Exploring Africa's only official Ferrari body shop
Brenwin Naidu gets to peek behind the stable doors of the Ferrari Carrozzeria in Johannesburg where pranged Prancing Horses are mended
The Carrozzeria is more than a facility that remedies the mishap of pranging your Prancing Horse. No, it is a shrine to the preservation of a storied brand, described as "a factory outside the factory", honouring the legacy of Enzo himself. And what could add more legitimacy to such an outfit than the custodianship of an espresso-swilling, hand-gesturing, charismatic Italian?
I am standing with Ivano Sega, managing director of the operation that is sanctioned by the Ferrari headquarters in Maranello. The 61-year-old cuts a stylish profile in the workshop, whose pristine, clinical ambience is punctuated by striking shades of hallmark Rosso paint.
Literally translated as "body shop", the Carrozzeria is the official repairer for local Ferrari customers as endorsed by Scuderia South Africa, distributors for the manufacturer. It is the only outlet of this kind on the continent.
After a period of earnest bargaining with representatives from the brand, its doors were opened to us for a nose-around. The premise of our request? Labours that transpire within these walls lend themselves beautifully to the warmth and fuzziness of the February narrative.
Not everyone gets to peek behind the stable doors of the Carrozzeria works, tucked away in a Westfield office park. My giddiness could scarcely be contained.
Before me stood an F40, a few paces away, a 512 Berlinetta Boxer in the process of a ground-up rebuild, and a Dino on a lift.
There were, of course, more contemporary examples being treated to repair work. A 458 Italia with frontal damage elicited a wince. Why do we hurt the ones we love?
COFFEE? JOKES? OR THE JOB?
Sega approaches his task of running a tight ship with the kind of soul and temerity you would expect. He explains the lengthy process involved in refurbishment of the classics, particularly when components are a challenge to source.
"Shortcuts don't suit me; there's no other way to work but from A to Z. If there is no part,
it must be fabricated."
His expertise is underpinned by over three decades of experience with the brand, although he was just 18 when he started his own panel shop.
Carrozzeria is equipped for certified Ferrari Classiche restorations, with the in-house foundry and machining tools used to manufacture original parts.
Amusingly, we spot of a couple of bogeys parked around the Carrozzeria - notably old specimens hailing from a marque owing its origins to a car shaped like an arachnid.
Some Ferrari customers trust Sega so much that they insist he work on their other vehicles too. "I don't know what keeps them coming back. Is it me? The quality of the job? The coffee? Or the grappa? But I think it's the job," he jokes.
Touring the bowels of the Carrozzeria, we see a shrunken-down, functional replica of the F2002 Formula One car powered by a 100cc motor. Sega bought a pair for his twins to play with and apparently the model caught the eye of infamous former Bosasa man Angelo Agrizzi, whose appreciation for Ferrari was documented on the news pages of the Sunday Times. "He made me mad, nagging me to sell it. I said no, it's my kids'!"
We chuckle in unison, probably because we both had the mental picture of rotund Agrizzi trying to squeeze into the little car.
Around 15 vehicles pass through Carrozzeria per month. "Certain restoration processes do take more time and require the vehicle to stay longer."
Eight people are employed at the facility, the previous staff complement of 18 had to be streamlined due to economic vagaries. The syllabus for technicians is rigorous, of course, with training that includes a stint at the mothership abroad. Sega says: "It's rewarding to train the younger generation in these intricate processes."
He concludes heartily that he feels duty-bound "to see the life breathed back into these machines that have stories and character, like human beings".
There is no arguing with such a powerful verbal distillation of love for the craft and brand.