I was seated next to Piero Ferrari, Enzo's second and only surviving son, on Feb. 28, 2001, in Geneva.
The occasion was the induction of the inaugural class of the European Automotive Hall of Fame. Also at the table that night was a shy, 24-year-old John Elkann, the current chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' holding company (there for the induction of his grandfather Gianni Agnelli), and Annette Diesel, whose late husband's grandfather was Rudolf Diesel.
Piero owns about 10 percent of Ferrari S.p.A., enough to make him a billionaire as FCA -- which owns the rest -- prepares to sell a near 10 percent stake in Ferrari to Wall Street investors.
He didn't act like a billionaire back then. I spent much of that long-ago night chatting with Piero and was surprised. He had kept a low profile, and I expected to struggle through dinner with an imperious automotive aristocrat. Instead, he was friendly and unpretentious.
He recalled for me the time a few years earlier when he was invited to appear at a Columbus Day rally in New York City. He dutifully showed up at the annual Italian-American celebration, expecting to make an appearance only.
Suddenly, Piero was asked by his hosts to stand up in front of tens of thousands of New Yorkers and make a speech. Everyone wanted to hear from Enzo Ferrari's son.
He was without airs that night, though Piero admitted he liked the way his name eased the way through U.S. Immigration.
"The customs officer usually asks if I am related to Enzo Ferrari," he told me. "When I say, 'Yes, I am his son,' I go through much faster."
He talked affectionately about his father but also was honest.
"He was a crazy man," Piero said, "not a businessman at all."
Enzo Ferrari did not want his young son to become a race car driver. To prevent the boy from getting the racing fever, Enzo would not allow his workers to let Piero sit in Ferrari team cars.
Perhaps the old man foresaw this day. Piero has lived to age 70 and will derive a fortune estimated at $1.3 billion -- wealth that represents the brilliance and passion of his father.
You may email Richard Johnson at [email protected]