting to bring their cars back to life or to have them authenticated.

The Classiche division offers a three-pronged service: certification, technical assistance and restoration/spare parts for Ferrari GT cars at least 20-years old or racing cars of any vintage. It’s divided into two camps – one dedicated to Formula One machines (F1 Cliente) and one to GT road and sports cars.

Already having undergone certification and sitting in the Classiche entrance when Unique Cars arrived was the very important Ferrari 315 S which won the last outing of the Mille Miglia in 1957 at the hands of Piero Taruffi. But that was just the beginning.

Worthy of a museum at any time of the year, Classiche’s workshops revealed a 330 GTS convertible that was part way through a complete restoration having been in Classiche’s care for five months already (a typical full resto takes between 6-12 months).

Alongside the blue convertible were a delectable 275 GTS, a 250 GTB SWB, and an F40 – which just narrowly made the 20-year cut having been made in 1987. A gleaming Dino 246 GT in its original burnt orange colour was nearing completion, while there was also a 250 Berlinetta and 365 GTB/4 (Daytona) to drool over as well.

A 340 MM Spider of 1953 with Touring of Milan bodywork was receiving the final touches on a hoist while many other significant cars rested peacefully under covers. Even a more ‘mundane’ four-seat 400i, that was in for some restoration work, proved the point that every Ferrari is special.

At the heart of Classiche’s mission is to keep as many Ferraris ‘alive’ as possible.

"There are a lot of Ferrari collectors," explained Ferrari Director General Amedeo Felisa. "If they are loyal to us, why not help them to keep their cars as they were built? We have the drawings and the plans so we can do this."

Cars that are submitted for certification undergo a thorough inspection at Classiche or at authorised centres around the world. Consulting Ferrari’s extensive archives an expert committee known as COCER (Comitato Certificazione – Certification Committee) chaired by Piero Ferrari will then evaluate the mechanical make-up of each car.

A technical examination is undertaken to see if the car is in working order and whether its chassis, engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, wheels, bodywork and interiors are original or comply with original specs.

But that’s not the end of the story. If a car lacks some genuine parts this can be rectified as the Classiche division is equipped to reproduce major mechanical components; they can even recast new engine blocks restamped with the original engine number providing the original block is destroyed by Ferrari.

If a new engine or gearbox is required it will be stamped with the next available number in the series and a note made on the certification papers and the plaque which adorns each certified vehicle.

Classiche will, if you twist their arm, make modifications to a Ferrari but their main aim always is to bring the cars back to their original state. This helps safeguard the vehicle, protects or even improves value and ensures entry into official historic events.

In researching a racing car’s provenance, books, magazines, internet and microfiche records are consulted. There is also the crucial matter of the board having access to the original Ferrari factory build sheets which state all important details including every numbered part and the original trim and body colour.

Ferrari has fortuitously kept the blueprints and detailed hand-written records of all the models the company has built over the past 60 years in addition to details of every nut, bolt and part used. This allows Classiche to remanufacture parts either on-site or through official suppliers.

The extensive archive houses books containing drawings of all models ever made, along with microfiche records, build sheets, paint chips and a library of books and magazines relating to Ferrari.

Classiche employs 19 staff – 11 in the workshop tinkering with the cars and eight in the office chasing up certification. To date it has had 650 requests for their services and since opening on July 25 last year has certified 410 cars.

 

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