The ‘80s were a special time for Ferrari; pop culture adored the 308, the 288 GTO was setting the world on fire, and the F40 had inspired a new generation of super cars. These events cemented my boyhood devotion to the prancing horse thanks to these iconic street cars but also their determined F1 team.
During this time two of the most significant moments in Ferrari history occurred. The legendary Enzo Ferrari passed away in August of 1988 and just one month later, Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto bumped McLaren off the podium with an unexpected one-two win at the Italian GP in Monza.
In the fall, shortly after Enzo’s passing, of 1988 I was on a vacation with my parents in Austria, and one rainy day I convinced them to drive to Italy. Not just any part of Italy… Maranello! It was my wish to see where all the cars from my dreams were created.
Arriving in the village, we were welcomed by the echoing sounds of F1 cars testing nearby on the Fiorano track. At the time there wasn’t a glamourous museum to roam, just a factory with simple black gate and a small showroom with a 288 GTO and a Fiat 500 from the ‘50s. This didn’t bother me at all, I had made it to my motoring Mecca.
Suddenly (out of what I determined to be the heavens, at the time), an F40 test car emerged from the factory gate and parked right in front of me. The driver glanced towards me and motioned to come closer. I floated toward one of the most beautiful cars my boyhood eyes had ever seen. What I remember next was me gripping the steering wheel attempting to peer over the dash. He let me sit in his car!
After emerging from my official Ferrari baptism, I later toured the grounds with my family by the Cavalino restaurant and landed in one of the two enormous gift shops. Everything from books, posters, diecasts, original race car parts and signed photos were only millimeters from the tip of my nose.
My budget was of course limited, but my father wanted me to remember this day. My joy no doubt infected his inner automotive spirit, so he pulled together some money from our family vacation budget and bought me a Ferrari keychain.
Nearly 23 years after my personal brush with Ferrari’s garden of eden, that keychain has been by my side. Until the day I decided to realize a dream, buying my very own Ferrari, a 1977 308 GT4. My keychain now had an appropriate key to chime into while I grabbed for another gear or dove into an apex on a country road.