If you described a carmaker’s logo that has a yellow shield with a prancing horse on it, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that anyone would think you were describing Ferrari’s logo, because, well, that’s Ferrari’s logo. But it’s also the logo of an odd little carmaker you’ve likely never heard of, but I bet you’ve seen at least one thing they’ve made. And I think Ferrari never bothered with them because it might have revealed a possibly uncomfortable truth about the origin of Ferrari’s famous badge.
The carmaker is a German company called Steinwinter, and you can see their logo and Ferrari’s logos side-by-side up there. They made some quite different cars than Ferrari did, though they also had a distinctively Italian flavor:
Yes, Steinwinter was the choice for people who really wanted a Fiat 500 or Fiat 126 but felt that, really, 500cc is just too much engine for any rational person to expect to be able to handle. Why, that’s a half a liter. Something with oh, 250cc makes much more sense, and Steinwinter was there to provide.
Yes, from around 1969 to 1987 Steinwinter built licensed Fiats with two-stroke 13.5 (some sources say 15) horsepower 250cc engines from the old Goggomobil cars, and the 250L seems to have had a four-stroke 250cc option as well.
If 250cc felt too insane for you, they also offered a car that existed to fit those arcane European categories, city cars available even to people too young, old, or drunk to have a conventional driver’s license. This was the Junior 50, a wedgy little pie-slice with a 50cc engine and that hilariously Ferrari-like badge on the nose.
If you wanted something a bit sportier, Steinwinter also built a very Myers Manx-style dune buggy, using the 500 to 600cc drivetrain from a Fiat 126, which would have given this brute a ravenous 23 to 26 hp.
While I wouldn’t expect that most people have heard of these in America, I’m pretty sure at some point most of you have encountered pictures of this strange beast:
That’s the Steinwinter Supercargo, a revolutionary new concept for a tractor-trailer truck design, shown first in 1983. Manfred Steinwinter was the eponymous engineer who came up with the concept, and while it seemed very futuristic and clever, it was actually quite flush with conceptual and design problems that prevented it from ever becoming anything more than a cool curiosity.
Oh, a curiosity, and it was also used (with modifications) as the hero truck in the 1987 NBC show, The Highwayman:
Hey, that’s the Vulcan dude from Star Trek: Voyager in there!
Okay, all this is fascinating, of course, but that headline promised talk about the strangely similar logo to the Ferrari logo, so let’s talk about that. First, it should be clear that Steinwinter did not just rip off the Ferrari logo. Not at all. They wouldn’t stoop so low.
No, they ripped off the coat-of-arms of Stuttgart, Germany, which is a much more acceptable kind of logo-theft, since coat-of-arms appropriating happens all the time.
Now, where this gets interesting is that it is, of course, impossible not to notice the similarity between the Ferrari logo and the Stuttgart coat of arms. Something is up here, right?
Ferrari’s origin story about their logo is that it came from the symbol of Count Francesco Baracca, an Italian WWI fighter pilot, who had the horse on his plane. It’s said the yellow color comes from the color associated with the city of Modena, but there’s also the suggestion that Baracca took the symbol from the Stuttgart coat-of-arms he saw on the crashed plane of a German pilot.
I threw Porsche in there just so you can see there’s yet another automaker pulling from the Stuttgart crest, just with a slightly different horse.
That Ferrari horse looks just like the Steinwinter horse. If I had to guess, I think I’d speculate that the connections are like this: they’re all inspired by the original Stuttgart crest, but Steinwinter actually cribbed the specific horse from Ferrari (because, come one that horse is the same, and the OG Stuttgart horse is not really like that), though the inspiration was Stuttgart, not Ferrari.
I suspect Ferrari never made too big a deal about it, because if you mistook a Steinwinter product for a Ferrari one, maybe you shouldn’t be driving, and I suspect they were happy not to have their own likely Stuttgart association receive too much attention.
So there you go. That’s my theory. Now maybe you Steinwinter fans and Ferrari stans will quit fighting so much. Take it to the track.