The global pandemic has inspired museums all over the world to allow access to their exhibits virtually, opening up their doors to thousands of viewers not ordinarily able – or even inclined – to visit. The Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena is the latest to do this with its latest exhibition, which brings together the one-off cars built by Ferrari for Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli and meticulously customised in close collaboration with the former principal shareholder of Fiat. This unique collection is a testament to the symbiotic relationship that developed between two of the most charismatic and authoritative figures of the 20th century and endured for over 50 years.
Gianni Agnelli and Ferrari. The Elegance of the Legend is an homage by the Maranello marque to one of its greatest touchstones, first and foremost as a loyal client and later as close confidant and partner, on the 100th anniversary of his birth on Mar 12. While waiting for government regulations to approve physical visitors, the museum is organising two free virtual live tours of around 30 minutes each day until Apr 1 – a move that benefits Ferrari fans from all over the world who can’t quite make it to Maranello yet.
A Prancing Horse enthusiast from a young age, Agnelli was consistently courteous and respectful in his proposals for highly customised special versions of certain models. For his part, the maison’s founder Enzo Ferrari was aware that the influence, aesthetic tastes and personality of a client who was both very close to the factory and familiar with working on exclusive projects, might lead to successful and farsighted choices. The duo’s close relationship produced a collection of peerlessly beautiful and seductive cars, which Agnelli drove with rigorous understatement.
One such car as the essentially elegant Ferrari 166 MM. Agnelli was so captivated by it at the 1948 Turin Motor Show that he coined a whole new term to describe its sleek lines. The word “barchetta” (little boat) has ever since been used in the sector to describe open-top racing cars. Finely customised in green and blue and with a bespoke cabin, the 166 MM was Ferrari’s first one-off for the Avvocato (the Lawyer) as Agnelli was affectionately known.
The next car to be tailored to the personality of this very special client was the 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter, which was given sophisticated detailing and styling cues that set a whole new trend. Two-tone “family” 456 blue was paired with a magnolia white roof, while two imposing headlights were designed to make high-speed driving a pleasure at night as well as during the day.
The exhibition continues with the stupendous and timeless 375 America, a coupé built by Ferrari in 1955 thanks to its symbiotic creative relationship with Battista “Pinin” Farina. Agnelli was instantly smitten and customised his car with uniquely sophisticated interior trim that included a beautifully-made clock at the centre of the tunnel.
By the end-1950s, the now well-established relationship between Agnelli and Enzo Ferrari produced yet another masterpiece in 1959 in the form of the Ferrari 400 Superamerica. Bodied and fitted out by Pininfarina, this one-off car opened a whole new chapter in Ferrari grand touring styling.
In 1984, Ferrari unveiled the legendary Testarossa, a car for which no open-top version was planned. However, two years later, the Avvocato commissioned a spider version of the famous model from Pininfarina with some highly sophisticated details, such as a newly designed engine lid and his signature livery colours: magnolia white for the soft top, Nürburgring grey bodywork and navy for the cabin.
In 2000, Agnelli once again commissioned Pininfarina to create an extreme one-off barchetta, this time using the 360 Spider as the stylistic starting point. Clothed in a silver grey livery paired with elegant blues, this particular car was a wedding gift for Luca di Montezemolo, who was Ferrari’s then chairman.
The exhibition concludes with the 2003 Formula 1 car, the culmination of an extraordinary technological and racing journey. It was unveiled by the Scuderia on Feb 7, 2003 and dedicated to Gianni Agnelli, who had passed away on Jan 24. This was a genuinely heartfelt gesture from the whole Ferrari community in memory of an unforgettable partner, client and a refined, discreet and pivotal companion on its long journey.
Ferrari Chairman John Elkann declared, “The exhibition tells of an extraordinary encounter. It combines, on the one hand, the excitement that the most beautiful cars in the world evoke in people who love driving, and on the other, the enormous respect and real passion that my grandfather had for Maranello cars. A passion that led him to make every Ferrari he owned special and which we are happy to share with all the enthusiasts."
Reserve your spot for a virtual tour now here.