This Ferrari Exhibit In London Goes Deeper Than The Hand-Formed Aluminum
Photography by Laura Kukuk
I found myself with a few hours to play with on a rainy Sunday afternoon in London recently, and I knew the perfect place to get away from the dreary weather. I’ve wanted to find an excuse to return to the city since the mid-November opening of the “Ferrari: Under the Skin” exhibition at the Design Museum in London. Yes, it is another 70th anniversary Ferrari celebration; the year isn’t over yet! But this one was unique from the rest, though it’s not because of the size of this temporary collection.
It is fairly small in terms of cars on view, but it takes one through the whole history and innovation process at a glimpse. Think of it as a summary rather than a tome. The cars that were there however, were among the best the brand’s ever stuck a prancing horse to. Cars from both private collections and museums around the world have been assembled here, together with original sketches and design materials, manufacturing footage, and many more elements needed to complete the story besides the vehicles themselves.
Truth be told, some cars here are very well-known, and there’s always a bit of fatigue in seeing the same things even if they are special cars. However, a few of them were exceptionally rare, and ones that I’d only seen in photographs previously.
Again, what made this exhibition special though is the story it was telling, and how it was told: it’s the way the different subjects are tackled and the audience gets drawn into the world of Ferrari and the process the iconic brand has been going through for the past 70 years. Not just cars with placards in front of them, but real “in the thick of it” pieces of the process that led to their being.
I mean, let’s be honest, when does someone get to experience the full development of the iconic Italian firm, with various video explanations of the design and production processes, or view original aerodynamic studies and models and drawings, all in the same place? Well, the exhibit will run until the 18th of April, so if you find yourself nearby, you should check out “Ferrari: Under the Skin.” If you will not have the chance, keep reading and enjoy the photos!
The exhibit presents a path through time, from Enzo’s very first creation in 1947, the 125 S (featuring the only existing replica built by Ferrari back in 1987), all the way to Michael Schumacher’s F1-2000 and the 2016 LaFerrari Aperta hypercar. Not only does one get to experience the outcome of the genius minds behind these machines, there’s also an insight into his personal memorabilia along with the rest of the archival material on display.
Cars are what we’re here for, but some of the highlights for me were the original drawings and photography from the early days, usually strictly protected in Enzo’s private archive, now to be found on display here. There are the typical photos that have become infamous now, but also some very rare sketches and snapshots. These historical details paired with some of Ferraris most important vehicular heritage creates an atmosphere where the audience can’t avoid being drawn into the legend.
Of those vehicles, the following two were my favorites—though there were plenty of Prancing Horses to choose from!
Above is the first ever officially branded Ferrari: the 125 S. Enzo was 49 years old when this car was completed, but truth be told, he never really grew up, and he practiced the mindset of a young engineer and designer for his whole life. The car was a collaboration between Enzo Ferrari and Gioacchino Colombo, the race car designer and Alfa Romeo engineer who came up with the first Ferrari V12 that would lead to a string of them, becoming known collectively and colloquially as “Colombo V12s,” and so the journey began. On March 12th, Enzo takes the car, now known as the 125 S, out for its first test drive on the open road.
The Ferrari Tipo 500 Formula 2 racing car from 1952 was another standout from the company’s nascent years as a manufacturer. It was the Grand Prix champion in ’52 and ’53 with Alberto Ascari behind the steering wheel (the top GP rules switched to Formula 2 from Formula 1 at the time, mainly due to Alfa Romeo’s departure from the sport). The Tipo 500 was a dominant contender seeing as few other teams had a car built to the new spec, a monoposto bullet built to perfection.
The fact that I had the honor of examining a 500/625 a while ago obviously does plays a role in my choice of this car as well. Once you break a machine down to every screw and every engineering and historical detail, it is hard not to fall in love with them. Especially when you’re dealing with one of the world’s most successful competition cars in terms of Grand Prix wins: Ascari’s record of seven consecutive GP Championship race wins stood until 2013.