Every day, a tiny city in the north of Italy is shaken by the noise of freshly-tested vehicles straight from the factory: Ferrari’s. The majority of the people from Maranello live with the spirit of the most famous car manufacturer in the world.
You can sense it in every corner, and I don’t just mean the test cars with prova plates, cruising around the area from dusk ’til dawn. Ubiquitous stickers and flags in places like restaurants, hairdressers, hotels and even butchers tell you that you are in the Ferrari capitol of the world. It’s easy to understand why locals are so proud of this.
This very unique world, however, covers more than the city itself. In a radius of about 15 miles around town, you can find dozens of shops specializing in restoring and servicing the vehicles created in this “holy” area (Maserati, DeTomaso, Lamborghini). Among many such places, few are real pinnacles for automobiles aficionados.
Many of the people that work in those shops are ex-Ferrari workers from the golden age. Some of them even remember the times when Enzo himself was walking around the factory. Their knowledge and experience in Ferrari is priceless. That is why collector’s cars from all over the globe are sent here for proper treatment.
One of my favourite places that I visit each time I come to Maranello is Scuderia Toni, a family business. This tiny and modest shop is located by the main road of the city, in the villa right across from the Ferrari factory. It’s always full of great classics. A whole spectrum of models can be found here. There are always some Dinos around, 275 GTB/4 or 330 GTC waiting for a service. Apart from old-timer classics, cars like 288 GTO and F40 are no exceptions. The mechanics work on the whole range of Ferrari models, racing cars too. This workshop is well known for tuning engines like no other. And they know cars!
Founder Toni Franco used to work in the Ferrari racing department back in the ’50s. With this kind of heritage, you don’t need to prove your knowledge. The workshop seems tiny but it gives a family feeling to it.
Truth is that you can find a lot of professional workshops like this all over the world, but there are small details that make a difference and make you want to come back. The Italian spirit is what it’s all about, I think. It’s easy to spot it too: small espresso cups next to Ferrari gearboxes, tools and car parts all over the place, and workers hustling around. This place may look like it’s in chaos, but Italians are very well “blended in” and understand this way of work like no one else. It works perfectly for them and their products.
At 12 o’clock, the streets of Maranello around the factory reminds me of rush hour at New York’s Grand Central. Tons of Ferrari workers are going to the local bars for a sip of their favorite espresso coffee. This itself is a sight to behold. I have been to many car manufacturers, but this experience is unique.
Signore Franco Barchelli is the owner of Carrozzeria Autosport, located just 16 miles north of Maranello in Bastiglia. This ex-Ferrari worker started his business back in 1976. His great workshop is filled with top-of-the-range automobiles from the period. Walls are fully covered with the pictures and thankful letters from his highly satisfied customers from all over the globe.
Apart from servicing classics, the shop is responsible for full restorations as well. Bodywork is what they are known for. Not only because of the quality, but also technique. Cars are literally reborn over here. If some panel has to be replaced they use a sheet metal, hammer and make it from the scratch—simple as that. They are very gifted workers and have been trained for years to achieve such a level of craftsmanship. They know how to turn simple pieces of metal into recognizable “petrolhead” shapes.
The main working hall is the best part of the shop itself. Here, the most important and rare cars are found, like a Lamborghini Miura P400S, 1949 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS, and a Maserati A6GT designed by Pietro Frua—all parked, waiting for their turn to be retouched or serviced at some point.
The noblest place in the area, in my opinion, is the workshop of Egido Brandoli. It’s not just any workshop. Located just 6 miles south from Modena, it represents quality unlike anywhere else. Before opening his own business, Egido Brandoli worked as a metal craftsman for Carrozzeria Scaglietti (Ferrari’s body supplier) back in the mid ‘60s. Obviously, his skills are beyond any comparison—it’s the highest level of craftsmanship imaginable.
Amazingly, when leaving the company in the ’80s, Ferrari allowed him to take the original bucks for older models along with him (Dino, 250 SWB, and 275 GTB/4). After 30 years, along with his son Roberto, they are now busy making some of the most significant body panels for Ferrari cars in the world.
The finished pieces are some of the most genuine elements you can find today not only because they are made on original Ferrari bucks but also because they are made by the same man who worked on those cars back in the day.
Carrozeria Brandoli is not a large workshop, but it’s very cozy and full of amazing goods. The facility is packed with hundreds of templates and patterns up to the roof, a true automotive tailor. Apart from other workshops around Maranello, here you won’t find many cars in here parked by the wall, because workers are fully dedicated building body panels. That, itself, is a unique sight. Seeing Egido Brandoli working on the metal panels brings you to appreciate without question the talent involved in making bodywork.
That said, make sure you do your homework before visiting Maranello. We all know it’s famous for Ferrari, but there is much more to it. Try to feel the spirit of the place, and have a chat with the locals. Behind every car there is a story—a great Italian story, in this case. Feel it!