The First Ferrari Arrives AT The Petersen


Arguably the most famous brand in history, a logo that needs no name, and can quicken the pulse of school children and the elderly alike, all started with a young man meeting an Italian Count flying a 180hp French biplane. The count was Francesco Baracca, Italy’s top fighter ace of WWI. The fearless fighter pilot adorned his aircraft with a prancing horse borrowed from his family crest and it became a symbol of bravery, skill, and bravado to many, including a young racing driver named Enzo Ferrari who met the Count shortly before his death in the air in 1918. Ferrari adopted the prancing horse and began using it on the world-beating race cars he managed for Alfa Romeo and then, in 1947, on the groundbreaking new cars he built under his own banner.

From the very beginning, Ferrari’s machines were designed to win races through technical brilliance. He is often quoted as saying “Racing is a great mania to which one must sacrifice everything, without reticence, without hesitation.” From that mania – that desire to win at any cost, the small constructor of racing cars in Maranello changed the world. First restoring Italy’s national pride as “red cars” dominated the early days of Formula One (until the mid-1960s, Grand Prix cars were painted the color of their nation of origin – red for Italy, green for UK, blue for France, Silver for Germany) to the jaw-dropping speed, mechanical sophistication, and stunning aerodynamics-inspired beauty that trickled down from the race cars into the street cars that captured the world’s attention and imagination.


Seven decades after that first 125 S Barchetta rolled out of Ferrari’s shop, that legacy is being celebrated with “Seeing Red: 70 Years of Ferrari,” at the Petersen Automotive Museum. The exhibition is housed in the museum’s Bruce Meyer Family Gallery and features 10 of the rarest, winningest, and finest Ferraris ever created.

“We’re so thrilled to bring some of the world’s most beautiful Ferraris to the Petersen,” said Bruce Meyer. “Seeing that Rosso Corsa paint and the beautiful curves of the bodywork is always enough to make your heart skip a beat. Seeing Red is one of the most significant gatherings of Ferraris in the world, and I’m so pleased to be able to share it with the public in our gallery.”

The exhibit is a celebration of seven decades of beautiful and fast automobiles. It showcases several examples of the brand’s most lauded designs including the legendary 250 GTO, the 166MM, the 250 TR, the 250LM, and the 2001 Ferrari F1 driven by Formula 1 racer Michael Schumacher in one of his most dominating years in the series.

The idea for showcasing the rarest and finest Ferraris in red came to Meyer last year when he was walking around the “Precious Metal” – the exhibit of all silver cars – with none other than Piero Ferrari, Enzo’s son. When Piero loved the idea, Meyer met with chief museum curator Leslie Kendall to come up with the general concept of “Seeing Red.” Since Meyer has been a fan of Ferrari since childhood and has made strong connections with collectors and fans around the world, it made narrowing down the list of cars for the exhibit quite a challenge. Eventually the team decided that the cars would not only need to represent the gamut of Ferrari’s history – from the first Barchetta to the latest road-going supercar, it would also need to showcase some of the racecars that created the mythos through on-track dominance.

Gathering this many legends in one room would be a challenge for some, but Meyer’s deep connections in the collector community and The Petersen’s stunning new architecture proved a winning combo for pulling in amazing cars. To have the very first Ferrari ever built displayed alongside a 250 GTO alongside Michael Schumacher’s F1 car is truly a first.

The exhibit features a breathtaking number of winners – the 166 Mille Miglia (MM) Barchetta from 1949 was driven to a Le Mans win by Luigi Chinetti and Lord Selsdon. This win was the first of a further eight victories at the famed 24 hour race. The 140 hp vehicle is dressed in a body by Carrozzeria Touring, carries a 2-liter Colombo V-12 engine, and is capable of reaching speeds of up to 130 mph. One of only two constructed, the roadster is part of the Robert M. Lee collection and is on loan from the late automobile aficionado’s wife Anne.


Another incredible victor in the museum is the 1965 250 LM on loan from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Powered by a 320hp, 3.3-liter V-12, the stunning 250 LM took the checkered flag at Le Mans. Stepping atop the podium were drivers Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory of Ferrari’s North American Racing Team (NART).

One of Meyer’s personal favorites is also on hand— a 1963 250 Gran Turismo Omologato (GTO) currently owned by his good friend William “Chip” Connor. “That car resonates with me the most because I’ve had considerable time behind the wheel,” explained Meyer. “I have done rallies with Chip in it and have driven the car on the racetrack.”

The 250 GTO, designed by Ferrari’s Giotto Bizzarrini and Mauro Forghieri of Carrozzeria Scaglietti, had a three-year production run of only 39 examples and has become one of the models most coveted by collectors. This particular car first tasted victory with an overall win at Spa, followed by a first in class and second overall at Le Mans, making it one of the rarest and most valuable collector cars on the planet.

Not all of the selections are from the last century. The Ferrari 248 F1 driven by Michael Schumacher during his final Formula 1 season for Ferrari in 2006 is also on display. Schumacher steered the 248 F1 to victory in the Italian Grand Prix. Also on display are a revolving group of modern era Ferrari supercars including a 288 GTO and Ferrari LaFerrari on loan from Tony Shooshani and a stunning F40 finished in Rosso Corsa.

The exhibit opening kicked off with a reception at the Petersen. Part of the evening’s program paid honor to Ferrari’s famed racer Phil Hill, the first driver born in the United States to capture the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship and to win at Le Mans. Taking the stage for the posthumous tribute was his son Derek Hill who shared a personal moment of riding as a passenger when his father took one of his Le Mans–winning racecars out on the track for the last time.

“When you look at the lineup of donors who are supporting this exhibit, the likes of Chip Connor, Rob Walton, Charles Nearburg, Anne Lee, Steven Reed, and Les Wexner—it’s epic,” said Meyer.

“This new exhibit is another example of how the Petersen views cars as art, and nothing is more appropriate than red Ferraris,” said Terry L. Karges, executive director of the Petersen. “We’re confident this exhibit will help us continue our success and really get people talking and learning about Ferrari.”