“We say that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty; the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot—is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.” —F.T. Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto (1909)
An exhibition exploring the influences of racing on automobile design, Designed for Speed: Three Automobiles by Ferrari examines Ferrari’s unique commitment to racing, its pursuit of ever-increasing speed and performance. The exhibition reveals the relationship between competition and passenger cars, and the ways in which automobile design has changed since the late 1940s. Designed for Speed also celebrates the Museum’s recent acquisition—a gift from Ferrari S.p.A.—of a 1990 Ferrari Formula 1 racer, the second automobile to enter the Museum’s Design Collection.
Designed for Speed features three complete automobiles produced by Ferrari. A 1950 166MM “Barchetta” (or “little boat”), the prototypical two-seat convertible, is an early example of an automobile intended for both racing and transportation; a 1987 “super car” F40 was, at its date of introduction, the fastest production car available for purchase and road use; and the 1990 Formula 1 racing car—the most technologically sophisticated motorcar produced—represents the pinnacle of automotive design and performance. All three cars are studied in detail through various parts, models, and some sixty original design and engineering drawings. The major portion of the exhibition is devoted to the first in-depth examination of the highly complex Formula 1 racer. On display are all of the car’s principal interior components, including the monocoque (the cockpit in which the driver sits), the rear suspension, a gearbox, and an engine—objects rarely seen by the public due to the secretive nature of racing. A one-third-scale wind-tunnel model used to test aerodynamics and footage of the Formula 1 racing are also on view.
Designed for Speed shows how the visual appeal of racing and sports cars is a consequence of their exterior shapes being closely related to performance and function. The exterior styles of the three cars on view illustrate the varying applications and effects of the science of aerodynamics on the development of the shapes of car bodies. Christopher Mount states that “Things that work well with nature and in alliance with the laws of physics are often beautiful—rarely with rough edges and seemingly not made by man.”
Organized by Christopher Mount, curatorial assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.