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The masterpieces that inspired the design of the 296 GTB

From the 250 LM to Anish Kapoor and a Brionvega Hi-Fi, Ferrari’s Chief Design Officer, Flavio Manzoni, finds inspiration wherever he looks
Words – Ross Brown

“The way my team works is very similar to a jazz band,” explains Flavio Manzoni, when we meet to discuss the latest addition to the Prancing Horse stable, the 296 GTB.

“I set up the main goal, aims and ideas, and then we all work on different interpretations and different design languages. In many ways our approach is like that of musicians having a jam session.”
It’s an interesting approach that clearly works. Launched earlier this year, the sleek and agile 296 GTB made instant headlines not only for its ground-breaking V6 hybrid technology, but also its aerodynamic design and clear influence from previous models, the more obvious being the 1963 250 LM. Which leads to the inevitable question, what’s the starting point for design: innovation or inspiration? 

FM: It’s a good question and in fact the inspiration is the innovation. To start an idea, you always must look forward, but fortunately Ferrari has such a rich heritage that it's easy to connect our new ideas to the past.

The 296 GTB made headlines not just for its innovative v6 hybrid technology, but also for its simple, elegant design

TOFM: Is there a period in Ferrari’s history where inspiration was at its highest?


FM: Well, there have been masterpieces in every decade, although I will say that the cars of the 60s were characterised by a very sensual and romantic treatment of the shape. And this kind of sensuality of the shape is considered part of the Ferrari identity. The 296 GTB is a good example of this. It's a beautiful balance between very clear, crisp lines, while at the same time it’s sensual and rounded with a fluidity of the form that I think invites you to caress the shape of the car.

TOFM: The 250 LM would appear to have had a very strong influence on the 296 GTB 


FM: We decided to use the design code of the 250 LM because I felt that it was perfect for the 296, which is a very compact car. The rear air intakes on the 250 LM are within the fenders, that sit like muscles on top of the form. It’s probably one of the most characteristic elements of the car.

Launched in 1963, the compact, mid-engine 250 LM has been a clear influence on the 296 GTB

TOFM: As Ferrari continue to innovate with future Hybrid technology, do you think using inspiration from the past will become more of a challenge?


FM: When we are in the presence of very innovative technology then design must reflect it. The 296 is a very modern car, nevertheless it is still a combination between sportiness and past elegance together. 


TOFM: Do you look for inspiration away from previous Ferrari masterpieces? 


FM: We find it everywhere. Architecture for example, the masterpieces of the Italian designers of the 60s and the 70s are an incredible source of inspiration. And then in my office there is a beautiful Brionvega Hi-Fi designed by Castiglioni that is still so fresh, even though this has been designed in 1965. 

LaFerrari, the first hybrid with 963 cv, inspired in part by the sculptor Anish Kapoor 

TOFM: Is there a specific Ferrari with influences that might surprise people?


FM: When we were designing the LaFerrari I was inspired by the Anish Kapoor sculptures. Of course, we didn’t want to make organic shapes like the Kapoor sculptures, but there was an idea about how there could be a connection between the inside and outside surface of the car. But for the 296 GTB it was about elegance and simplicity. There is a beautiful phrase from the famous sculptor, Constantin Brâncuși, who was asked what simplicity meant to him, and he replied, ‘simplicity is complexity resolved’. And I think that was always our motto when designing the 296 GTB. 

Of all the Ferraris it's the 330 P4 that Flavio Manzoni is most passionate about 

TOFM: And finally, do you have a favourite Ferrari?


FM: It’s not a secret. I have a big passion for the Ferrari 330 P4. The shape of the car was so elegant and sensual, but it was still a product of engineering, designed for the track. It’s an amazing beauty.