Enzo Ferrari boasted proudly, said one of his engineers, of his “immoral” actions. He wasn’t referring to his private life—although in this he was not entirely without reproach—but his knack for marriages of racing-car components that broke the rules and created new kinds of cars from the raw material available to him. One of his first such immoral projects stunned the racing world in 1935.
Ferrari had several points to prove. A decade earlier he had given up a moderately successful career as a racing driver to concentrate on his responsibilities at the great Milanese automaker Alfa Romeo. There, he acted as the right arm of Giorgio Rimini, a senior aide to company chief Nicola Romeo. Ferrari also enjoyed his role as the Alfa Romeo distributor in Modena.
However, Ferrari, in his own words an “agitator of men,” had another idea. It matured at a dinner in the company of Augusto and Alfredo Caniato, textile-making brothers and enthusiastic amateur racers from Ferrara. Joined by Mario Tadini, the Caniatos in 1929 gained the backing of Alfa Romeo and tiremaker Pirelli to set up Ferrari as the chief of a private racing team: Scuderia Ferrari (scuderia simply meaning “team”). At the young age of 31, Enzo Ferrari was ready to put wheels under other drivers.
Soon a capacious headquarters and workshop was acquired on Modena’s Viale Trento e Trieste, headed by able and experienced mechanician Luigi Bazzi. The Scuderia attracted seasoned pilots Achille Varzi and Tazio Nuvolari, as well as numerous amateurs, and entered both sports and Grand Prix Alfa Romeos in races major and minor. Ferrari’s main rivals were not only the agile cars of Ettore Bugatti, but also the maturing products of the Maserati brothers.
Although Enzo had excellent relations with Alfa Romeo, the automaker only erratically delivered examples of its top racing machine, the central-seat Type B, to him. Seeing few chances to win, Varzi defected to Maserati during the 1930 season; Nuvolari followed three years later.
But Ferrari’s Scuderia had evolved into an engineering-racing division of Alfa Romeo, and that same year Enzo took over Alfa’s competition function entirely. This more businesslike orientation led to the interests of the founding Caniatos being bought out by Count Carlo Felice Trossi (a great personality as well as a driver of considerable merit).
With the arrival in 1934 of new Grand Prix rules requiring cars to weigh no more than 750 kilograms (1,654 pounds) without tires and liquids, Alfa’s Type B was at first competitive. Soon, however, it was swept aside by advanced new creations from German carmakers Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. Though the brilliant engineer Vittorio Jano had started work on a new Alfa, in the meantime the best had to be made of existing machinery. This meant enticing Italy’s best driver back to Scuderia Ferrari.
Tazio Nuvolari had been doing well with Maserati, which had its own new car in the wings. What could lure him back to Enzo’s team? Enter an “immoral” idea: an Alfa Type B with one engine in the front and another in the back.