Almost 90 years ago, a spirited horse galloped its way into automotive history. Today, we delve into its surprising origins that many may not be aware of
“Ask a child to draw a car, and certainly, he will draw it red,” said Enzo Ferrari, capturing the essence of millions who grew up with wall posters adorned with the iconic red sports car made by the Prancing Horse of Maranello. People may not know much about the cars, but they’ll instantly recognise a Ferrari logo. But how did the prancing horse make its way onto the iconic yellow shield?
According to Ferrari, Enzo came across the idea while visiting Count Enrico Baracca and Countess Paolina Baracca, parents of the famed Italian World War I fighter pilot Francesco Baracca, who had suggested that Enzo put the prancing horse on Ferrari’s race cars for good luck. The totem seemed to have worked, as Enzo won the race at the Savio circuit in Ravenna, Italy, in 1923. However, Enzo’s horse was black, while the one Baracca had painted on his aircraft was red. As the story goes, the fighter pilot was killed in action during the war, prompting his squadron mates to turn black as a sign of mourning.
While the horse remained black on Enzo’s car, the shield on which it was placed was coloured canary yellow, the colour of his hometown of Modena. But here’s where things get a little interesting. According to Ferrari’s account, the prancing horse on Baracca’s plane was derived from the Italian army’s Reggimento Piemonte Cavalleria, paying homage to the army’s cavalryman. However, some reports suggest that the symbol was a kill sign instead, honoured after Baracca had shot down a pilot from Stuttgart, Germany, whose city’s crest displays a similar sight. As luck would have it, the same crest with a yellow background now features on every Porsche badge.
Regardless of the origins, the badge had a home, but interestingly enough not on a Ferrari car…yet. The Prancing Horse first made its debut on an Alfa Romeo, specifically on the 8C Monza, a team Enzo raced for. It wasn’t until the end of WW2 when Ferrari begrudgingly started building road cars to fund his passion for racing, thus placing the iconic badge for the first time on the 1947 Ferrari 125 S, a 1.5-litre V12, that featured a rectangular version of the badge instead of the traditional shield-shaped ones seen earlier.
Over the years, the prancing horse has been through several variations, most focusing on the styling, the details, and the thickness of the line. All of them, though, always packed the same three elements that remain consistent after 90 years of existence – the horse, colours, and fonts.
Image Credits – Ferrari, Porsche, Twitter
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