The Garagistes


Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Valued Member
Having recently read a post from Soumya Banerjee, with regards to the Garagistes in Formula 1 I thought it always amusing that a derogatory term first coined by Enzo Ferrari in the late 50's still had an impact in peoples minds today.

I believe Ferrari first used the term to dismiss those teams such as Cooper and Lotus who arrived on the scene with off the shelf engines (normally a Climax engine) mated to a Hewland gearbox and away they went. The full term he used was "Garagiste! Assembliatore! " meaning that teams did little more than assemble their cars in garages.

Another often used comment about Ferrari was that he constructed road cars to enable the team to afford to go racing rather than construct racing cars to enable people to want to buy the road cars. The ironic thing about this statement was the fact that the only reason that Colin Chapman designed and built the first Lotus road car in 1957 (the Lotus Elite) was to achieve the very same thing. Also, the Lotus elite was launched 10 years after Ferrari had built their first road going car in 1947.

A couple of interesting quotes I turned up from Enzo Ferrari are "Aerodynamics are for people who can't build engines" and one in relation to Coopers new mid-engine car "The horse should pull the cart not push it". These quotes suggest just how out of step Ferrari's thinking was in relation to the teams he clearly had little time for.

In 1961 in a combined effort to reduce speeds and attract big car makers back into the sport the governing body introduced the 1.5 litre engine era of which Ferrari were ideally placed to use their knowledge from the 1.5 litre v6 F2 cars to design and build an upgraded 1.5L 120' V6 engine. The mainly British based teams protested in the hope of being allowed to retain the 2.5 litre engines and then when this was not allowed were forced to struggle with the initially less powerful inline-4 Climax engine. Was this the first instance of what would become a long running feud between Ferrari and the "Garagiste" teams ??

In a sport that has ebbed and flowed through the various decades and regulation changes it is amusing that a derogatory term derived around 50 years ago is still with us. In the modern era, does it still apply? Max Mosley clearly had a vision of returning the sport further in that direction with the Cosworth engine deal but it was never going to catch on. Finally, what's the big deal about building your own engines anyway?
Men(and women) building stuff in sheds is what made Britain Great. Its not a bad thing, its a good thing. We need more men in sheds. More Dysons, Sinclairs, Logie Bairds, Chapmans, Frank Williams's, Brabhams and dare I say it Jordans.

Garagiste to me is a complement.The under dog taking on the big boys and winning. Huzzar.
It was just one of the ways Ferrari insulted the other competitors, wasn't it?

That practice continues today - check their "Horse Whisperer" column.

Wow, not exactly subtle is it.

On another note, with regards to Enzo's comment about "The horse should pull the cart not push it". It shows a lack of understanding about horse's. As I found out a few years ago from my father in law who has 5 Shire horses, all horses push the cart. The load of the vehicle is attached by chains (tug chains they're called) from the shafts of the vehicle up to the horses collar. The horses shoulders lean into the collar and push against it which drags the vehicle along behind. So there! Enzo!!
Good article cider_and_toast but I also suspect that some famous quotes uttered by historical characters become over time more and irrelevant to the context they uttered in. People pick different interpretations over time and by the it time reaches us some 60 years later you have to wonder whether the context they were said in, and context is crucial but is the one thing that gets altered with time

It's a very interesting subject because if you see the wider picture there beyond whatever it is Ferrari is said that went into posterity, you dig a bit deeper and you get a sense of the evolution of motor racing culture in the fifties and sixties and Britain and Italy went different ways when it came to the creation of F1 teams at the time. The progressive end of the german, italian and french models, all supported by state-sponsored large industrial outlets and the powerhouse of italian and german idustrialism.
And on the other hand you had the small independent british outets, all exclusively devoted to racing on the track and much more flexible and able to produce the maverick design genius, able to design a revolutionary new chassis and free to work on his design without corporate restrictions otherwise incurred within the boundaries of major multi-national industrial giant.

Ferrari was for too long trying to do both but even he had to sell to FIAT and the their raison d' etre was thereon somewhat altered. Gone were the days of racing as an end in itself..

The legacy on today's F1 is very obvious. Formula One is almost entirely-british-based engineering-wise. When talented overseas engineers begin getting a name for themselves the first thing they aspire to do is come and ply their trade for a british team.

The brits and their racing modicum and business models had the right idea the whole time.
Incubus, fantastic points you've made and the sort of thing that I was driving at in my OP. I agree that you have to take the context of the quote when applied to the original era in which it was made.

I think for most people now, the Garagiste remark is seen more as a legacy of the FOCA / FISA struggles of the late 70's and the anti sliding side skirt movement headed by Alfa, Ferrari and Renault.
Both sides have contributed a lot to F1 over the years. The fusion of Matra and Ken Tyrrell - industrialists and garagistes - took Jackie Stewart to his first world title. Renault took a gamble in bringing turbocharging to F1 in the 1970s; no British team of the time could have done that.
I think the line between the two nowadays is so blurred that it's impossible to tell who is what. Take Red Bull for example, a team that is owned by a global corperate giant and yet by all reasonable terms, could be considered a "garagiste".

In relation to the Turbo's, it was interesting that of all the manufacturers, it was only Honda that started out with a low key program with Spirit while Renault, Alfa and Ferrari built their own units and BMW and Porsche went with two very established teams.
Your article raises so many angles, and just about Ferrari or een motor racing but also about the different ways motor racing was viewed, funded and the socio-economic differences that existed in the way industry was funded in different cultures, all with marked different political agendas.

One thing to remember about Ferrari though was that was already 57 years of age when the WDC kicked off, and he aleady had decades of experience of leading Grand Prix teams with Alfa-Romeo. So he was already veteran. His personal convictions priority on engines and reluctance filtered through to his racing team. He was always reluctant to adopt new technologies developped by other teams, to the point of bloody-mindedness. In the late fifties I think it took him until the late fifties to finally ditch drum-brakes (evverybody else had switched to discs for 3 or years or so by then.)...
Even until the early eighties the archetypical Ferrari had a disastrously-handling chassis coupled with a fabulously powerful engine.
In 1960 the Monza officials changed the track to favour Ferrari, and so the British teams all pulled out in protest. All that remained was Ferrari, Porsche and a handful of Cooper's.
I don't know how far back Enzo was making the horse-and-cart analogy but it was a remark he often aimed at his old chum Ferruccio Lamborghini after his car company released their first mid-engined car, the stunningly beautiful Miura.

Very little of what il Commendatore said proved to be carved in Carrara marble, including the most fabled and sacrosanct of all Ferrari aphorisms, "Una Ferrari è una macchina di dodici cilindri." Which was true, of course, but only if you ignored the six, eight and 10 cylindered ones.

Very little of what il Commendatore said proved to be carved in Carrara marble, including the most fabled and sacrosanct of all Ferrari aphorisms, "Una Ferrari è una macchina di dodici cilindri." Which was true, of course, but only if you ignored the six, eight and 10 cylindered ones.

Probably he was only referring to F1 ...
It depends what year he said that in.

If he said that sometime in the late fifties or 1960 just before Formula One was about to switch to normally-aspirated 1.5L engines then it would make total sense. And having read interviews from the likes of Inner Ireland, a lot of drivers and spectators at the time were dissatisfied with the 1.500cc formula. Just not enough power and too few cylindres for their liking.

That Innes Ireland interview would have first been published about 20 years or so ago, he was saying something pretty similar to that quote of Enzo's, but for some reason that never became "One Of Innes Ireland's Famous Quotes". :)

Like I said, it's all about the context :)
Enzo made both the aerodynamics and the 12 cylinder remarks to driver/journo Paul Frère some time in the early 1960s. The aero remark was Enzo's reply to Frère's complaint that the 250 TR he was preparing to drive in the 1960 24 Hours of LeMans only had a (aero-limited) top speed of 260 kph.

FWIW, Frère (and co-driver Olivier Gendebien) won the race, which at face value appears to validate Enzo's boast.

For the 1956 World Sportscar Championship, Ferrari looked to cover both ends of the spectrum by building and campaigning both a torquey 4-cylinder car and rev-happy 12-cylinder car. AFAIK, this was the only occurrence of the factory formally supporting a 12 along side any other engine configuration. So Ferrari was more opportunistic and less parochial than he liked to let on.
Top Bottom