Today is a sad anniversary for the car industry: the 20th anniversary of Enzo Ferrari’s death in 1988.

Enzo1In many ways, the company that Ferrari founded has changed enormously in the last two decades, but in others it’s stayed pretty much exactly the same – not least the continuation of the mystique that he created around the brand.

Back in 1988 the mainstay in the range was the 328, a car that held Enzo’s tradition for idiosyncratic handling close to its heart. At the other end of the range, Enzo’s final pet project – the F40 – was already on its way to becoming the most successful supercar of all time (1300 were produced before replacement in 1992).

There’s nothing in today’s range to compare with the F40, but the 430 and 599 are brilliant cars and the 612 has a breadth of capability that no other rival can match.

Behind the scenes, Fiat can take plenty of credit for this, thanks to its careful stewardship backing the right management team. Back in 1988 when globalisation was in its infancy, Fiat already owned 50 per cent of Ferrari it was the natural home for Enzo’s 40 per cent holding. At the time there were doubts that ownership by such a huge industrial conglomerate would work out. History shows it to have been the perfect fit.

I suspect that if Enzo were around now, he would probably be shocked at the progress made with today’s range and their cutting-edge aluminium chassis and electronic gizmos, which are light years from the artisan-era he felt comfortable with.

At heart Enzo was an engine man, so by contrast I’d also guess that he’d be knocked-out by Ferrari’s current range of brilliant engines. That said, as a deeply conservative man, I doubt he would warm to many of Ferrari’s ostentatious customers, either.

Still, he was ever the consummate businessman with an eye on the till and would no doubt be extremely pleased at the vast piles of cash being generated by the business that bears his name – and which is still being used to help pay for the Formula One team that was his passion.

Il Commendatore may be gone, but his spirit definitely lives on.