Ferrari is so proud of its new hypercar that it has opened a museum to celebrate its creation. Steve Sutcliffe pays a visit to meet the man who styled Maranello’s latest masterpiece

Flavio Manzoni is not your average car design boss, even though he looks every inch the part and sports an Anglo-Italian accent that’s smoother than freshly fallen snow.

When he enters the museum that’s been created to help celebrate the car he’s just designed – the breathtakingly beautiful new LaFerrari – the atmosphere changes. Instantly. Although there’s a busload of school kids running around all over the place, none of them surely knows who he is.

But the grown-ups, the staff who run the new museum which sits just across the road from the famous factory, acknowledge Manzoni’s presence as if they are witnessing the second coming.

Ropes are hurriedly removed and some of the rowdier kids are shuffled quietly out of the way. The Man is in residence, basically, so respect from everyone present is due, with a capital ‘D’.

And then the weirdest thing happens. Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari design director and quite clearly one of the coolest dudes in the whole of Maranello, and therefore all of Italy, walks over to me, smiling, then shakes my hand and says: “Hello, Steve, how are you? I’ve been a fan of your work for many years.”

Eh? On sensing my confusion, Manzoni explains that he has been reading Autocar since the year dot and regards us as one of the best car magazines in the business. Which is a lovely thing to hear from someone so high up at Ferrari, but also a touch disarming to experience first hand.

However, once the strange but pleasant round of introductions are complete, we get down to talking about the design and creation of Manzoni’s new masterpiece, LaFerrari, a gleaming full-scale clay model of which is parked next to us. At which point Manzoni goes straight into seventh gear.

“In the beginning, in September-October 2010, we started with many different quarter-scale design concepts,” he explains. “My desire was to give a strong and very modern, futuristic taste and approach to the car – because we knew this car would be a manifesto for Ferrari. We knew we had to create a milestone.”

To do that, says Manzoni, the relationship between the car’s engineers and its designers had to be closer than ever before. “The interaction between the Ferrari design team and the engineering team was immediately strong, right from the beginning,” he says.

“To start with, we had a technical model developed by the pre-engineering department. It was a functional model representing all the needs regarding aerodynamics and so on, and the original idea was also to keep the car very small.

“But it wasn’t very nice to look at,” admits Manzoni. “It was a bit brutal, a little bit primitive. But once we understood the complexities of the aerodynamics of the car – for instance, the pressure to create airflow towards the side of the car and to the radiators – we could move forwards.”

So does Manzoni feel that he needs to be an engineer as well as a designer nowadays to be able to create a car like LaFerrari? “No,” he says firmly. “But I’m an architect, and I’m very passionate about these things. And anyway, if you don’t understand the specific needs of every single part of the car technically and aerodynamically, it’s difficult to make a car like this very beautiful. You cannot do it, basically.”

As the project progressed, so did the desire from everyone at Ferrari – right up to and including company chairman Luca di Montezemolo – to produce a totally modern but beautiful and dramatic-looking car, and to do so entirely in-house, without the aid of Pininfarina. Any design details that were considered retro or pastiche were instantly cast asunder. 

“I didn’t want any kind of retro feeling to the design,” declares Manzoni. “Maybe the feeling from some of the more beautiful Ferraris, perhaps, such as the P3, but overall I didn’t want it to be retro. I’m a designer, so let me look forwards, and not always backwards to the past.”  

Eventually, two different design proposals were chosen to pursue from the many different themes that were originally put forward, full-size examples of which occupy pride of place in the museum, side by side with the real thing. The first of these is called Manta, the second Tensostruttura, and both feature all sorts of recognisable details that ended up on the final car. 

The distinctive nose of the Manta is all but unchanged for LaFerrari, for example, while the tensioned, tent-like side strakes and ‘lightweight feel’ of much of the Tensostruttura’s side and rear bodywork are also clearly identifiable.

The three of them together look quite magnificent and you can almost sense the evolution of the car as it happened. What’s more intriguing still is the series of design proposals that line the walls behind the full-scale models. These images, explains Manzoni, effectively tell the story of LaFerrari’s creation in a way that’s never been made public before, starting from day one in September 2010 and going right up to that memorable Geneva unveiling on 6 March this year.

Whether you love, like or loathe the end result – the sheer boldness of LaFerrari’s styling is unlikely to meet with universal approval – the fact that you can wander into the Ferrari museum, hand over €13 and bask in the story of its creation is proof of a tectonic shift in attitude at Ferrari. In the old days there were too many closed doors, too many secrets that had to be kept. At one time, the rest of the world simply wasn’t welcome behind the doors to that old factory gate.

But nowadays it’s a completely different story at Ferrari. The entire DNA of LaFerrari is there, writ large for all to see, and it’s something Ferrari is proud to talk about and have on display. There are no secrets any more at Maranello, it seems.

Even the trophies on show in the museum’s similarly beguiling F1 room are, I’m amazed to discover, the real thing. There isn’t even any glass protecting them from the clutches of the visitors that continually wander in and out, mouths more often than not wide open.

You could, if you were of the wrong persuasion, probably even slip F1 driver Fernando Alonso’s winner’s trophy from Malaysia last year into your rucksack and walk straight out; the accessibility to what’s on display is that good.

People don’t pinch stuff from the Ferrari museum, though, because there would appear to be a fundamental respect for what’s on show here from pretty much everyone who walks through the door. You get the distinct impression that you are being made welcome into a very special world.

It is a world in which the machinery on display – which includes just about every single Ferrari you’d care to think of since 1947 is on show, including a £25 million blue and white 250 GTO – is, in the end, what matters most of all.

“Ferrari is extremely proud of what it has achieved here and over the years, so why would they not want to show it off?” Manzoni says, before rushing away to make an appointment with his boss, ex-engineer Amedeo Felisa, to talk about something far important than we could imagine.

Why not indeed? Oh, how times have changed behind the not-so-closed doors of Maranello.

See more of the LaFerrari in our design secrets video here.

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Our Verdict

Ferrari LaFerrari

The Enzo’s successor is finally here. The LaFerrari costs over £1 million and has a 950bhp hybrid V12, but just how good is it? Steve Sutcliffe straps in to see

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Comments
3

29 April 2014
Ferrari is not just a car. It's much more. It's (Italian sport car) heritage. It's world sport car heritage. And this may be their finest moment yet.

jdm

30 April 2014
There is something about Ferrari's design language that doesn't work for me- the FLF is not even as unconventionally pretty as the 458. I think the worst part of the car is that absurd front wing: not only does it look like a tacky after-market accessory, it gives the front view of the car an amusingly buck-toothed appearance. Just tragic.

Having seen single color mules, I wonder how many will be ordered without the contrasting roof? I feel the black roof (especially on top of Ferrari red) gives the car an unbalanced, heavy-bottomed appearance. This is the first of their supercars I would like better in a dark color.

The appearance of the FLF is especially disappointing given some of the early design studies and the Mille Chilli concept. There were some very attractive concepts before this final form.

11 March 2016
Just like allFerrari is always my dream vehicle and there is no other models which can compete with Ferrari. The new hypercar looks so stunning and all credits goes to Flavio Manzoni, the man who is behind this fabulous design. I felt so excited to read the interview with him

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