It felt like having Wonka’s Golden Ticket. Being admitted to the factory from which so many legendary cars emerge fills me with wonder and awe. We’re going in, but you should know in advance: Ferrari doesn’t allow any photos to be taken inside. Top secret!
Maranello is a 20-minute cab ride down the road from Modena. It was Monday morning, so I got an early start. Yes, they have traffic in Italy, too. No, they don’t all drive Ferraris… some of them drive Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, Fiats…
Arriving at Ferrari, the cab driver pointed to my left. There it was – the famous entryway to Ferrari. I got out and walked into reception (a Ferrari-red desk with Ferrari-red accents) and announced my arrival. I was seated in a waiting area with a few other guests (Ferrari owners, unlike me). There were a few miniature Ferrari models on display as well as an F1 car on a wall.
One of the first things you notice throughout the Ferrari factory is that it’s clean and orderly. They run a tight ship. These people are serious about their product, and the conditions provided for workers reflect that. They began an initiative in the 1997 they call “Uomo.” With this plan, the factory was upgraded to provide both safe and sustainable conditions. It’s well-lit with natural light, and it’s filled with trees and gardens. The temperature remains comfortable, and the decibel levels are low. They’ve reduced CO2 emissions and conserved energy. Bicycles are provided for employees to get from building to building on the campus. And employees are both heard and rewarded.
Mechanics and Engines
In the mechanical workshop, we took a look at the engine building process: materials, assembly of cylinder heads, cylinder blocks, crankshafts… There are three work shifts, with no more than 75-80 workers on a shift. We met “Romeo and Juliet” – a pair of robots (well, two pairs, actually – one for V8 and one for V12) that handle fitting cylinder heads into valves. Engines on display were not just for Ferrari, but also for Alfa Romeo and Maserati. Turns out Ferrari provides quite a bit to Maserati.
There’s also a model in this building of Ferrari World. Ferrari World is a huge amusement park in the middle of the desert in Abu Dhabi. It boasts the fastest roller coaster in the world at 250 km/hour.
Between buildings, we visitors rode a shuttle bus. We passed the wind tunnel building, where they test the single-seaters for F1. We also passed the paint shop, where they paint 30 Ferraris a day. (They paint Maseratis, too.)
In the engine assembly building, there are two workshifts. They assemble 54 V8 engines per day for Ferrari and Maserati, but only 9 V12 engines per day. Our tour guide pointed out with pride that the Ferrari engines have about 100 hp more than Maserati. The LaFerrari clocks in at 963 hp!
There’s a replica model of the engine from the 125S, the first Ferrari cranked out of Maranello in 1947. Only three were made, and Enzo had had them destroyed because they weren’t “winners.”
Back outside, you can hear the sound of excitement: the Pisto de Fiorano race test track. Someone was giving it a good run today.
We finally reached the moment we’d been waiting for: the body assembly building. No matter what you expect, you aren’t prepared for the breathtaking sight of a variety of sweet, brand-new Ferraris rolling off the line. The 458 Spyder, the California T and more in colors of red, black, white, yellow, gray and blue. I’ll take one of each, in each color, thank you.
They complete 24 or 25 cars per day on the first floor (V8), with about six per day on the second floor (V12). They produced 6,922 cars last year. Every single car is street tested locally. Imagine driving around Maranello in that kind of Ferrari traffic.
The cars move through the line, each on its own platform, on a giant conveyor belt. The platform can raise or lower, and rotate 360 degrees. It makes it easy to access and work on every spot of the car. There are several stations, like the station for “marrying” the transmission into the car, another one for where the wheels and tires are put on (Station 27, for the record) and one for the windshield installation.
On the second floor, we see an FF (Ferrari’s first four-wheel drive) in production. We also get a good look through the upholstery department, where they’re cutting patterns out of South American leather, used by Ferrari beginning in the 1960s on their F1 cars. Other materials include Kevlar!
We step aside to allow a completely self-operated droid pass. It’s a large platform-y kind of thing, but it seems to know what it’s doing and where it’s going. This is where Ferrari meets Star Wars.
F1 and Museum
Another building houses a very low quantity of the F1 cars produced, and they also sell used F1 cars after the seasons are through. There are also racing versions of Ferrari’s street cars. None of these are street legal. The cars in this building are way more expensive than the “average” Ferrari (Michael Schumacher’s ’04 car went for EU 3 million!). Not only that, but in order to purchase, you have to have a special garage, certified mechanic, and your own track to drive them on. It’s like your own life-sized Sizzlers driving. Note that you’d also have to replace the engine about every 3,500 km, at a cost of EU 3-400,000. You can, however, pick up an engineless replica for a mere EU 150,000.
The Museum, of course, is filled with the sort of wonders you expect from Ferrari. They had a special “California Dreaming” exhibit (in my honor, of course). Turns out that California is a big market for Ferrari (no surprise). In fact, Ferrari credits the California market as playing a large role in the rise of Ferrari and its success as a manufacturer. Also displayed are several F1 cars, helmets of former Ferrari drivers, a display of some of the wind tunnel models, and a huge assortment of trophies.
You’re in a daze when you leave after the tour. Maybe that’s why they don’t let you test drive one on the Pisto de Fiorano. They do, however, turn you loose on the factory store across the street. And you can practically go nuts in there – from clothing to accessories, it’s all less expensive than the cars.
Not far from Ferrari, near the town of Bologna, is Lamborghini. But that will have to be another day. Ferrari has wiped me out.
(Read part I here)
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