England isn’t short on impressive car museums. There’s the British Motor Museum, Coventry Transport Museum, Donington Grand Prix Collection, and the Brooklands Museum among the more notable collections scattered throughout the country. Then there are special exhibitions like the one showcasing a certain Italian automaker you may have heard of at a museum that isn’t really a car museum at all—the Design Museum in London. If you want to see it though you need to book your trip soon, because “Ferrari: Under the Skin,” which was curated to help celebrate Ferrari’s 70th anniversary, wraps up on April 15, 2018.
Getting there is easy. First, book a flight of your choice into London Heathrow. Then, upon arrival, hop on the 15-minute Heathrow Express train and take it to Paddington Station. Next, walk downstairs to the Circle line of the London Underground and get off three stops later at High Street Kensington station. The Design Museum is a scenic seven-minute walk from there—assuming you don’t get sucked into a local pub for a pint of bitter. Pay the £18 (around $25) adult entry fee and you’re in.
Before you even hand over your quid, the Italian automaker’s spectacular history slams you square in the face. Sitting in the lobby is a stunning, 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’ race car sprayed in can’t-miss-it-yellow. This exact example, serial number (s/n) 16425, finished third in class and tenth overall in the 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s clear that this V-12-powered coupe with 450 hp doesn’t sit still often, as confirmed by its 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed participation sticker.
The entrance to the actual exhibition is painted in a vivid shade of the color you’d expect—rosso. A collection of quotes from Enzo Ferrari guides you to an example of the first car bearing his surname, the 1947 Ferrari 125 S. The petit sports car is actually a replica, built in 1987. (The two original 125 S examples were dismantled in period.) No matter the show car’s pedigree, the display is complimented by an early, 1.5-liter V-12 sitting on a stand. Let the size of those pistons sink in for a moment.
‘Enzo: The Man’ is the title of the next room. Fans of memorabilia will love this area. There’s a plethora of random items including a collection of wristwatches given to sponsors and clients of Ferrari, a ton of old photos, and even Enzo’s passport and 1937 international driver’s license. It’s a truly impressive assortment of Ferrari bits.
The exhibit then opens up into a large area welcoming visitors with a full-size clay model of the 2015 Ferrari J50. Based on a 488 Spider, only 10 production examples of the J50 were built to commemorate 50 years of Ferrari selling cars in Japan. Adjacent to it is a wonderful grouping showcasing the innards of various other fantastic Ferraris, including a wireframe model of a 1962 250 GTO, a mid-engined 1964 250 LM bare aluminum body, a wooden body buck of a 1965 365 P ‘Tre Posti’, and a 250 LWB rolling chassis. Around back is a collection of original wind tunnel models as well as a display showing how the twin-turbo V-8 of a Ferrari 488 is manufactured. What a treat to see Ferraris showcased in an entirely different way.
But it’s also wonderful to see the finished product, especially given the cars gathered in the next room. In addition to a display showing various leather samples and steering wheels, five very special Ferrari models grace this area:
- 1957 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet (s/n 0655GT)—shown at the 1957 Geneva auto show.
- 1950 Ferrari 166 MM (s/n 0064)
- 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 (s/n 09897GT)
- 1986 Ferrari Testarossa Spider (s/n 62897)—commissioned for the then chairman of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli.
- 1987 Ferrari F40 (s/n 78122)—owned by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd.
As you exit this area of the museum, a large screen loops the iconic 1976 short film, “C’était un rendez-vous”, an early-morning blast through Paris set to the soundtrack of a Ferrari 275 GTB. Another nice touch.
Then we come to an area very befitting of Ferrari—race cars. Complimenting a collection of competition engines and gearboxes as well as trophies, a large display of racing helmets and racing suits is a group of five very special Ferrari race cars:
- 1952 Ferrari 500 (chassis No. 500/625—No. 005)—Alberto Ascari’s double world championship, front-engine grand prix car (1952 and 1953).
- 1960 Ferrari 250 SWB (s/n 2119GT)—Stirling Moss won the 1960 RAC Tourist Trophy race at Goodwood in this car, after breaking his legs in the Belgium GP. It’s said that Moss listened to live BBC commentary of the race on the Ferrari’s radio to hear what the competition was doing.
- 1961 Ferrari 250 GT ‘Sperimentale’ (s/n 2643GT)—Stirling Moss won the Daytona three-hour race in 1962 in this car that bridged the gap between the 250 GT and 250 GTO.
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (s/n 2643GT)—Ex-David Piper. One of 39 built.
- 2000 Ferrari F1 (s/n not provided)—3.0-liter V-10 with 805 hp. Driven by Michael Schumacher, this model car helped Ferrari score the 2000 F1 world championship, its first since 1979.
In final small area of the exhibition, ‘Ferrari Now’ and ‘Ferrari the Future,’ there’s a ‘HY-KERS’ hybrid power unit from a LaFerrari as well as Gordon Ramsay’s LaFerrari Aperta (s/n 221528) in a rather extroverted pearl white exterior. Ramsay’s open-top version of the LaFerrari is one of 209 built.
As you leave the exhibition, there are some interesting statistics about Ferrari:
- 45 percent of Ferraris sold are red
- Ferrari has scored 228 grand prix victories
- (Only) 130,000 Ferrari cars have been built
- 5,000 races won by Ferrari drivers
“Ferrari: Under the Skin” is an extremely impressive exhibition and one that’s not to be missed, even for the casual fan. And while the Design Museum may not be your typical car museum, the organizers put together one of the most impressive automobile exhibits I’ve seen in years. It’s 100 percent worth a trip to England—even if you pass on that pint.
Additional photography courtesy of the Design Museum