When can a car workshop be much more than that? When it’s built on a foundation of true friendship and a deep passion for cars.
I admit this week’s text may not be to everyone’s interests. I mean…a workshop? But bear with me for a second and I may surprise you. After all, everybody likes an uplifting story, right?
This one begins in the year 2000 when a man called Nuno Bravo Martins joined a firm called Viauto.
Viauto was Ferrari’s Portuguese importer and working there was the dream of a lifetime for a 24-year-old kid. Imagine seeing all these 360 Modenas and 550 Maranellos coming in and out, the smell of petrol filling your head and the sound of the greatest engines in the world playing tunes all day long.
Not two years later, Nuno welcomed another character in our story. José Luis de Barros was poached from Alfa Romeo and, for the next 18 years, thousands of cars and countless training weeks in Maranello, the two of them became the greatest experts in Ferraris in the country.
In comes the third musketeer. A man called Nuno Seabra. He studied business management but, for the 13 years he spent at Viauto, he was the head of the parts department. Reference numbers, chassis specifications, global suppliers – nobody knows as much in Portugal as Seabra does.
For almost a decade and a half, these three men formed much more than a professional relationship. They stuck together through thick and thin, when the name Ferrari was a blessing and when it was a curse, and they built a friendship that lasts to this day.
Now, for reasons that matter not one bit, apart from the fact they wanted to take hold of their lives and build something of their own, Nuno, Zé (that’s short for José) and the other Nuno decided it was time to move on. And moving on for them meant doing something that not only no one else in Portugal had ever done before, but that nobody else could either: opening the first Portuguese Ferrari independent specialist.
They called their project NZN – the clue is in their names – and set about finding a place that could live up to their idea and future clients’ expectations. They settled for an empty warehouse in an industrial site at the county of Cascais, less than five minutes from the A5 motorway exit.
It took quite a while to transform it into a workshop worthy of the cars they wanted to service but, in the end, they made an excellent job. That was one year ago. The opening ceremony was on February 28 and NZN officially opened its doors on March 2, 2020. Two weeks later, the country closed for the first pandemic-induced confinement.
So, what is NZN? Well, I spoke to the three men who created it a few days ago and this is what I have learned. NZN is a project that follows in the footsteps of a number of independent Ferrari specialists throughout Europe that are pivotal in keeping older and modern classic Ferraris on the road.
That’s exactly what Nuno, Zé and Nuno wanted to do. Make a contribution with the knowledge they have amounted; give something back to a brand that to them was much more than a job – it’s their passion, almost a calling. People to whom a Ferrari is not just a car, it’s a work of art and it should be treated with respect, a kind of reverence and a whole lot of unconditional love.
NZN is the first and only Ferrari-exclusive workshop in the country, but there are a few exceptions. First, Maseratis. Because Maserati was under Ferrari’s wing during most of their tenure there and since both marques shared a lot of mechanical components, NZN accepts Trident models as well, just as Viauto did at the time.
After one year, of the 130 cars that have graced the NZN workshop, more than 30% have been Masers, which goes to show the Bolognese clients were also in search of a place where their pride and joy would be treated according to their greatness.
That also means that NZN has serviced more than 90 different Prancing Horses – from a 250 GT from the Sixties to a very modern, very fast 2020 488 Pista. In 12 months, they carved a place in the market that was there for the taking. Clients have been coming from all over the country, Algarve included.
Obviously, the NZNs were nervous about the whole enterprise and the fact the world went into pandemic mode didn’t help, but they have plenty of confidence in their abilities and need not worry about another NZN in Portugal for one simple reason: they are unique in what they know and the number of these cars they have serviced.
If you are not an owner but love the cars from Maranello, I was told doors are always open and one of them will show you around and take a few minutes to talk about the cars being serviced at the moment. Because, and I am quoting: “Every Ferrari is a work of art and we are a kind of rolling museum for them; tickets not required.”
Visit www.nzn.pt if you want to know more. Or visit the actual place. For a petrolhead, it’s heaven on Earth.
By Guilherme Marques