What to see at the new Ferrari exhibition

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Our highlights from Ferrari: Under the Skin, the Design Museum’s celebration of the iconic marque’s 70th anniversary

From Enzo Ferrari’s hand-drawn sketches to priceless sports cars, Ferrari: Under the Skin is a must for all lovers of beautiful cars and classic design

Ferrari: Under the Skin The Design Museum, London, 15 November – 15 April 2018. Adults: £18; children: £9; student/concessions: £13.50. Family (two adults, three children): £41

Ferrari: Under the Skin is the exhibition every F1 fan, petrolhead and bon viveur will be talking about for the next few months: a chance to soak in the luxury and glamour of perhaps the most iconic motoring marque of all. 

The Design Museum has brought together a unique collection of cars, documents, films and memorabilia to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first Ferrari hitting the track.

Enzo Ferrari was already 49 when he took the first sports car to bear his name for its first test drive. Ferrari had spent his life in motor racing, running teams for Alfa Romeo, before deciding to go his own way.

Peter Whitehead in action with the Ferrari 125 F1. The pilot would win the GP of Czechoslovakia in Brno, 1949

History in the making

The Second World War delayed his plans but, when the Ferrari 125 S finally appeared, it set the glorious template for Ferrari’s future: a perfect combination of technology and art, mechanics and beauty. Six of the 10 most valuable cars ever sold at auction have been Ferraris.

Only two of that first model 125 S were ever produced. The exhibition features a replica, built in 1987 to the exact original design.

The exhibition features Enzo Ferrari’s handwritten letters and drawings, tracing the early development of his cars, his company and his design philosophy.

Coming right up to date, there is an in-depth look at the production of the latest Ferrari, a hybrid – the Aperta – including hand-drawn sketches, maquettes and wind-tunnel computer models.

F150 design drawing

The rich and famous

A feeling of elegance and luxury pervades: one section of the exhibition is devoted to a gallery of celebrity owners with their Ferraris, including Brigitte Bardot, Steve McQueen, Mick Jagger and Clint Eastwood.

The real stars, though, are the Ferraris themselves. From that first 125 S, the story continues through Ferrari’s first World Championship-winning car, the Tipo 500, driven by Alberto Ascari in 1952 and 1953. Then on to Michael Schumacher’s F1 car from 2000, in which he won the marque’s first world title after a 21-year drought. (Schumacher’s racing helmet is here, too, alongside the one used by Mike Hawthorn, who also sported a bow-tie as he raced his Ferrari to the world title in 1958.)

Mick Jagger shopping for a Ferrari in the 1970s

Perhaps, even in this company, there are a couple of stand-out cars. The beautiful Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet routinely sells for over £1 million at auction – one was rumoured to have sold for over £30m. The Design Museum’s exhibition features the very first one produced, from 1957, which was given by Enzo Ferrari to his British F1 driver Peter Collins.

Then again, maybe the 166MM is the standout. Just two years after the first Ferrari was built, this model won the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, as well as the legendary Italian road race, the Mille Miglia, after which it was named.  

‘Normal’ 166MMs sell for upwards of £2m at auction but once again, the model in this exhibition has an even greater rarity value: it was built for Gianni Agnelli, of the Fiat dynasty, who loved Ferrari so much that, 20 years later, he ended up buying the whole company.

Ferrari factory, 1947

Start your engines

The exhibition is accompanied by The Design Museum’s usual free design workshops and activities for children. There is also a series of special Ferrari-themed events, including a talk on Ferrari’s design philosophy by the company’s Senior Vice President of Design (15 November) and a screening of The Race to Immortality, the acclaimed new documentary on Ferrari’s Formula 1 team in the 1950s (1 December).

Ferrari: The Race to Immortality from Design Museum on Vimeo.

Perhaps most enticing, though, is Scalextric Sunday (26 November), when visitors to the museum can have a free go racing on giant Scalextric model tracks, including the UK’s largest replica of Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix.

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