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This Is Not Your Father's Automobile

When Enzo Ferrari began his company 50 years ago, his cars were works of art. Today, they're collector's items

In 1947, a former racecar driver named Enzo Ferrari built cars under his own name for the first time. Within five years, his powerful 12-cylinder cars dominated racing. Within a decade, the road models had become symbols of the jet set and the most sought-after cars in the world. Crafted individually, their fenders were pounded into shape against tree trunks, their engines were cast like statues. They were works of art — as elegant as the prancing horse silhouette that Ferrari chose as his symbol. And like the cavallino rampante, too, they were powerful and wild.

In this anniversary year, author Bruce Watson (who ordinarily drives an "'87 Wimp Wagon") set out to discover for himself the secrets of the Ferrari mystique. From the late Enzo Ferrari himself — as individualistic and strong-willed as the cars he created — to the thousands of Ferraristi who collect (or simply covet) his creations, Watson found that the mystique is not only fueled by status or speed ("The Ferrari is such a fast car," Bill Cosby once quipped, "that when you buy it they automatically give you 12 speeding tickets") but by an admiration for what one collector called the "zenith" of artisanship in automobile-making. Whatever is behind the passion of the Ferraristi, they are keeping alive Enzo's wish that his cars be "longed for" — by horse-trading for classics, adding their names to a waiting list for the newest model or simply dreaming of a Ferrari to call their own.

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