Invited to explore the central plateau, and see what makes Ferrari owners tick, we slipped behind the wheel of a California T ‘HS’ and jumped in at the deep end with the Ferrari family.
On a misty morning, 12th of March 1947, passion was redefined. When the doors of a Maranello workshop swung open on that day, the legend of the prancing horse started in earnest.
Born initially of Enzo Ferrari’s efforts with Alfa Romeo, a split from the Milan-based manufacturer prompted the founding of his own company in 1939. Due to an agreement preventing the use of the Ferrari name for at least four years, Enzo’s solo effort commenced as Auto-Avio Construzione.
The first car pairing the famous prancing horse emblem with classic Ferrari script was the 125 S sports racer. With a Ferrari-designed and -built 1.5-litre V12 beneath the snub-nosed bonnet the 125 S soon nabbed a race win, a couple of months following debut. This was the first of over 5000 victories on circuits around the globe, kicking off the almost mythical, always fever-pitched enthusiasm for the marque. As well as the racers, sports and GT cars were soon wheeled out of the Ferrari factory in the form of the 166 Inter (GT) and 166 S (sports car).
Ferrari generally maintained the production of road cars solely to finance the racing effort. But with the enterprise of manufacturing low volume, boutique sports cars came a means to unify and solidify a fan base into a community of owners. So the Ferrari family came into being.
Seventy years to the day, on March 12th 2017, the Ferrari family extended an invite to NZ Autocar to join in on the 70th celebrations. As someone who’s born-and-bred automotive passion was Alfa Romeo, the prospect of becoming a Ferrari family member for the weekend was tantalising. Of course, we’d be riding in appropriate style; Continental Car Services supplied the keys to a current model California T ‘Handling Speciale’ to enjoy the Central North Island roads.
But I digress. The location, like all other Ferrari anniversary celebrations the world over, was scheduled to be held at a UNESCO World Heritage site. In this instance the official 70th celebration would take place at Chateau Tongariro, but before this (and the associated drive tour), an explanation as to why the passion shared by enthusiasts, owners and official Ferrari distributors alike creates such a strong bond.
The official gala dinner, held as part of the Ferrari Owners Club of New Zealand’s AGM, proved insightful, explaining the enthusiasm for the brand from not only the perspective of the dedicated owners, but also from brand representatives themselves.
Special guest, Herbert Appleroth, CEO of Ferrari Australasia and custodian of the marque in the Asia-Pacific region, has a close connection with the brand. His Ferrari ownership story could be considered archetypal. Hearing, and visualising his first Ferrari at a young age, Herbert then and there made the decision that one day he’d own an example of his own.
Prioritising it before property, at 26 Herbert had slipped behind the wheel of a Ferrari he called his own. Rising through the ranks of varying motor industry roles, Ferrari was clearly the ultimate, and Appleroth’s address to the 200 or so attendees really drove home the passion and community spirit of Ferrari, a culture cultivated from the top down.
As the sun dawned on the morning of the 12th, the special day as far as the Ferraristi were concerned, the chance to get amongst the owners and their cars beckoned. Eighty plus thoroughbred examples of Maranello’s sports and GT creations congregated for a run from Taupo to the Chateau. Representation was diverse, from a 365 GTB/4 Daytona through to a present day 488 Spider. I’m particularly partial to a Ferrari GT packing a V12, and complementing the Daytona were a vast array of 400i, 456, and 550 Maranellos, and the striking 612 Scaglietti. Of course the mid-engined V8 crew were attending in force, along with us seated in the Cali T.
It’s kind of to be expected right, that Ferrari guys and girls probably don’t mess around when it comes to holding a heady pace? Well, true to expectations the run set off briskly, though clouds beckoned menacingly overhead as we headed south from Taupo. With a couple of stops on the way for refreshments and regrouping, I took a moment to scurry amongst the cars, spinning yarns and snapping away.
When the rain set in the smiles didn’t diminish. The love of driving the cars was infectious. Rain or shine, these were proper enthusiasts – owners of special vehicles, dead set on using them as intended whatever the conditions.
I took the opportunity to speak to a range of owners about their Ferrari experiences. For one couple, the recent acquisition of a new California T came not through a lifelong fascination for the brand, but an informed decision followed by exemplary dealer service. Discovering the people aspect of Ferrari ownership proved a welcome bonus.
For a serial purchaser of the marque, the ownership of each late model Ferrari for the past decade represented the fulfilment of childhood fascination.
His ownership journey began with a brand new F430, and most recently included a pilgrimage to Maranello to cast an eye over the upcoming 812 Superfast. Eyes alight, his enthusiasm for both the Ferrari driving experience and the social aspect was conveyed in expressive fashion.
Another owner focused on the classic side of Ferrari ownership, the fascination starting at age six, and later listening to the Tasman series motorsport on live radio he vowed then he’d own a Ferrari. From some devious acquisition of official Ferrari team gear following an NZ GP at Pukekohe, to building a 2500 strong Ferrari model collection and finally explaining the shift from 2nd to 3rd at 7000rpm in his first 365 V12. The summation – goosebumps. The Ferrari was the driving force, the reason to “get out of bed in the morning.”
Ferrari has celebrated each decade of progress with a special model beginning with the F40 – incidentally the final car Enzo personally signed off. F50, Enzo Ferrari, and now for 70 years the limited edition LaFerrari Aperta were produced in extremely limited numbers, for a lucky few exclusive owners.
An example of the 209 Apertas built was revealed on the weekend and destined to reside permanently in New Zealand. It’s not merely a roofless version of the LaFerrari as Aperta features aero refinements, hybrid powertrain upgrades and several other unique design touches, not to mention the 70th anniversary plaque. It’s a hell of a nod to Ferrari culture here in New Zealand, a country with a heady per-capita Ferrari ownership figure.
As the celebrations drew to a close and the faithful dispersed, be it with the growl of a V12 or the pitchy bark of a flat-plane V8 the conclusion is clear. Ferrari ownership is not merely parking an automotive sculpture in your garage. It’s a full-noise embrace of a culture, a lifestyle and, above all else, a display of ultimate passion. Here’s to the next decade of the prancing horse. Forza Ferrari!
A little bit about the California T….
Approaching your first Ferrari can be quite daunting but any impression the California would be a challenge to drive soon disappears. It’s not a big car, with the front corners especially visible which, to my mind, is a great help placing a car on the road. In front of me is a 3.9 litre twin-turbo V8 with 560bhp. While it doesn’t feel like sledgehammer acceleration, the Cali T gathers pace at a ridiculous rate once it gets a head of steam up. Revving to the 7500rpm redline, Ferrari reputedly put effort into making the motor feel like a traditional NA powerplant, with a rush of top end oomph propelling the 1700kg drop-top towards the horizon.
Tapping up and down through the gears with the carbon paddles rewards the driver. It’s addictive. The ZF 7-speed dual-clutch auto is an industry standard, with smooth or snappy shifts depending on set-up. With the Manettino dial indicating ‘sport,’ it’s presence is enhanced even more with intoxicating throttle blips, and exhaust crackles.
It’s easy to drive, albeit choppy on Kiwi roads with the ‘Handling Speciale’ package, consisting of stiffer springs, louder pipes and uprated gearbox and body software. Conditions meant that driving hard would’ve been lunacy, but alleviating the stiff ride was as simple as tapping a button marked “Bumpy Road”. The skeptic in me said this would be a token measure at best, however the California T is a changed machine with a simple button press, soaking up surface changes and minor potholes consummately.
Steering is quick, albeit devoid of some feel and when in Sport setting, the electronics let you get away with a little tomfoolery – just enough to let you know this is a GT car with some fancy footwork.
So, in essence, it does what Ferrari says it will as a GT car but not before making you grin like a loon as you bang down a couple of gears, listen to those crackles and pin the accelerator while the wave of torque takes hold.