Monuments to Speed: Ferrari and Ducati
Posted by Andy Steves in on September 15, 2010.
This morning my alarm went off at 5:45. My first reaction, a mix of anger and confusion for such an early awakening, immediately faded when I remembered why I was getting up so early. Today I was catching a 6:35 train for Bologna to visit the Ferrari museum, and the factory and museum of Ducati. Both brands to me mean speed itself in four and two-wheeled forms respectively. I arrived at Rome’s Termini Station after a short metro ride still painfully tired. I called the trip organizer to find out which car we were on and settled into my reserved seat. As 6:34 rolled around we were still missing a member of the group and the organizer was on the phone trying to calmly talk to the missing student. The poor guy ended up missing this opportunity of a lifetime. I thanked my piece of technology that was an alarm clock one more time as the train jerked out of the station.
At the main Bologna train station, we were picked up by a small, chartered bus for the 45-minute drive out to the Ducati factory. Ducati motorcycles are known for their revolutionary speed and design. It’s hard for me in imagine a sexier body than that found on a Ducati. And as we got nearer and nearer, I got more and more excited. Finally, I spotted the huge hangar-like building, discreet in everything but its huge red letters.
Touring the factory, we saw how each part of these motorcycles is hand-assembled and painstakingly tested. I used to wonder how a motorcycle could cost $20,000 but now I know. We walked through the engine assembly line, then the longer bike assembly line. It was amazing to walk down the line with a bike and watch it go from painted metal frame to speed machine. The rear suspension was the first to be added, then the engine, then the wheels and brake systems, and then the fairings and headlights. Slowly it would literally come to life when the technicians fired up the engines for the first time for performance testing. One guy’s job was to plug the bikes into a dyno and test the horsepower. Our guide pointed out a row of bikes costing €68,000 each. Michael Jordan and Brad Pitt were among the customers for these monster bikes called the DesmoSeidici. Each detail was fine-tuned all the way down to the red, white, and green pin stripes on the tires. I left the place wondering how I could be so physically attracted to metal, rubber, and plastic. Ducati does it for me.
We then went back to Bologna to catch some lunch. The most interesting thing in Bologna was the fountain in the main square out in front of the Duomo, which had statues of women gripping their breasts with water spurting out of their nipples. I didn’t have a guidebook so I didn’t know if there was any symbolism or meaning attached, but they were plenty entertaining without any context. We found some lunch, then got back on the bus to head to the Ferrari museum.
I love Ferraris, but I find all their stores tend to be soulless and uninteresting. The museum was similar in style, but much better--probably because I got to touch many millions of dollars of worth of cars in a 45-minute tour. This tour took us from the humble beginnings of the company all the way through to the grandeur of Ferrari's reputation today. F1s were on display and I got to see each of the three street-legal F cars. These are among the most difficult cars to get your hands on in the world. Our guide explained in order to qualify to buy the second one in the series, you had to own the first one. And in order to own the latest, the Enzo, one must already own the second, the F50. In other words, you gotta be loaded.
After the tour was over, I began asking around to find a person with whom I could leave my resume and portfolio. It would be my dream to design for Ferrari in an internship. They sent me around in circles all the way to the gate into the real factory and there was where I met a challenge. I had my portfolio and resume in-hand but the guy wouldn’t even take it. Instead he handed me a standardized application form. So I gave up. I think I just have to start up the long ladder, and maybe some day I’ll get to the top.
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