Life was a Formula One constructor from Modena, Italy. The company, founded by Ernesto Vita first emerged on the Formula One scene in 1990, trying to market their unconventional W12 3.5 L engine.
The W-12 adventure
Life's W-12 machine had been designed by the former Ferrari engineer Franco Rocchi who had been responsible for, among others, Ferrari's famous 3 litre V8 for the 1970's 308 GTB and GTS. There were rumours that Rocchi's W-12 plans dated back to the early 1970s when he was a highly-regarded Ferrari man; but it is doubtful if those plans - in case they were a reality - found the approval of Enzo Ferrari. After his dismissal in 1980, Rocchi worked privately on an engine of a W-12 configuration. According to his concept, the engine had three banks of four cylinders; hence it was short like a V-8 but taller than a regular V-banked engine. In France, Guy Nègre from Moteurs Guy Nègre worked on a similar machine that saw the light of day in 1989 before being tested privately in an out-dated AGS chassis. Apart from the W-12 configuration, both engines bore no other similarities, nor were there any links between their designers.
Franco Rocchi's W-12 was ready in the first half of the 1989 Formula 1 season. It was the time when turbo engines finally had faded away and everybody needed a normally-aspirated machine. New constructors entered Formula 1 (Ilmor, Judd and Yamaha, for instance), and new ideas broke through. Motori Moderni tried a revival of flat-12 engines, commissioned by Subaru and Coloni, and the V10 appeared by Renault, propelling the Williams team to new horizons.
In this situation, the Italian tradesman Ernesto Vita hoped for fast money. He bought the rights to the W-12 from Franco Rocchi and tried to supply the engine to a well-funded Formula 1 team. During 1989, Vita searched for a partner without any success. Finally, he gave up his search and decided to run the engine on his own in the 1990 Formula 1 season.
An old chassis
Therefore, he founded the "Life"-Team, life being the English translation of his family name. The team's headquarter was located in Modena. In fact, it was nothing more than a simple garage with a very low-key structure and very little in the way of technical equipment. Life was not able to build a car on its own. Instead, the team bought the still-born Formula 1 chassis from First Racing that had been designed by Richard Divila for Lamberto Leoni´s Formula 3000 team. The car had been built up by January 1989 but the promising project was abandoned soon after an initial test with Gabriele Tarquini had taken place. In late 1989, Vita purchased the single chassis and fitted his W-12 engine. The major engineering work had been done by Gianni Marelli, another former Ferrari man. The car - now dubbed Life L190 - was ready by February 1990.
The 1990 season
When the new season came, the situation was ridiculous: One chassis, one engine, few if any spare parts, no tests, no hope for success. The W-12 turned out to be the least powerful engine of the year: its output was about 450 hp while others did 600 to 700 hp. On the other hand, the ex-First L190 chassis was one of the heaviest cars in the field. Handling was bad, reliability was poor. As a result, the Life was as fast (or slow) as a Formula 3 car. Even in Formula 3000, it would have been outclassed, much less Formula 1.
For a start, Sir Jack Brabham's son Gary Brabham was signed to drive but when he failed to prequalify twice he left the team for good. In came Bruno Giacomelli, an Italian veteran who had last raced in Formula 1 in 1983. Not surprisingly, things did not improve. The car did not get faster, in fact it never managed to run more than three or four laps before exploding. For the Portuguese Grand Prix, the team replaced their own engine with a Judd V-8, but then found that the engine cover did not fit over this new engine. They withdrew before the final two Grands Prix, and were never heard from again.