Ferrari: Under the Skin, Design Museum, November 2017

IMG_7868The first Ferrari car was launched in 1947 and to celebrate 70 years of innovation, technical expertise and racing supremacy, the Design Museum have put on ‘Ferrari: Under the Skin’, a new exhibition.

Ferrari 125 S (1947 replica built in 1987) – the first Ferrari.

IMG_7918Including rare exhibits from private collections and some fantastic archival material, the highlights of course have to be the stunning cars. There is a huge amount packed into the gallery, making the most of the new Design Museum spaces. Treasures include Michael Schumacher’s 2000 F1 championship winning car, a Ferrari 250 GT SWB from 1960 driven by Stirling Moss, reputedly sold in 2013 for £7 million and the beautiful Ferrari 500 F2 from 1952 driven by Alberto Ascari to Formula One Championship victory in 1952 and 1953.

Ferrari 500 F2 (1952) driven by Alberto Ascari
Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F1- 2000.
Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta passo corto (SWB) 1960 driven by Stirling Moss

The exhibition tries to get behind the story of Enzo Ferrari the founder of the world’s most famous car manufacturer. Whilst I love the early photographs and memorabilia I never really got a sense of what drove him in his never-ending quest for speed, performance and beauty.

Enzo Ferrari

IMG_7917There are a few tantalising quotes that come through in the exhibition about the man behind the ‘prancing horse’ but they just left me wanting more. What you do see in the early section is Enzo’s knack for marketing and promotion, giving away Ferrari watches to clients and promoting the company in Scuderia Ferrari yearbooks presenting achievements during the previous racing season.

Peter Sellers contemplating a Ferrari Dino

It is marketing success, and capitalising on race wins as well as the use of celebrities that has maintained the image of Ferrari. I loved seeing the shots of Steve McQueen, Peter Sellers and Clint Eastwood promoting an image of classic Ferrari style.

There are also some fascinating insights into the design process including the use of clay modelling. There is a fantastic clay model for the Ferrari J50, 2015, every Ferrari is modelled in clay in full size before it is signed off. Even the way the light strikes the model is taken into account. A final human touch approach to design that gives the cars their life and energy.

You get a real sense of the progression of Formula One car design by comparing the 1966 Ferrari 312 F1 and the Ferrari F1 from 2007. It is interesting to see the design process as almost an historical art form from full size wooden ‘bucks’ to aluminium shells that seem to float in the air in a display evoking the very essence of speed and fluidity.

70 years and the evolution of the racing helmet

As a Formula One fan I loved seeing the more personal items including the 1952 Championship trophy won by Alberto Ascari (including dent). Also the poignant display of 70 years of helmet design from Juan Manuel Fangio’s basic leather helmet and Ascari’s battered yellow helmet that gives a real sense of the risk early competitors put themselves through at every race when compared with the more modern versions from Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.

It is an exhibition about design foremost but it is always the stories and social history that I want to know more about. I love the mention of Baroness Maria Antonietta Avanzo, the first Italian female race track driver. She took part in the Mille Miglia race five times, a 1,000 mile open road endurance race. There is a fantastic picture of her and her entry form for the 1932 race driving for Scuderia Ferrari.

It is a shame there are no other female faces featured in the videos of Ferrari staff in the exhibition. Formula One is still such a male dominated world. If you want to inspire the next generation of designers, engineers and dare I say it, racing drivers, girls and young women need to see there is a place for them in this world. There is so much innovation here; Can that not extend to the workforce too?

Ferrari yearbooks – every year since 1947 Ferrari has issue and illustrated yearbook. Enzo employed graphic designers to give each cover a contemporary and engaging look.

If you are a Ferrari and Formula One fan you will certainly enjoy the exhibition. For designers of all types there is much to glean from the exhibits, in particular I loved the wall of yearbooks, a graphical timeline that evokes a brand over the years.

If you are not a fan, the ticket price is perhaps a little steep for the casual observer at £18. I can’t help think the Design Museum aren’t too keen on a family visit either with a family ticket costing £41. It is £9 to take a 6-15 year old. For me the Design Museum needs to relook at pricing for kids, Ferrari is about aspirational design, Enzo Ferrari himself said –

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

If the Design Museum want to inspire the next generation then they need to look at this. I know they facilitate a large number of school visits but the family market is important too.

IMG_1715I love Formula One, from years and years of sitting with my Dad watching Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell and Jenson Button. There are so many young girls out there just waiting to be inspired, nurtured and supported by their families but also by access to a world they can see themselves in.

I want to hear about Baroness Maria Antonietta Avanzo, driving for Ferrari, fighting against prejudice, a skilful, passionate women in the world of cars and racing. It is only very recently that I see women on my TV screen involved in F1 from Claire Williams, deputy team principal at Williams, Susie Wolff, ex-racing driver and commentator, and Monisha Kaltenborn who was the first female team principal at Sauber.

Ferrari are pioneering in so many areas perhaps this exhibition could have showcased equality as one area where they could transcend the world of racing and fast cars.

I think I will finish on a quote from Ruth Buscombe, Strategy Engineer at Sauber –

“With certain people that I have come across you have a necessity to prove your worth.” “Each time you face that it is a challenge like a race. You have to be sure of yourself. Every time you have that struggle it makes you stronger, strengthens your resolve, and means you can perform better because you want it so much.” 1


Ferrari: Under the Skin is on at the Design Museum from 15th November 2017 – 15 April 2018, for more details please visit the website –

Ruth Buscombe quote taken from a Guardian article –

1 – ‘Ruth Buscombe: ‘F1 drivers don’t care if a woman or chipmunk calls the shots’, Guardian Newspaper, 16th May 2017 [accessed 14 November 2017]

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