"FERRARI Gli Anni d’Oro/The Golden Years" Book Review
The Ferrari Photographs of Franco Villani
Pictures, pictures, pictures - sometimes a book is all about its pictures. Sometimes that’s a bad thing if the book is simply a lazy collection of previously seen images, affording the reader no more pleasure than the simple yawn of recognition. But other books surprise and delight with an unfolding of procession of never before seen images and this is what we have in this new book from your saviors of automotive history Giorgio Nada Editore - a look at Ferrari in what has been described as “The Golden Years”. Granted, this is an overused term, since one man’s golden years can be another man’s nightmare, but here we can safely say that the period of Ferrari history when Enzo Ferrari was in complete charge himself, is the most notable, as it presents one man’s vision and force of personality building a circumscribed and self-contained world along with a loyal staff of steadfast followers.
Giorgio Nada Editore recently acquired the pictorial legacy of one of the most observant photographers of Ferrari, Franco Villani. Being a publisher, Nada took the opportunity of publishing this absolutely new photographic material and “Ferrari: The Golden Years” is the result. It was published coincidentally to mark the 70th anniversary of Ferrari last year, but the essence of the book is not “Ferrari to date” but just those years from the end of the 1940s - when the 125 first rolled into the factory’s courtyard - to the 1980s, when the Grande Vecchio “died on a midsummer’s morning.” In other words, the Ferrari years.
The images are gems of content and concentration, many of them candid with the participants acting out their own dramas with no regard for the watchful eye of the camera nearby. And it’s a nice study in contrasts. The actors on this stage are seen at their uninhibited best, whether at turns intense or relaxed, playful or sorrowful, engaged or bored, cooperative or quarrelsome, but most of all tasting either success or disappointment in competition. This latter word is what the Golden Years were all about - the desire to win and the maniacal efforts to come up with winning automobiles, automobiles that turned out to be totally unique as a result.
What gives these images their secondary charm is the backdrop of Italy in which these actors tread - modern industrial buildings amidst Renaissance and Baroque edifices, bare pavement against lush centuries old gardens, wine and food always at the ready. And the characters played their parts with costumes that hardly changed and indeed defined them - Ferrari nearly always in jacket and tie, reserved, observant and directorial; Forghieri with no jacket, rolled up sleeves, tie askew, the man of action; Gozzi the gatekeeper, always dressed, sharp-eyed and vigilant; the drivers, at turns casual and proper, waiting for their seat; and the mechanics, local farm boys who still can’t believe their luck at landing in a dream job.
The commentary on these images is supplied by Leonardo Acerbi, who also wrote the introduction. The size of this hefty book is 28 x 30 cms (11 x 11.8 inches) and is nicely hardbound, with a jacket. There are 360 pages, nearly all with the well-produced photos, many in black and white and a good number in color. Text is both Italian and English. We recommend this book to anyone who desires to know the “flavor”, the “atmosphere” of those Ferrari years. This is not a history; others have done that in detail. This is a window on a lost world - golden or otherwise.
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