Jun 10, 2023
Although they are rare nowadays, there is something really fascinating about car brands that have an “owner”, in other words, brands that are associated with a particular person, who created them or is a member of the family that created them. Henry Ford, Enzo Ferrari, Ferdinand Porsche, Ettore Bugatti, Ferruccio Lamborghini and Giovanni (Gianni) Agnelli (l’Avvocato) are names that immediately spring to mind, yet there are also contemporary examples, like Horacio Pagani and Gordon Murray. But what cars were (or are) driven by these leading figures from the car world — the individuals who played (or play) such a crucial role in keeping the automobile dream alive?
Agnelli (“l’Avvocato”) with his wife Marella and the Lancia Integrale Spider built especially for him. In the garage you can see his Thema SW built by Zagato
We decided it would be fun to find out. It was actually a Spanish follower who gave us the suggestion, and we were happy to take it up! So, let’s look at what we discovered. Henry Ford, proudly American, would doff his cap when he saw an Alfa Romeo, so it is hard to imagine that he never drove one. Ferrari was unpredictable: for many years, he used Peugeots — was his visionary intuition so great that he had already foreseen the 2021 Stellantis merger between Fiat and Peugeot?! —, although he subsequently switched brands, turning to Renault. There was a clear reason for this: Renault had introduced the turbo engine into Formula 1 racing and Enzo, wanting to encourage Fiat, as a stakeholder in Ferrari, to invest in the same direction, bought a Renault 18 Turbo for everyday use. This was followed by another, and then finally by Renault’s flagship of the time, the 25. Equipped with a turbo engine of course! It is no coincidence that he himself went on to create a winning turbo powered F1 car.
Ferrari’s fascination with cars was always huge. Everyone knows about the “Ferrarina” project that he tried to sell to the Beretta family, which was thinking of entering the car industry. He really admired the Mini, so much so that its designer Alec Issigonis created one for him, with special dual headlamps. Here, Ferrari and Issigonis are photographed in front of the fuel pump at the Maranello plant
As for the Porsche family, we discovered that the most interesting inclinations were not those of Ferdinand or Ferry, but rather of the founder’s grandson Ferdinand Piech, the man who really made the Volkswagen and Porsche names great. A great sports car enthusiast, he liked to explain away his purchase of numerous Ferraris by saying they were for his wife, Ursula. Ettore Bugatti, for his part, was too refined and discerning to use cars other than his own exclusive ones. He preferred horses, which he rode with aristocratic panache.
Ferruccio Lamborghini in his “buen retiro” in Umbria with the Countach that he bought as a souvenir of the years he spent at his company in Sant’Agata
Tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini, a shrewd bon vivant, only decided to start making cars after finding fault with a Ferrari he had purchased, and falling out with Enzo as a result of it. Lamborghini claimed he knew what it took to build the perfect car, and he remained absolutely convinced of the fact — so much so that, many years after selling his firm, he actually bought back a Countach.
Boundless passion: Horacio Pagani, creator of magnificent supercars that bear his name, stands proudly by his Ferrari F12 TDF, just after collecting it at Maranello
Giovanni (Gianni) Agnelli, known as l'Avvocato ("the Lawyer"), a man with a noble, aristocratic demeanor, star of the international jet set, and president of the Fiat group, used to love having cars specially made for him: beach cars — these have now become collector’s items —, one-offs like his Lancia Delta Integrale and Ferrari Testarossa convertibles, and even unique models like the Ferrari 365 P Berlinetta Speciale with central steering that he ordered from Pininfarina (although in actual fact a second one was built for Luigi Chinetti, the legendary US Ferrari importer).
The purity and artistry of Ettore Bugatti's cars reflected his passion for horse riding. Classy performances don’t always need a steering wheel
If you want an insight into Horacio Pagani’s success with his magnificent supercars, you only need look at his personal collection of cars, which embraces the most diverse brands — Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari, and many others besides —, as they are a true measure of the extent of his passion for cars. Good man! The same passion (albeit accompanied by a different style) is shared by Gordon Murray, creator of winning racing cars for Brabham and McLaren, as well as the famous McLaren F1 Roadcar, now among the most valuable cars offered at auctions. Murray recently unveiled his T50, a perfectly analog sports car, pure and hard. Just like the Brabham BT46B Formula 1 car (also created by Murray), it even has a rear fan to increase its downforce. But what cars does Murray himself drive? Ones that remind him of his South African boyhood, including a Ford Cortina Lotus and a DeTomaso Vallelunga.
If anyone can tell us more about what the car world’s leading figures like to drive, we’d love to hear from you!
Ferdinand Piech with a red Porsche 917. A coincidence?
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER