GIOACCHINO COLOMBO, Aurelio Lampredi and Vittorio Jano gave Ferrari its wonderful voice, quite literally, because these three men designed the engines that powered Enzo road and racing legends.
The first proper Ferrari was the Tipo 125 and it had a 1.5-litre 12-cylinder engine under the bonnet, which was the handiwork of Colombo, whose engine in the Alfetta 158 Grand Prix enjoyed fantastic success.
The 125, together with its successor the 159, won 47 out of 54 Grand Prix entered, making it the most successful racing car in history and this prompted old man Enzo to call him on board and design engines for his new brand.
Colombo’s engines found fantastic success in the 166 and performed well enough in the road cars, but never did really well in Grand Prix racing, which was Enzo’s real area of interest.
While Colombo’s engines continued to power the road cars well into the 1950s, Enzo had found another engineering talent to design racing motors for him and this time, it was former aircraft engine designer Aurelio Lampredi.
Unlike Colombo, Lampredi’s experience in aircraft engines gave him some edge when it comes to large capacity motors and when he joined Ferrari in 1946, he came up with V-12 engines displacing 3.3 litres, 4.1 litres and 4.5 litres, mainly for competition use in the early 1950s.
By this time, Colombo had left Ferrari to rejoin Alfa Romeo.
Lampredi’s large engines found some success but by the mid-1950s rule changes in Formula One and Formula2meant smaller engines were needed, and Lampredi came up with twin-cam four-cylinder engines that helped Ferrari to stay on top of their racing game during the decade.
Engineering talent was swapped again in 1955 when Ferrari bought over the Lancia racing team, which had Vittorio Jano as their engine man.
Jano was a legend in his own time and designed many fantastic racing engines and was Colombo’s mentor to boot.
Among his legendary engines were the in-line eight cylinder motor that powered Alfa Romeo’s P2 grand prix racer to victory in the inaugural Grand Prix world championship in 1952.
Jano’s brilliance at Alfa Romeo meant that his ideas went on to become the basis of the company’s engine philosophy for years to come.
Among the key ideas Jano introduced to Alfa Romeo were hemispherical combustion chamber, central spark plugs, overhead valves and dual overhead camshafts. In fact, these are still features of most modern internal combustion piston engines.
Jano’s more compact and powerful V6 and V8 engines quickly replaced Lampredi’s V12 and four-cylinder racing engines.
Jano’s engines were the last ones to be shared between road and race cars, beyond the 1960s with the F2 engines finding it’s way, with some developments to make it more suitable for road use in the 206 Dino.
Jano’s design ideas, particularly the V8s remain as the basis for many Ferrari engines in the modern era.
Ferrari is unique in their approach towards engine design because, despite being a relatively small manufacturer, they have been able to produce their own, highly complex multi-cylinder engines for their road cars and has never once turned to anyone for engines.
These three men gave Ferrari solid grounding in engine design and even after leaving Maranello, they went on to create great engines elsewhere. Colombo went on to create the Maserati 250F Formula One racer before going on the resurrected Bugatti company.
Lampredi went to Fiat where his engine designs dominated the Italian carmaker for the better part of 30 years and famously went on to design Fiat’s fist ethanol engine for the Brazilian market. That engine gave Fiat a foothold in South America. It was the first mass-produced ethanol engine in the world.
Jano, sadly ended his life in 1965.
He suffered from grief due to the loss of his son and never truly recovered.
These days we rarely hear about things happen — brilliant engineers coming up with fantastic designs.
Sadly, their stories are not told because, these days, everything is about the brand and the company and not so much about the individual.
The only individuals who get the glory these days are the racing drivers.
I think companies should highlight the brilliant individuals behind the innovations, because it makes it feel more personal and relatable to the common man.
If we know that so and so was the designer of the latest engine or the programmer for the Electronic Stability Control software, then journalists like myself can ask them about the technology in a more personal way.
It is far more interesting to hear about people than it is to hear about corporations. After all, at the end of the day, the company still reaps the profits. But at least this way, buyers feel a more personal connection to the product that they buy.