Die Geschichte vom Ferrarischrottplatz in Italien:


THEREíS MOSS GROWING ON the moss-green 456 GT. Its leather seats are cut and split, and soggy, weather-exposed foam oozes from the wounds. Nearby, an F355 Spider, its tyres so little used as to have those little rubber moulding whiskers still intact, sits forlornly with brake discs rusted near solid. All around is decay arid oxidation. Over there lies a F50. or most of one anyway. Ever wondered what its honeycomb-sandwich and carbonfibre construction looks like when cracked open. Well, just like the inside of a bees nest. It's a wonder the insects havenít taken up residence.

Tangled metal, shredded glassfibre, aluminium in anguish. Whatís going on? Is it the aftermath of a second Gulf War, the remnants of impossible affluence impossibly curtailed? For these are Ferraris as you have never seen Ferraris before, and as the custodians of this auto-Armageddon would rather you didnít see them now either, if you donít mind. If a Ferrari is seen by some as an erotic object, the sight before you now must surely be close to sadism. It is not, however, quite the sacrilege-fest it first appears. These Ferraris were never destined to be shining prides, joys and status statements with glinting paintwork, polished castings, supple leather and the potential to move the soul very quickly indeed.

The 10 cars in the double-decker pile, plus another 33 or so reverting to nature behind the corrugated iron fence, exist, or rather have existed, to make sure lucky people who buy a new Ferrari can be sure that their new car will protect them in a crash. Thatís comforting to knew, seeing as Ferraris are quite fast. Youíll have guessed it, of course. These are crash-test cars, belonging to Ferrari itself and lurking in a hidden corner of the otherwise high-tech, white dashboard (dials and all) sharing a cabin with matt blue seats and matt yellow door panels, all splashed over that lovely leather so the high-speed film can better see whatís going on.

Thatís why, also, you can see peeling numbers on the flanks, like an identity mark on a prisoner condemned to death, or little black-and-white movement markers to help quantify the crashís crush. For every new model, or a major change such as removing the roof to make a Spider out of a GTB, a car has to pass certain official crash tests before it can be certified as fit for the public. Thereís a head-on frontal, an offset frontal, a side impact, a rear impact and a lateral roll-over, all carried out at the bureaucratically bizarre speed of 54km/h (33.6mph). A low-speed Ďinsuranceí test (14km/h) and the US 5mph bumper test are inflicted, too.

Sometimes Ferrari will do the major tests at a speed higher than 54km/h, just to find out what happens, or introduce more tests of its own such as an end-over-end crash. The crashers will get through a lot of cars, then: at least four per model, maybe as many as eight. The thought is almost unbearable. But the fated Ferraris stave off the forces remarkably ably; with passenger cells intact and steering wheels staying where they should be. These are tough, solid cars.

There cannot be a car graveyard in the world which has cost more to create than this one. To buy all 45 cars new, all these F355s, 550 Marenellos, 456GTs, 348s, Testarossas and that F50, would have cost you over £6m. Actually, though, itís worse than that. Each of these cars has dented Maranelloís bank balance by approximately twice its build cost, because test rigs and data analysis are big money items. Weíre looking at a £1Om scrapyard here. Except that the cars, despite appearances, are not scrap. Not yet, anyway. So you can stop that lusting and longing for a genuine Ferrari steering wheel or undamaged light cluster, that feeling of being cheated of something tasty that looked to be destined for the skip. It all comes across as a terrible waste, but since 1992 Ferrari has decided to keep all its crashed cars for 10 years post-crash, as reference material, before crushing and cubing them. Every piece must stay with the car it came from. And quite apart from this research angle, Ferrari cannot let parts that might have been subjected to huge stresses escape to the real world. What looks like a gorgeous alloy wheel could well be out of true or have a hairline crack. The graveyard, though, is an embarrassment. Every manufacturer has its cemetery, but Ferrari, high-tech, cutting-edge, living-legend Ferrari hates the idea, hates the mud and weeds that mark out the area behind the corrugated iron. Thatís why Ferrari is cleaning it up, clearing out the cars, asphalting the lot. Next will come a new building in which to store the corpses, a Ferrari mausoleum of dead cars which have died to help keep people alive. Behind the fence, a squashed F355 on a crane before being dropped on truck to join a discarded chassis or two, while to our left we see and we hear an F50 and a . bright yellow F355 let rip across the open space beyond the graveyard. The dead have died that the living may live. There are other chassis in the graveyard too, maybe from development prototypes (our Ferrari man was vague on the subject), and a wooden body buck built as a styling proposal for the 456. Now the paint is peeling, the plywood delaminating. But don't worry. It didn't look that good anyway. MARCH 1998 CAR MAGAZINE