A pistonhead can no more resist a Ferrari's charms than a Labour party fundraiser can stop himself from accepting money from, um, anyone. The 360 Modena personifies the marque's appeal. The car's voluptuous curves and aggressive angles seduce pistonheads and innocent bystanders alike. When woken, the 360's flat plane crank unleashes a mechanical siren song of mythical proportions. To drive a 360, at speed, down a familiar road, is to surrender your soul to the Tifosi's embrace. Her screams still invade my sleep.
Hello, my name is Robert Farago and I'm a recovering Ferrari owner. I'd like to tell you about my first Ferrari…
I was working in Newport, Rhode Island at a nightclub called The Candy Store (as in nose). On that fateful night, I rounded the corner and practically walked straight into her: a Dino 246GT. Yes, I know. A Dino isn't a Ferrari. And Kelly Brook was never on Baywatch. So what? God made both Pammy and Kelly. Enzo made Ferrari and Dino. Anyway, the aspiring Italian rust bucket sat on the weathered dock, glowing in the fading sun. The Dino instantly re-ordered my automotive universe. I could never see another American "sports car" as anything but an enormous, clumsy barge. And boy, did I want one. A Ferrari, that is.
Of course, I couldn't afford a Ferrari back then. And I couldn't afford a Ferrari later. But that didn't stop me from buying one. Twenty years after my dockside encounter, I was still smitten. So I walked into an authorized Ferrari dealership to buy a F355B. I approached a salesman and gave him a buying signal as clear as a Tibetan gong struck on the plains of Nepal: "Hello, I'd like to buy a 355." The salesman crossed his arms and let loose the dogs of war: "And how do you set a budget?"
Translation: do you have enough money to buy a Ferrari? The salesman's tone implied that even if I could somehow wangle the readies, he reserved the right not to provide me with a car. Normally, if someone doesn't want to sell me something, I consider it reason enough not to buy it. But I wanted the 355 so bad I could smell it. Well, I could almost smell it within the cloud of Paco Rabanne swirling around Mr. Oxford Cambridge. I should have known better. I should have run straight to the nearest BMW dealer for a lesson in "residuals". But I didn't.
Flash forward to actual ownership. I'd had some fantastic drives. The car had transformed commuting to work into communing with Horsepower. But the damn thing lived at the shop; I'd started to call myself a "Ferrari visitor" rather than an "owner". Naturally enough, during these long periods of forced separation, I wanted to know when I might have a usable motorcar in exchange for my mortgage-like car payment. Did the Service Department answer my calls? No. Did they return my calls? No. Did they give me accurate information when I got through? No. Did they give me a loaner car? "Most Ferrari owners have a second car". Did they apologise when things went wrong, again? No. Do you get treated better down at the local Ford dealer? Yes.
In this I was not alone. An enthusiast who goes by the name of Bigkid told me of an owner who sent his red 355B in for repairs, only to receive a blue 355 Spider in return. His car was off with someone up North who was "uncontactable". Over a damn fine snifter of cognac, a member of the Ferrari Owners' Club casually revealed that his dealer had installed a new racing harness. When he pulled up to a traffic light, the entire mounting snapped off. Another acquaintance sent his four-week-old 360 back to the dealer for a laundry list of repairs (including faulty F1 software). After a promise of a week off-road, he received the car back two weeks later without a single job done.
Most pistonheads live in Ferrari denial. They believe that mainlining Maranello is worth anything up to and including testicular donation. I could tell them about the time the car's alarm system trapped me inside a roasting cabin in the middle of nowhere—without the slightest impact on their car-nal desires. In fact, lusting after one of these machines is a mental illness that can only be cured by buying one. If, however, you are not yet afflicted, I recommend that you avoid them at all costs, and buy some Ferrari shares when this little horsie goes to market. I mean, if you're that sensible, why not live off the weakness of others?
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