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Film about Enzo Ferrari and his iconic cars has western New York roots

Pamela Yates and her daughter Stacy Bradley stand in front of walls covered with Brock Yates' memorabilia.
Max Schulte
Pamela Yates and her daughter Stacy Bradley stand in front of walls covered with Brock Yates' memorabilia.

The recently released film "Ferrari" features an in-depth look at Enzo Ferrari, whose name became synonymous with one of the most famous cars in automotive history.

And while it’s a big Hollywood production — with stars like Adam Driver, who portrays the former race car driver and later entrepreneur — its road to get to screens around the world had a significant stop in the Rochester region.

The idea for the movie that would focus on Ferrari’s larger-than-life personality began more than 20 years ago. In 1991, well-known automotive writer and editor Brock Yates wrote a biography called “Enzo Ferrari: The Man and the Machine.”

Yates grew up in western New York. He died several years ago, and his widow, Pamela, now lives in the Rochester area.

Pamela Yates was among those who helped filmmaker Michael Mann get the movie made and has an executive producer credit on the film.

Brock Yates memorabilia on the walls of Brock's office.(photo by Max Schulte)
Max Schulte
Brock Yates' memorabilia on the walls of the late author's office.

Brock Yates was known as a writer and commentator who wasn’t afraid of taking very frank views of people in power in the automotive industry. Pamela Yates said that approach held true in his biography about Ferrari — and that meant that her husband wasn’t exactly revered by some people — especially in Modena, Italy, the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari and where the cars are made.

“He'd get perspectives from all the different communities that dealt with Enzo Ferrari,” she said, “and so it was a kind of a mélange of different attitudes, and to most people, Ferrari was 'Il Commendatore,' he was the king … they were very careful about what they put in writing.”

Brock Yates’ daughter, Stacy Bradley, is an editor and author who helped republish her father’s Ferrari biography and wrote a forward and epilogue for the new edition. She believes that her father, while not afraid to write Ferrari's unvarnished history, respected what he accomplished over his lifetime.

“How he finessed two world wars, Mussolini, Hitler, factories being bombed, extreme poverty, a non-existent male workforce and taught himself to build cars,” Bradley said.

Pamela Yates said when the deal was finally closed to get "Ferrari" produced, she told Mann that she thinks her late husband would have been pleased to do the deal for the film rights — since, like Mann, Brock Yates also had integrity in the work that he produced.

The republished version of Brock Yates "Ferrari". The bio-pic 'Ferrari' is baised on Brock’s biography on the life of Enzo Ferrari. (photo by Max Schulte)
Max Schulte
The republished version of Brock Yates' biography on Enzo Ferrari. The film "Ferrari" is baised on Brock’s biography,

“He would do the best he could to do the best job he could, the most truthful job he could,” Yates said. "And he would know that you were trying to operate against that criteria. And he would respect you for the work that you will deliver.”

Fred Infantino, a Ferrari enthusiast from Irondequoit who owns three of the cars, said that watching the film was a thrilling experience. Listening to the authentic engines used for the film, which is set in 1957, was particularly exciting, he said.

“It’s just a very emotional thing, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck go up,” said Infantino, who has had Ferraris for years.

Infantino said it’s hard to define just what makes the brand so special to him.

“Well, the interesting thing about Ferrari is, it’s an amalgamation," he said. "It’s the engine, it’s the design, it’s the mystique that goes with it, and the uncompromising idea. They did not build a car to a price, they built it to a standard.”

Infantino said that he has visited the Ferrari factory several times, and he became friends with Enzo Ferrari’s longtime secretary, Brenda Vernor.

Infantino said he recently spoke to Vernor about the new film, and she told him that both she and Ferrari’s son, Piero Ferrari, who is now vice chairman of the company had a private showing of the new film, and they enjoyed it.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.