AII of us shuffled past the small buffet table with fruit juice and double magnums of Ferrari champagne, and into the auditorium where the new car sat under a red drop cloth. The place was round, with elevated semi-circular seating, and about the size of a small university lecture hall. We found two places with a good view, and watched the others making their way from the door.
I recognised many from the elegant dinner that Ferrari had held for the press at the Fini Hotel in Modena the night before, but some faces were new. They seemed to be a combination of the local Italian press and specially invited Ferrari clientele. The previous evening’s gathering had been a wonderful affair, and the guest list included the most prestigious names in automotive journalism from around the world, but I could only meet and remember so many people in one night. After the normal acquaintance period, conversation turned to publishing, personal experiences, other things automotive, but always returned to the mystery surround- ing what we might see the following day. Most thought it would be the LM, and it seemed the most logical possibility, but why was the Factory being so secretive? Of course, they have always been secretive, that was part of the fun and history of going to Ferrari.
On this occasion, the car had only been identified as a new, “top-of-the-line” model, and there were enough other factors to keep people wondering, not the least of which was the word that the LM would not be officially introduced until the September show in Frankfurt. Looking at the car now, its silhouette unquestionable under the fabric shroud, it was certainly the car everybody had hoped to view. I had in fact seen it at the Factory during my snooping the day before, and watched a lucky tourist, standing beside me at the back gate, get a picture.
Not far away from the now shrouded car, which was in the centre of the seating area, stood a table with microphones for the panel that would address the group. In a small glass enclosure, a number of men were working on the audio system and slide presentation which would follow. Within fifteen minutes, almost the entire crowd, perhaps one hundred fifty people, had taken their seats. The house lights were lowered, leaving only the quartz lamps aimed at the new car. Dr. Luca Matteoni, the head of public relations at the Factory, then announced in his always elegant and dignified manner, that Mr. Ferrari had planned to arrive at 11:10, and that as usual he was prompt.
A rather loud hush began to move through the audience, and a number of people, exactly who was not clear to me began to move forward. The wide double doors behind the panelists’ table were then opened, the white hot Italian summer light flooded in, and after some squinting I could make out the Lancia 8.32 in the background. Mr. Ferrari was already out of the car, very much supported by the aid of two assistants, while other bodyguards looked on. In the chiaroscuro of the scene, there was much sadness .
Many in the group rushed toward the doors and the tiny table, and amidst the harshness of the flow, the men struggled to seat Mr. Ferrari. There was plead- ing over the loudspeakers against the use of flash completely ignored, and sometimes inaudible over the voices of the aggressive crowd. The minority remained seated, watching and not believing, believing but not wanting to believe. Approaching ninety, head held high and sunglasses still in place, Mr. Ferrari endured the stupidity and inconsideration of his guests. Later, when the cover on the car was removed, I left my seat to photograph. I stood at the front of his table making a picture, less than three feet from the man that I had hoped to meet for so many years, and could not now bring myself to look at. In my imagination, the circumstances had always been different, and if I might in the future have another chance, I did not want him to recognise me as being a part of this.
After a time things became quiet, and Mr. Ferrari began with his speech. It was not the sort of voice that one would expect from a man of his age-unfaltering, unfrail, confident, and with great knowledge. Translated over radio headphones in a number of languages, he said briefly that this new car had been a proposal of his to the Executive Committee of Ferrari on June 6, 1986. He had asked for a car which was capable, in all respects, of reviving the philosophy and performance of the LM series cars of the mid-1960s. He said that Mr. Razelli had thought well of the idea, and that they had all
invited us to take a look at the car which was realized in twelve months’ time. The slide show began at that point, and soon afterward Mr. Ferrari was
helped from his chair and back to the car. It was difficult to watch the doors close behind him.
Various engineers and spokesmen gave presentations, but unfortunately, none of them were actually introduced . Development of the car was the first topic, and it was clarified that although the engineers working on the project had dubbed the car “LM”, the official name was to be F40, commemorating the 40 year anniversary of Ferrari production automobiles.