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All in the Name: The Enzo Ferrari

With a unique design borne out of Ferrari’s expertise in aerodynamics, the V12-powered Enzo Ferrari was lightweight, beautifully purposeful and furiously rapid
Words: Jason Barlow / Video: Rowan Jacobs

Ferrari’s naming conventions can be a little arcane. Some divide the engine capacity by 10. The first two digits on the F355’s name refer to the engine, the last one the number of valves per cylinder. The F40 commemorated Ferrari’s 40th anniversary. Portofino simply sounds glamorous, as so many things in Italian do.

Witness the mighty Enzo Ferrari in action on road and track…

Then there is the Enzo. The fourth supercar in a bloodline that encompasses GTO, F40 and F50, invoking the memory of the company founder suggests confidence. It was well-founded: the Enzo arrived just as Scuderia Ferrari was in the midst of an imperial phase in Formula One. Although it had taken some time to cohere, by the early part of the new millennium the team was delivering an unprecedented run of race victories and championships. Lead driver Michael Schumacher was in towering form.

Sufficiently emboldened, Ferrari’s President at the time, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, elected to push the boundaries when it came to developing the new supercar. “I wanted to go a little bit too far in every element to build a super extreme car,” he declared.

The Enzo’s low, arrow-shaped nose contributed to front-end stability, while the doors added even more theatre to this most extreme of supercars

This included integrating a lot of F1-bred technical innovation. Prime amongst this was Ferrari’s expertise in aerodynamics, a science that informed the Enzo’s distinctive aesthetic. Our appreciation of a car’s design is mostly subjective, but the 20-plus years that have elapsed since the Enzo’s debut have only deepened its impact. Led by Ken Okuyama’s team at Pininfarina, traditional beauty tropes are usurped by a technical look that also borrows heavily from F1. It’s angular rather than voluptuary, its arrow-shaped prow and complex body sides wholly in service to air flow and the generation of maximum downforce. Yet for all its drama, that shape was sculpted and wind tunnel-honed in such a way that out-sized wings were not needed. The low nose kept things stable at the front, while the flat floor and rear diffuser meant that the Enzo’s rear was as unexpectedly clean as it was efficient.

From left: the Enzo’s structure was mostly carbon fibre composite, making the car incredibly rigid; its 6.0 litre V12, which produced 660 cv, was the most powerful naturally aspirated engine in the world at the time; the steering wheel housed the buttons for reverse gear and the traction control

The cockpit was also something to behold. The doors include a portion of the roof and part of the sill, and they arc up and forward. Supercars need that element of theatre. You climb in and drop into the driver’s seat much like you would a racing car. It’s comfortable and minimal, the controls limited only to what’s needed to drive a performance car properly.  The Enzo’s chassis and structure is mostly carbon fibre composite, much of which is exposed and visible inside. This gives it immense structural rigidity as well as lightness, qualities the sparse interior telegraph to the occupants. The steering wheel houses the buttons for reverse gear and the traction control, a dry run for the manettino that would debut a few years later on the F430. Also F1-inspired are the LED strip lights on the top of the wheel that flash in 500 rpm increments after 5500rpm and towards the engine’s red-line.

Ah, the engine. The Enzo was the first to receive the F140 V12, the unit that would form the basis for all the Ferrari V12s that followed. Here it had a 6.0-litre capacity and produced 660 cv, which made it the most powerful naturally aspirated engine in the world at that time. This translated to a 350km/h top speed and a zero to 100km/h time of 3.65 seconds. Incredible figures, then and now, but the presence of 12 cylinders meant that the Enzo was so much more than just hugely fast. At light throttle loads, it’s docile and well-mannered if not entirely polite, but when you increase the tempo the exhaust bypass valves open and the engine delivers its full-blooded operatic wail.

The Enzo’s technical 'look' borrowed heavily from aerodynamic innovations developed by Ferrari for use in their Formula One cars

Schumacher was involved in the Enzo’s development, which was and remains an unbeatable USP. You don’t need F1 driver reflexes to get the best out of it, though. The steering is alive in your hands, the gearshifts are rapid (if not as whipcrack-fast as today’s systems), and the keenness to change direction is sublime. Downforce even in very powerful road cars is a dark art, but you can feel the benefit in the Enzo as the air is hustled across its complex body. It’s as stable and reassuring to drive quickly as it is outrageously fast.

23 maggio, 2024