Past Masters

Ferrari Classiche helps to preserve and restore Maranello’s legacy.

Photo: Past Masters 1
September 1, 2022

Ferrari reached its 75th birthday this year and the marque has every reason to trumpet the milestone. For starters, the Italian automaker has rolled out a plethora of delectable road cars over the years that were among the sports-car elite of their day. Second are the equally prolific race cars that tasted success in a diverse array of iconic races, from the Mille Miglia to Le Mans and F1 circuits such as Monaco, Silverstone, and Spa.

Given this glittering heritage, it’s no surprise many historic Ferraris change hands for millions of dollars, with the priciest examples costing more than the ritziest residential properties in New York or London. It’s a veritable goldmine for Ferrari to tap into, which is why the Classiche (pronounced CLAS-si-kay) division was established 18 years ago with the mission of certifying and restoring the company’s older models.

“The very first idea started at the beginning of 2000,” explains the head of Ferrari Classiche, Andrea Modena. “It was [then-Ferrari F1 team boss] Jean Todt’s consideration that our story and heritage were so important that we needed to establish an initiative to preserve them. The formal start of the Classiche division was in 2004.”

CERTIFICATIONS of authenticity are usually a joint effort between the factory and official Ferrari dealers around the world. The latter does the research and evaluation on clients’ cars, and they are

then able to be certified in Maranello. This isn’t always possible to do remotely, however, especially for cars that have an extensive racing history or which were built in very small numbers.

Photo: Past Masters 2

“Our remote network isn’t usually able to certify these cars, as the detailed information pertaining to them isn’t available outside of Maranello, and there are some tests and evaluations that can only be done here,” says Modena, noting that Classiche performs between 520 and 560 certifications per year. “There’s a cut-off point of 1974-75—the era of the Dino—when production within Maranello moved from a very craftsmanship-oriented, bespoke building operation to a more industrialized process. From that period on, the information that Ferrari was providing its international network was much more extensive than in the past. With cars built since that time, our dealers around the world have all the information they need to operate directly on the car.”

A model like the 512 BB, which debuted in 1976, can be certified (or restored) remotely by a Ferrari dealer, since information about the car is readily available. But for something like the 275 GTB, which was introduced in 1964, things can get complicated.

“In that era, each car was literally built one by one,” explains Modena. “From the very beginning, each customer was asking for their car to be built to their individual specification, meaning that no two were exactly the same. What’s more, many examples of the 275 have a racing story behind them, which means there are often many previous accidents and, possibly, bodywork changes over the years that need to be rectified. These operations are only possible here in Maranello.”

One of the keys to Classiche’s ability to certify a particular Ferrari’s originality is that it possesses detailed blueprints and specifications for tens of thousands of cars. These records are neatly filed within immaculate red binders in a pristine archive room.

“Enzo Ferrari was a visionary, and you can see why in this room,” Modena says. “These archives contain detailed records of the first 30,000 cars produced by the factory. From the very first one built in 1947 to the 30,000th one. Enzo Ferrari wanted extremely detailed records of each part in every single car because that helped him and the racing team to improve.”

Photo: Past Masters 3

He pulls a random binder, which turns out to contain records for s/ns 8501 to 8599. The pages inside are immaculately preserved, each one containing exhaustive, neatly handwritten specifications.

“This particular car has chassis type 57165, chassis number 8533 GT, engine type 20965, engine number 8533,” says Modena, reading from one of the pages. “The engine and chassis numbers match, hence we speak about matching numbers in authentic cars.

“Here we have notes about each aspect of the engine’s assembly,” he continues. “From engine block, conrods, pistons, and every single seal used. The engine was completed on April 22, 1966. The chief of the assembly department was Mr. Franchini, and when the engine went on the dyno, the ambient temperature was 18 degrees C, with a humidity of 80 percent and atmospheric pressure of 753 mm. The records also contain details of, let’s say, not only the type of spark plugs used in a particular car, as this is an important part, but even down to much smaller details—for example a single seal that was made specifically for an individual car due to the owner’s request to run a specific race.”

According to Modena, the documentation contains the same level of detailed information about the gearbox, differential, brakes, suspension, cooling system, instrumentation, and every other facet of the car.

“The records also contain commercial documents, so I can see that this car was ordered by Franco-Britannic Autos Limited, which was our importer in Paris,” he says. “The car was a 330 GT coupe Pininfarina 2+2. It was ordered on the 14th of January, 1966. The paint color was Amaranto with beige leather upholstery. The code of the leather, VM 3309, indicates it was done by Connolly. This car was equipped with a radio, electric windows, and air-conditioning. The car was delivered on the 26th of May, 1966, and was sold for $8,000.”

Photo: Past Masters 4

No set of records is perfect, of course. In the mid-2010s, Classiche faced a very challenging assignment when tasked with restoring a 225 Sport that had been partly destroyed in a fire back in the 1950s. The documentation regarding the original interior had been lost, so the Maranello team instead examined the records of all the other Ferraris of this type built in the early 1950s to ensure the new interior’s spec would be as faithful as possible.

THAT BRINGS US to Classiche’s second, closely related mission: restoring older models. The department restores roughly 25 cars every year, and has performed some 420 to 450 restorations since 2004.

“We generally take 18 to 24 months for a full restoration,” says Modena. “We typically take longer than other restoration companies to complete projects, but this is in order to respect the authenticity of the process. There’s a lot of research that goes into finding the right parts and right suppliers, plus tracing the full history of modifications done during the life cycle of each car.”

The cost of a full restoration can run up to €1 million, but it all depends on the model being restored and how much work is involved.

“If the customer comes in with a brief to preserve as much as possible of the original parts, sometimes the cost adds up to more than would be the case if the parts were to be replaced or reproduced,” Modena explains of a trend that’s becoming more popular. “For example, the process of restoring leather that’s 60 years old is often harder and takes longer than replacing it with new leather that respects the specificity of the time.”

Photo: Past Masters 5

Ferrari has traditionally produced many mechanical parts in-house, so Classiche leverages this expertise to re-create and rebuild components.

“We use our foundry to make a new engine block or gearbox case when required,” says Modena. “In some cases, we have to rely on an external supplier for a component, and then it’s a case of extensive research to see who can follow us in the details and specificity of each single piece.”

As an example, he cites the recent restoration of a 1969 312 F1. “To overhaul the engine, we had to re-create from scratch the half-bearings for the crankshaft,” Modena says. “We were able to find a supplier who could create the part as it was done in 1969.

“In a previous era, the way to fasten piping was not to use automatic clamping, as we do today,” he continues. “Customers ask us to respect this process, even if it means you can sometimes have some leaks. Leakage was part of the history of that car. Take, for example, this 1954 Indy [375 Indianapolis, also known as the Monoposto Corsa Indianapolis] behind us. It’s equipped with a 1951 engine that has a main shaft that does not have the type of seal that’s used today, and this meant that it used to leak oil. It was leaking oil in its day, and it is leaking oil today because we’ve respected the original specification in its restoration.”

Despite this commitment to authenticity, customers can request alterations to their car—vis-à-vis its original state—as long as certain conditions are met.

Photo: Past Masters 6

“Let’s say a customer asks for black leather upholstery where the car was originally trimmed in tan leather,” says Modena. “We can do it if that model was offered in its day with that particular type and color of leather.”

There’s also the possibility for more significant alterations, such as different wheels or brakes, provided that specification was offered on that particular model. In such cases, the modification from the car’s original condition would be marked on the certification papers, but it would still be certified as an authentic car.

“What we are doing here is to respect the authenticity of the project, and we go back in a sort of time machine to that moment,” Modena explains. “It’s true that major advances in production technology help us today, but we really want to respect the spirit of the original. While we’d produce an engine block exactly as it was done in the past, one example where modern technology helps is in using a vibration table to remove sand from a molded component, whereas, in the past, they would only be able to hammer the part to achieve this.”

Classiche tries to take a similar approach when it comes to tires. “Recently, many tire suppliers have gotten on board with the idea of reproducing historic tires—using modern technology but following the compound behavior of that time,” says Modena. “So, for example, Pirelli has a specific line called Pirelli Collezione, which is dedicated to very old cars. Michelin and Goodyear are also reproducing a wide range of vintage tires, so it’s usually not that difficult to source period-correct tires for our restored cars.”

While Classiche has restored an impressive variety of road and race cars over the years, the specific models, and what owners are looking for, changes regularly.

“It is linked to the fact that the world of collectible cars follows certain waves,” says Modena. “I was surprised while walking through the workshop a few days ago to find we had four 275s in for restoration at the same time. That’s because in this moment interest in the 275 is ramping up and their values are starting to escalate. We have a very good representation of Dinos, both coupe and GTS, so that’s also a car in which there is plenty of interest at the moment.

“The younger collectors are people who would like to enjoy cars, so they ask for cars to be put in a condition not only to be perfect but also to be used,” he adds. “On the other hand, most older collectors prefer to simply keep cars in their private collection.

“More and more, our customers are asking to use the car as it was meant to be used,” concludes Modena. “If you had been here three days ago, the workshop was full as we had seven customers who brought in their cars to have them checked and prepared before they ran them in the Mille Miglia.”

Enthusiasts who venture down the path of owning a classic Ferrari are fueled by passion. Many of them remember seeing these cars when they were young, and now that they are in a position to afford one, they can realize their long-held dream of ownership. Since some of these machines are worth virtually their weight in gold, the exhaustive research and craftsmanship that Classiche puts into restoring them seem perfectly appropriate.

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