Buying A Ferrari
Dear Reader, The other day my friend said “Why don’t we buy a Ferrari?” to which my instant reaction was “Well, urn, ah, er, yes, well why don’t we?”. My friend went on, waxing lyrical, “No, seriously, a Ferrari really is the car to own. Everyone has a Ferrari these days; at least anyone who is really into cars, that is”. So it was agreed that we would buy a Ferrari.
The first thought was to go to Maranello Concessionaires at Egham, in Surrey, who are the importers, but then my friend thought perhaps that he didn’t want a new Ferrari; an older one would be more interesting. So we went through the advertisements in MOTOR SPORT, making a list of all the Ferraris that were for sale, but then the problem arose of what sort of Ferrari we should buy. The variety was bewildering, and the descriptions even more so.
There were model names, hieroglyphic letters, numbers and symbols to decipher, long before we came to any question of condition, whereabouts or even price. At first we thought price would not be much of a problem, we would decide on an actual car and then think about the price, but deciding on a particular car was the big problem. Most of them seemed to be red, so colour was not going to be a problem and anyway we reckoned that all proper Ferraris would be red. There were some fascinating names to conjure with — Testarossa, Boxer, Mondial, California, Dino, Tour de France, Daytona, Lusso, all lovely names but fairly meaningless to us. We had heard of Daytona, because it was where there was a fantastic sandy beach in Florida, where the Land Speed Record used to be broken. We could not really see the connection between sand-racing and Ferraris. Then there was Tour de France, the great French bicycle race, in which the Brits do not do all that well, but Ferrari connections seemed a bit nebulous; and Boxer really floored us, but Testarossa sounded interesting — a girl with red hair?
Then we looked at the numbers game, 206, 246, 250, 275, 288, 308, 328, 330, 365, 400, 512, 640. We couldn’t really make any sense out of these and we felt sure it was nothing to do with anything as common as Bingo, so we shrugged and moved on to letters and numbers. GT4, GT5, GTB, GTBi, GTB/2, GTB/4, GTC, GTC/4, GTE, GTO, GTS, GTSi, BB, BBi but that was all much more bewildering. By this time our brains were beginning to revolve at high speed, so we put all these identifying marks into a hat and each drew out a sequence. My friend drew 512 Tour de France GTB/4 and I drew 246 Boxer GTSi, but we were none the wiser, though I was pleased to get the letter sequence with the small i at the end. We realised that we were getting nowhere and risking losing our sense of direction, so we decided we would look at prices. We soon found that very few of the advertisements had any mention of money in them, which puzzled us because we always thought that if you had something
for sale you put the price on it so that the customer could see if he could afford it. Can you imagine going into a supermarket where none of the goods carry price labels? Those that did carry prices did not help much, especially when we realised that what we thought was the dealer’s telephone number was actually the number of English pounds that he wanted for the car.
I began to make a list of the prices as my friend read them out. “It says here £89,995,” he read. “Wouldn’t that have been easier to say £90,000?” Then there was £259,995 and £69,995 and £46,995 and many more. It was difficult to follow the logic behind all this, and anyway some of the prices were far in excess of a brand new Ferrari, which again was difficult to understand. Why pay more for an old Ferrari than for a new one? We began to wonder whether we should go to Maranello Concessionaires and settle for a simple new Ferrari, a straightforward 1990 model, but my friend would not give up, and went on searching through the price columns.
Suddenly he gave a great shout, “Here’s one for £1000, a nice simple round figure.” I looked over his shoulder and pointed out it was a nice simple round figure, but he had left off three noughts; the price was £1,000,000 — one million pounds in simple words! And it wasn’t even a new car, in fact it was nearly 25 years old. There was another one at the same price, but not so old. We thought about this and realised that we could each have a brand new Ferrari, and a pair of new Porsches, for the price of one old Ferrari. Did I say our brains were getting fuddled?
We went back to reading the advertising descriptions. There were more code letters which had us guessing, FSH, LHD, QV, POA, RHD, though we knew that QV was Latin, or something, which meant “look elsewhere”. As there was no price on that particular advertisement we could not understand why we had to look elsewhere for the price, and exactly where did we have to look? FSH puzzled us for a long time but we finally decided it must mean “Ferrari Second Hand” though we would have written it SHF. Later, an acquaintance told us that these days nothing is described as second hand, a thing is “Previously Owned” if it is not new. That got us thinking around the fact that if something is new, it means it is unused, and if it has been used it is not new, so what was wrong with “Used Ferraris” because we agreed that “Second Hand” was probably a misnomer anyway. A 25 year old car had probably had ten owners, and you could hardly advertise something as “Tenth Hand” and then there were really old cars; “One hundred and thirty fourth Hand” sounded a bit odd. But I digress. “We must do something positive,” said my friend, so at random he picked an advertisement and telephoned the man whose name was quoted as being the person to contact. This was a Ferrari POA though we had looked in a Ferrari book and failed to find a POA model. The conversation did not get my friend very far. He was informed, rather coldly, that POA was not the model, but meant Price On Application. Undaunted, my friend said that he was ringing to Apply For the Price. There followed a peculiar one-sided conversation, during which my friend said
very little; then he hung up. “So, what was the model and how much was it?” I enquired. He could not answer either of my questions and explained that the chap on the other end of the phone was more interested in finding out how much money my friend had, than telling him anything about the car or what the price was. “I hung up on him, we were getting nowhere,” he said.
By this time I was getting a bit tired of this Ferrari lark, but my friend wouldn’t give up. We decided we had started off on the wrong foot and what we should do is to decide first of all “why” we wanted to buy a Ferrari. “But everyone who is interested in cars has a Ferrari,” my friend said weakly. I insisted that we should write down why we wanted one. We came up with lots of reasons; to look at it; to talk about it; to show it to our friends; to polish it; to photograph it, but when I suggested we could sit in it, and even drive it, my friend was aghast. He said “If I am paying £1,000,000 or even £895,995, I am not having you sitting in it, and you will certainly not drive it, and nor shall I, it will be much too valuable.” I began to lose interest, for it sounded like people who have a painting that they say is too valuable to look at, so they keep it hidden away and look at a copy. Or those people who buy new books and never read them. I saw an advertisement once for a
book “New, mint condition, unread” and that got me thinking that I could not write books for those people who had no intention of reading them! Once again, I digress, but it is all too easy when wallowing in Ferrari fever.
We went back to the advertising. We had talked to a few people about Ferraris, before we started this search, and found a variety of views. There were those simple folk who merely bought a new Ferrari each year, and had no serious problems about models, ages, desirability and so on. To them the latest Ferrari was obviously the best Ferrari, otherwise why would the Ferrari factory bother to make new cars, which seemed logical. Then there were those who insisted that real Ferraris had to have 12-cylinder engines, and 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder engines were not really Ferrari engines. We did admit that the flat-12 engines were very exciting, but that raised the wrath of these people. “Flat-12!” they cried, “Ferrari engines are V-12!” We then found a picture of a model called an LM, where this lovely V-12 was in effect in the luggage boot behind the seats. That caused it. Apparently real Ferraris with real Ferrari engines have that lovely V-12 power unit in the front. We were beginning to wish we hadn’t started this conversation. Then there was the question of rarity. From the advertising it seemed that if a
Ferrari was one of only 15 made it was more expensive than one of a run of 150, and much more expensive than one of a run of 1500. We tried to reason that if only 15 were made, then it could not have been a very good model when it was new, or it would have sold more. Apart from a run of 15 not really sorting out the production problems, compared to a run of 1500, there was the matter of spare parts. But we weren’t getting anywhere.
We still hadn’t even sat in a Ferrari, let alone driven one and I was beginning to think I was in the wrong world. Much as I like my friend I had gone off his Ferrari enthusiasm. I told him the whole Ferrari business was much too complex for me, I just couldn’t cope with it all. In our reading of the advertisement, we had made out a list of 145 Ferraris for sale in one issue of MOTOR SPORT, and only two of them belonged to private owners, the rest were owned by dealers who presumably wanted to sell them. My friend was right about everyone owning a Ferrari, but equally it seemed that everyone wanted to sell a Ferrari as well.
I suggested that if we wanted an old car why not buy something of which there was not such a bewildering and complicated variety. “Like what?” he said, rather scornfully. “Well,” I said,”I know where there is a Theophile Schneider for sale.” Yours, DSJ