When you're talking about machines built for speed, they don't get much faster or sexier than those from Ferrari. Founded more than 60 years ago, the Italian brand has secured a berth at the top of the heap with its high-dollar, high-performance sports cars.
Ferrari's roots lie in Scuderia Ferrari (which means "stable of Ferrari"), an outfit founded in 1929 by Enzo Ferrari for the purpose of organizing amateur drivers for participation in racing competitions. Ferrari was an accomplished racecar driver, with numerous wins under his belt. The company's prancing horse symbol was originally seen on the fuselage of a plane flown by a heroic Italian pilot; Ferrari was invited to use the emblem by the pilot's mother, as a good-luck charm for his vehicles.
By the 1930s, Ferrari had begun laying the groundwork to build a vehicle of his own. Two cars were produced in 1940, but they did not bear the Ferrari name. The cars participated in the Mille Miglia race, but soon after, World War II put a halt to their time on the racetrack. In 1943, Ferrari began constructing a factory on a plot of land he owned in the village of Maranello; it suffered bomb damage, but was completely rebuilt by 1946. By the end of the decade, the first Ferrari vehicle, the 125 S, had been unveiled, as had the 166 Barchetta.
The marque scored its first world championship Grand Prix win in 1950 at the British Grand Prix. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, Ferrari continued to distinguish itself on the racetrack, racking up win after win under Enzo's solid leadership while also producing beautiful road cars such as the 250 California, 275 GTB, 365 GTB4 "Daytona" and "Dino" 246 GT, named to honor the founder's deceased son Alfredino (Dino).
By the 1970s, Ferrari sold 50 percent of his company to Fiat. Luckily, Fiat was very hands-off in its role as part owner. The sale didn't impact Ferrari's focus, and the brand continued on its path of producing exclusive, high-end machines. New models like the 308 GT4, 308 GTB and 365 GT4 BB (Berlinetta Boxer) were introduced.
The 1980s saw Fiat's stake in the company rise to 90 percent, with the remainder being owned by the Ferrari family. Enzo's son Pietro was named vice president. The decade also saw the death of the company's founder, as Enzo Ferrari passed away in Modena in 1988. During this decade, models like the Mondial, 288 GTO, F40 and Testarossa were launched.
Ferrari welcomed the Maserati brand into its family in 1997; Maserati had previously been acquired by parent company Fiat. The Ferrari team had lost some of its luster on the racetrack since the death of Enzo, but all that changed when it ushered racetrack legend Michael Schumacher into its ranks in the mid-'90s. Schumacher was responsible for several notable wins, and helped restore much of the legendary brand's glory on the track. A new V12 grand touring model, the 550 Maranello, was launched, as was the F355 sports car and F50 supercar.
The first decade of the new millennium saw Ferrari launching a variety of models. Highlights included the F430, Enzo, 599 GTB Fiorano and 458 Italia. Today, Ferrari continues to reign atop the short list for buyers with a thirst for high-priced, high-powered and highly styled Italian metal.