The Spider 125 S: the first Ferrari racing car

In 1947, Ferrari produced its first racecar: the Spider 125 S that debuted the same year with Franco Cortese winning the first races.

12 March 1947. On the road from Maranello to Formigine, a brand-new automobile went hurtling, but without bodywork. Enzo Ferrari was behind the wheel. This car would become the Spider 125 S, the first racecar produced in the Maranello factory. And the first to carry the symbol of the Prancing Horse.

But let’s take a step back. The war had forced Ferrari to temporarily put aside the dream of building race cars and use his factory to manufacture machine tools. As soon as the conflict ended, the Drake would not wait a minute longer and called his friend Gioacchino Colombo to come to Maranello. Colombo had designed the Alfa 158, but was fired from Alfa Romeo because of his political affiliations. Upon arrival in Maranello, he was put to work for Ferrari as well. He began to craft a preliminary design for the racecar with  coloured pencils on packing paper – the only tools available to him at the time – and in October 1945 he finished the first real technical drawings.

Meanwhile, Enzo Ferrari found another collaborator, Franco Cortese, who worked for him as a machine tool salesman. Ferrari called him and announced his plans. Cortese was a bit sceptical: was it wise to jump into a new business when the machine tools still sold well? It sounded crazy! Then, some even crazier news: not only would they produce racecars, but Cortese would be the debut driver. The offer was 600,000 lire for the season, plus 100,000 lire for insurance and 50% of starting and ranking prize money.

Cortese accepted, and was hired for road tests on 7 April 1947. Meanwhile, the Spider 125 S was almost ready, and Ferrari himself had already begun to test it. Ad hoc test tracks did not yet exist, so the first cars were tested directly on the streets of Maranello, arousing the curiosity and amazement of the locals who fell in love with the new racecars.

With 12 cylinders and 100 hp, the Spider 125 S made its official debut on the circuit in Piacenza on 11 May 1947, with Franco Cortese at the wheel. Enzo Ferrari would define that race as “a promising failure”. His “provincial artisan obstinacy” was soon rewarded: the first victory came on 25 May in Rome, and many more would follow.

 

 

Bibliography

Gianni Rogliatti, “Maranello, Ferrari e… la sua gente”, Edizioni del Puntografico, Comune di Maranello
Silvano Soragni, “Maranello, dal Feudo Calcagnini… alla Scuderia Ferrari”, Artioli Editore, 2004