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We get a rare glimpse into the department that restores and maintains some of the most valuable cars in the world…
Turning a corner of one of the many buildings at Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters, the sight of a 1973 Ferrari 312 B3 Formula One car’s nose and front wheel stops me dead in my tracks. It happens again as I enter the building I’ve been trying to find … except this time, I don’t know where to look. There is an immaculate 330 GTC on a lift, as well as a 500 TRC and 250 LM – both receiving full restorations – and another concourse F1 racer, a 1968 Dino 246 Tasmania. Peering inside the Dino, I’m surprised to find a plush, period-correct cockpit with cloth covering and a small, beautifully machined gearlever to the right of the steering wheel. The car is compact, sleek and beautiful.
My reverie is interrupted by the greetings of two friendly employees with an invitation to follow them to their archive, a place that is the main reason this entire department actually exists. Sitting down at a large wooden desk, the head of the department, Luigino Barp, takes out a folder from one of the high shelves and places it in front of me. “This is the folder we have of the first Ferrari, a 125 S,” he explains. We carefully leaf through the engineers’ technical drawings of the fuel pump and the connecting rod. Although it was a 1947 model, the drawings are actually dated from 1946. “We have all the details of the first 30 000 cars up to 1979 here in the archive. From there onwards, it is all on computer.” These documents are used daily to check details when maintaining or restoring cars. “We learn something new every day. Back in the early days, every panel on a Ferrari had a number, so now we can tell when a car has been modified or crashed,” he says.
Ferrari Classiche was opened in 2006 with only 14 staff members and today the department has grown to 24, of which seven staffers work in this archive office. “The service has evolved over the years,” explains Barp. “Initially, Classiche was dedicated to certification and more basic maintenance of clients’ cars, but within a short period of time, we started with light restorations, acquiring further experience and skills.” To show me more of the physical work they do, Barp takes me down to the immaculately clean workshop, where a couple of technicians are busy rebuilding engines, while another is intently focused on retrimming a steering wheel in leather. To one side, the iconic shapes of two 250 GTOs are instantly recognisable under their red covers. They tease me by lifting the cover off a corner of one car … but that’s all I’m allowed to see. Client confidentiality is respected; after all, GTOs are worth several R100 million.
“We’ve worked on some of the most significant collectors’ Ferraris over the years, with a number of key restorations, including four 250 GTOs. There have been many highlights, such as our first concourse prize for Best Restoration at the 2009 Villa d’Este with a 1956 250 GT Coupé Pinin Farina. “A significant change over the years is how our position on complete originality has been accepted in Ferrari collector circles. An example is the client who agreed to return the ex-Steve McQueen 1968 275 GTB4 to its original coupé form after it had been chopped to make a NART Spider replica in the 1980s,” Barp enthuses. I enquired as to whether the department receives emails requesting model details for a “barn find” upon which the sender has stumbled. With a wry smile, Barp confirms they do, but info is not simply shared. It would depend on the sender confirming ownership and what information they require.
Restoring classic racecars represents its own set of challenges, given how often each model was changed and updated during a season. If an owner wants to revitalise a 1960s Formula One car, a decision needs to be taken as to exactly which race the car should be restored. Wings and stickers were often changed between races, or the car might have been involved in a crash. This is where the archive proves invaluable. While Enzo Ferrari was intensely focused on building and developing the next racecars, he made sure notes about the cars were constantly taken, especially at race meetings. Thankfully, the company had the foresight to keep these records safe and now they are priceless documents that are used to preserve and restore some of the most exhilarating road and racecars ever built. As expected, there is a significant waiting list for Ferrari Classiche’s services. For restorations, its fully booked into 2018 and the current average turnaround time for such a project is 14 months.