This Is What Happens When Ferrari Throws A Birthday Party In New York City
Photography by Kieran Buttrick
New York City may be famous for its horse-drawn carriages in Central Park, but this past weekend saw a different equine breed captivating Manhattan. As you know, Ferrari has been celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017, and they recently used the island as a showcase of its legendary history. Fans of the cavallino rampante were treated to a number of exhibits dedicated to sharing the brand’s legacy and the cars that helped it achieve such clout, and I counted myself among the crowds for a day spent criss-crossing the city.
As we made our way around the different locations, we were treated to a historical perspective on each car—which ranged from a 212 Inter to a Schumacher F1 car for instance—and the selection of automobiles was perfectly curated to show the brand as a whole; given the constraints of something as dense as NYC, the range of cars could never have been exhaustive of the marque’s history, but the group that was assembled here was a fine representation of the different facets and eras of Ferrari cars, both on and off the race track.
The Sotheby’s location was perhaps the most impressive assortment of the weekend in my eyes, and the quintet of cars there was an astounding display of history. Placed directly in the middle of the room was a 250 LM (you may recognize it from our film last week), and sat below the centrally-located skylight it took on the aura of a heavenly body. I suppose that might be a bit dramatic to some, but seeing that car in the metal and presented like this was truly otherworldly. Its celestial neighbors in the Sotheby’s building were a 250 Berlinetta, the previously mentioned 212 Inter, a 250 GT Berlinetta, a 250 Pininfarina Cabriolet Series I, and a 275 GTB, rounding out the equation of Ferrari’s dominance in design in the 1950s-1960s.
Having them all lined up together like this presented a chance to trace the evolution between models, and I enjoyed also the visible contrast between racing Ferraris and their road going siblings of the time. For instance, the leather luggage straps and cushioned seats of the GT cars looked extremely inviting for hopping around countries in the European sixties, while the 250 LM with its open shift gate and aluminum seats just looked the business. Maybe not the best car for cruising the country, but then again that wasn’t the purpose of cars like this.
I’d seen all of these cars countless times on screens, so having the ability to inspect them up close was a welcome change from zooming in on my phone to try to sort out the details. Looking at the intricacies in person really lets one appreciate the design to the fullest—to see how each design element of engineering necessity was incorporated into the intricate bodywork was an activity I could have spent much longer doing were it not for the other cars to see. It’s funny how it works, how the things we enjoy most of all seem to come in clusters, forcing us to choose between them. With that said, I yanked myself away from the Sotheby’s building and headed down to Rockefeller Center, where the focal point of the Ferrari exhibition was held.
The weekend was socially focused, with prizes given out to those who posted about the event on social media, and so it made sense to have people moving about the city rather than piling around one pile of cars. If there was a center though, this was certainly it. The spread of cars was again a remarkable roster, and one with much more diversity in its ranks than the previous group. The lineup included a 166 MM (the oldest car of the weekend, built in 1949), the last 250 GT California ever built, a gorgeous 365 Daytona, a white 70th Anniversary edition LaFerrari, a 288 GTO, a 512 TR, a 550 Superamerica, a 488 Challenge car, and one of Michael Schumacher’s race cars, an F2001 that brought him his fourth Formula One Drivers’ Championship in 2001.
Placing these cars in the middle of New York City in such an iconic location of course drew a huge crowd of people, and though it was at times hard to get a good view, I was happy to see so many other interested people around me. And when I could get through the throngs of tip-toeing bodies I really enjoyed the 166 MM most of all. To study such an old object, let alone one this beautiful, always confers on me a sense of real, meaningful history, and this being one of the oldest cars to wear the Ferrari badge made it all the more interesting. To see this car juxtaposed with the Formula One machine nearby was a trip. That pair was a testament to the enduring talents of Ferrari engineers and designers, and that massive gap in time between them made me excited for the future to come.