Ferrari turns 70: we pick each decade's highlight model

These are the cars we say made the Prancing Horse what it is today

Ferrari is officially celebrating its 70th anniversary this year on September 13th, even if the firm has its roots further back, in 1929, when Enzo first created the company called Scuderia Ferrari. At first, he had no interest in making road cars, but was eventually forced to start making some in order to finance his racing aspirations. So I made a list of the models I think are most significant in the manufacturer's history.

1) 1947 125S

The first road spec car to bear the Prancing Horse badge is the 125S, a small two-seater roadster from 1947 that featured a 1.5-liter V12 engine making 118 hp which was sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed gearbox; the car weighed 650 kg / 1,433 lbs. Only two were ever made, so you’re much more likely to see a replica, which is a shame because this is the first and most important Ferrari of the 1940s.

2) 1957 - 1958 250 Testa Rossa

During the 1950, Ferrari made a much wider array of models, but today the most sought after is the 250 series of models, of which the most desirable in our view is the Testa Rossa. Its design came courtesy of Scaglietti and is utterly beautiful, while its 300 hp 3.0-liter V12 engine made more than enough power to push its 800 kg bulk around at a alarming speeds; only 30 were ever built.

3) 1968 - 1973 Daytona (365 GTB/4 hardtop and 365 GTS/4 cabriolet)

Choosing the most iconic 1960s Ferrari is certainly tricky, but the distinction has to go to the 365 GTB/4 Daytona, even if 250-series models were still made into the ’60s and we’re sure you know the 250 GTO coupe. However, it’s the Daytona that made a bigger splash, mostly due to its back then futuristic wedge styling, but it wasn’t bad to drive either and its 4.4-liter V12 engine was capable of pushing it to sixty in just over 5 seconds and on to a top speed of 280 km/h / 174 mph.

4) 1975 - 1985 308 GTB/GTS

Moving into the 1970s, it’s really hard not to choose 308 as the defining Ferrari of the decade. Seen as a successor to the Dino-badged 246 model of the 1960s, the 308 which came as either a hardtop GTB or targa GTS was one of the first mid-engined Ferraris to actually bear the prancing horse badge. It got its power from a 2.9-liter V8 engine that in Europe made 252 hp, while in the US it was down to 237 hp; Euro-spec cars also had a dry sump lubrication system.

5) 1987 - 1992 F40

Now drumroll for what is possibly the best Ferrari ever made, the F40 - that makes it the 1980s most prominent Ferrari too, obviously. It needs no introduction: it looks gorgeous, epitomizing late 1980s supercar styling, it can out-accelerate many modern supercars and is reportedly incredibly pleasant and tactile to drive. It featured a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V8 with over 470 hp and had a top speed of 324 km/h / 201 mph.

6) 1994 - 1999 F355

Moving into the 1990s, here we can’t really point to the F50 flagship as the best car because it isn’t. Instead I say the defining 90s Ferrari is the F355 which came as a hardtop, targa top and there was even a spider with no top. And you definitely wanted the latter because the car got its power from a mid-mounted 3.5-liter V8 with five valves per cylinder that made 375 hp and a truly intoxicating noise - sixty came up in 4.5 seconds and its top speed was 295 km/h / 183 mph. It was also the first Ferrari with a paddle shift gearbox and it came with adaptive dampers too.

7) 2002 - 2004 Enzo

In the 2000s the flagship Ferrari, the Enzo, was the most important model, unlike previous decades. The automaker was so proud of it it had no trouble naming it after its illustrious founder - the car had a six-liter V12 with 660 PS / 651 hp and was capable of sprinting to sixty in 3.14 seconds and 100 mph in 6.6 seconds, with a standing quarter mile time of 11 seconds. It was also the most technologically advanced Ferrari ever back in its day - it had, for instance, electronically controlled suspension that was firmed up during gear changes to keep the car level and stable, all this while the engine gave a burst of extra torque to keep acceleration seamless and strong.

8) 2010 - 2015 458 Italia / Spider

The most significant contemporary Ferrari has to be the now defunct 458, one of the manufacturer’s last naturally-aspirated cars. Reports popped up around the time of its launch that it was just as fast around the Fiorano racing track as the Enzo, despite having less power. The 458 used a 4.5-liter V8 with 570 PS / 562 hp, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox by Getrag - it was the first mainstream Ferrari to not be offered with a manual, though. Reviewers praised it for its telepathic handling, excellent manners, fun, high-revving engine and pretty styling and I think it’s going to be a hugely sought-after future classic since it represents breed of car that is on the brink of extinction - had they still offered the manual gearbox option, it would have been any enthusiast’s wildest wet dream come true. And I'm not even going to go into how good the Speciale variant its greatness deserves to be discussed separately.

Had enough of Ferrari for today? Here are the most expensive non-Ferrari classics ever
Andrei Nedelea

Need somebody to bore you with ideal bore to stroke ratios, or the intricacies of how variable valve timing works? Ask Andrei and watch the hours roll by… He’s also quite a strange bloke who never turns the air-con on in any car for the very obvious reason of it sapping power. He say... Read more

By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Read more.
I Agree

Read our policy about the usage of your personal data. We might use these data for serving you more relevant personalized ads. Do you agree?
You can change your mind anytime in the Privacy Policy page.