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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Yellow Journalism: Clear and Present Bias, Ferrari 550

From the basement archives: Rewind 2007

1st Ferrari driving experience, from 7/31/07:

I found it on ebay –exactly the one I wanted: a yellow on black 550M. I was just talking yesterday about how hard it would be to locate a yellow one and -bam- there was one on ebay the next day –and it was in Orange County– sort of local. It took a while to drive from North Hollywood to Costa Mesa but it was well worth the trip. As I turned into the office park of metal flat-roofed warehouses, there it was –facing out at me in yellow. I instantly wanted the car and hadn’t driven it yet.

The car looked WAY better in person than in any pictures. The car was big, and the coupe’ configuration was much more to my tastes than spiders. So it blew me away as to how much improved it looked over the 550 Barchetta at the Petersen I had just seen over this past weekend. I knew without doubt that this was the car. If not today, then at some point.

The owner/sales guy let me sit in it and look it over. I asked for service records and he produced them. It had the belt service done just last February; had only 13k miles (As of this writing, it’s on ebay right now so you can see it --presently, it’s the only yellow 550M in Costa Mesa available. There is another one in California on ebay, yellow, but it’s nowhere near here).

I immediately loved the feel of the interior. It was very comfortable but appropriate for spirited driving. The heater/air/vent control area looked, however, like any other car -very typical and non-exotic. Yet everything else was very spot-on. Everything was leather, even the headliner. And it smelled intoxicatingly aromatic.

Everything was class-A “sports car,” from the gated shifter and its gleaming polished metal, to the stitching around all of the leather. The gauges looked like a sexy chronograph watch that only expensive tastes call for. And I hadn’t driven it yet!

I popped the hood (bonnet) and saw the sexual V12 sitting in there. I checked as best I could for errant leaks or anomalies. It seemed fine to me but I’d have a specialist go over it were I to commit. I got under the car a little but found the entire undercarriage to be covered by aero-panels. So an underchassis inspection was useless. I noted that the paint job had more overspray than I thought a Ferrari would have. I checked to see if the car had been repainted but found no such evidence. I asked the guy and he said no, it’s original.

The car was not a garage queen. It had rock chips and scuffs but looked well kept, but used. I was happy to see the prior owner had actually used this car. It was not cherried or babied looking. It had been driven. That was a plus for me. I didn’t want some mint garage whore. The owner/seller got in the passenger’s seat and handed me the key. Wow. I had the key to a Ferrari.

I turned the key.

Nothing happened. I asked if I had to say a magic spell and he said yes. He pushed a button on the key fob and I turned it again. It fired right up. It was more understated a fire-up than I thought it would be. But I did notice that the music note was not what I was quite used to. It was foreign. It was of a V12 and I had never experienced that in such close quarters, from within the cockpit.

Initially I felt the clutch before starting the car and it was heavy. So I thought sh!t, this is going to be like a truck. But it wasn’t. After I got it underway and to the end of the driveway, the clutch didn’t feel heavy anymore. It particularly became buttery smooth out on the road. He directed me out of the immediate area and we made for the PCH.

The PCH is the Pacific Coast Highway. It runs along the ocean. Once I knew we were going there I was like -- "Holy cow. This is a dream. I get to drive a Ferrari on the PCH as my first time. Wow!"

He said that he’d direct me to a spot where I could stretch its legs a little. In traffic and surface streets the 550M was perfect. It was easy to drive. I noted the handling as well. It was tyte! I commented on how comfortable it was and how you could just drive it coast to coast and it’d be wonderful. The car handled like a fine-tuned razor but was not stiff or exhausting. It was the best blend of 2 worlds: handling and comfort, a GT car extraordinaire.

I already wanted to buy the car.

Having gotten a small taste of the lurking torque on some of the surface streets, we came to the magic spot, did a U-turn at the light, looked for cops, and I gunned it. On the PCH, for about half a mile, I jammed that b!tch hard and the thing just soared to attention. It was not initially very quick off the line like some of my other cars, but the lag didn’t last long.

First gear was not very good, then 2nd got good as I took it to redline. Waking up, the symphonic rush of the V12 and g-forces began to paint a grin so widely on my face that it nearly wrapped around to the back. I went to 3rd and then poured on the full monty and it was like a dragon awakening from a 70mph slumber. I took it to near redline in 3rd and went to 4th.

The feeling was so tremendous. I held back during my visit to 4th because I feared police and was running out of street before an oncoming traffic light. But milking the experience for what I could, I took it up to a buck-ten in 4th and could have gone much faster! I was alarmed as well at how nearly instantly this car could go from 70mph to 110mph –in the span of not much time at all!

I estimated at that rate, had I taken the 550 well into 4th, into redline area, I could have been going 130. And it would have done it willingly with plenty of headroom to spare.

I wanted this car like no other.

One must drive a Ferrari to fully understand it. Today was special. Viva Ferrari!

1 comment:

  1. Once you have driven a Ferrari there is no turning back. It is simply a matter of which model 'speaks' to you dynamically and aesthetically.