Ferrari: Gli anni d’oro/The Golden Years

Edizione ampliata – Enlarged edition

by Leonardo Acerbi


“And here we are again, a decade on, with another book which this time focuses not on the present and what the Ferrari catalogue is offering to the marque’s increasingly numerous and wealthy clientele and not on the SF70H that is about to dispute the World Championship, in the hands of none other than Räikkönen again and by Sebastian Vettel.

[This book] is in fact a tribute, in the strictest sense of the term, to Enzo Ferrari’s Ferrari, to the firm born at the end of the winter of 1947 and which symbolically closed on the 14th of August 1988 when the ‘Grand Old Man’ passed away, silently, at dawn that morning.”

(Italian / English) With the recent world premiere of director Michael Mann’s Ferrari biopic (US release Dec. 25, 2023) one can only hope that a whole new crop of people will want to know more about The Man and the Machine, which was the title of motorsport journalist Brock Yates’ 1991 book on which the movie is based (that book was re-released as a “movie tie-in” Nov. 2023 under ISBN‎ 978-0399588617 with a new epilogue by co-author Stacy Bradley). The movie was met with generally favorable reviews by movie critics—but those are not normally Ferrari historians, meaning viewers really ought to have a proper book to hand to get the straight dope. Several books come to mind that would fit that bill but this one here deserves special consideration, because 

  • It’s a veritable trifecta: archly Italian subject matter, author, and publisher
  • See intro quote: the focus is on the Enzo years, and it is not a model history
  • It introduces new material into the record

Don’t believe everything you see in movies! Did you see Rush (2013)? It was based on a true story but played up the “bad blood” between Lauda and Hunt to advance its story line. The caption for the photo top left offers this barb: “In spite of the intense rivalry . . . that inspired the movie depicting the exciting 1976 season . . . relations between Niki Lauda and James Hunt were always cordial and based on reciprocal respect.” This 1977 photo makes the point.

The latter item, which pertains to Franco Villani’s period photos, is of the greatest impact. Some background is needed to appreciate it. This publisher, Giorgio Nada Editore, has a long history of producing Ferrari books in “close cooperation” with the automaker and had published a 50th anniversary book (Ferrari 1947–1997 The Official Book by Gianni Cancellieri, reprinted 2008 with ISBN 978-8879114240). A 60th anniversary book by Ferrari experts Leonardo Acerbi and Luciano Greggio was published by Haynes (ISBN 978-1844254491), and then there was obviously a 70th anniversary book, in 2017 (left), by Acerbi as Nada’s editorial director, which is the basis for the book we’re looking at here.

Conveniently, that 2017 anniversary fell into the year after Giorgio Nada which has a solid history of archival work had acquired the Franco Villani archive of over 300,000 photos. He was active from the 1950s onwards, worked for all the major automobile / motorsport magazines, and he had a special relationship with Enzo Ferrari. No matter how big your existing Ferrari library is, you will find in this book images that have not been published before. There is nothing revisionist here but the photos drastically expand the visual record while also adding useful nuances to well-established bits of history. The process of digitizing and curating those images is ongoing and immense, and while the 2017 edition contained some of them, this 2020 Edizione ampliata/Enlarged Edition sports some 80 additional pages and a photo count nearing 700. It could additionally have been called riveduta/revised for the various tweaks it contains, including now 10 personality profiles—but it is not fully migliorato/improved because the captions are still printed really small and the English ones are not 100% black but some lower percentage that tilts into the grey spectrum and is cruelly hard to read against a white background. Worse, if you resort to using any type of magnifying device, the glare from the coating of the paper is a real pain. (Although, it is matte, or satin which resists fingerprints nicely.)

You can see how much lighter the English text (in the right column) is than the Italian and how regular daylight bounces off the page, forcing you to fiddle with the book all the time.

This is a big book, 11.5 x 12″, with top-notch photo reproduction. It has a flat spine so the book will not open fully, and you will have plenty of opportunity to curse that feature. Even considering that you’re only getting half a book’s worth of text (unless you are bilingual in which case you will absolutely find a few more morsels in the native text) there is a lot here, and, most importantly, what is here totally matters and is accurate. To be clear, the focus is on motorsports, with only peripheral references to road cars. And to be clear also, the book’s aim is neither to rehash the oft-told story of the marque or to add anything (in regards to narrative) earthshakingly new but to be a tribute to the man who lent it his name and obsessively devoted every breath to it. He was a tyrant—but the book and the storytelling power of the photos will probably succeed in softening many a hardened heart!

Three examples of never before published photos. Big pages allow big photos! Another thing these samples show is that there is plenty of space to have made the captions larger. Moreover, they are set in all caps in a serif font which makes them hard to read. Worse, the English captions are ital, further obscuring legibility.

(r) Not a Villani photo but new to the record all the same. By Alberto Sorlini, a great overhead shot of the 1956 Mille Miglia.

The book is divided into 5 chronological sections spanning 1947 to 1988, each introduced with a few pages of big-picture commentary which then leads into pages and pages of precisely captioned photos. Each section contains one or several personality profiles. Typical for this publisher there is no Index, which, given the multitude of details in the photos would have made it unwieldy anyway.

It’s like being there . . . Casablanca 1958 above, 1961 Monaco below.

The publisher is making the Villani material available to anyone, for a fee, but right now this is the one book that has something no other does. Nada books can hardly ever be called cheap, but at a mere $120 this book is a quite enormous value.

So, if you do watch the movie, look up everything afterwards!

Ferrari: Gli anni d’oro/The Golden Years
Edizione ampliata – Enlarged Edition
by Leonardo Acerbi
Giorgio Nada Editore, 2020    [In US: Quarto]
400 pages, 390 b/w & 304 color photos, hardcover
List Price: $120
ISBN-13: 978-8879117340

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