Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reflections on the Maserati and Discussions with Barb

I have scheduled a visit to view, and if the weather permits, test drive the red 360 with the F1 gearbox. I plan to do some deeper research into the f1 box. Specifically, I want to analyze repair costs but I would also like a better understanding of how the gear box works. I have made a mental note to myself. Do not pull up too hard on the reverse selector.
I have not completely settled with this decision yet but I think I will revisit my earlier opinion about a preference of buying from Ron Tonkin. I never received a call back about the red car, don’t appreciate their overly cautions, reverent approach to the cars. They are great cars, they are works of art – but they are made to be driven. I have appreciated Joe’s approach willingness to answer my dumb questions and acceptance of my desire to find the right car.
I have decided against buying any Ferrari on line – without the opportunity to drive the car. I believe Joe’s comment that each one drives differently. Since the status symbol value of the car is low on my list and driving performance is high I feel it is imperative that I get a chance to drive any cars that I may ultimately purchase.
The red Ferrari was not at the dealership. Joe had not received my message in time to have it onsite. That is fine, I was in the neighborhood and I am never opposed to looking at nice cars. Even if I have looked at all of them before. When I pulled into the dealership I parked next to a silver 355 with a red interior. It was the older brother of the 360 I had driven. Actually the car seemed like the little brother. The 360 is a bigger car. Joe asked me to take a look at it. I said I did not think I would fit but I would take a look and walked around it. Good looking car. Dated when compared to the 360 but more elegant and compact.
I wander back inside. There is a yellow 355 spider on the floor. I decide to see if I fit in the car. The door of a 355 has two large air intakes that take up most of the bottom half of the door. On the top half there is only the key hole. No door handle. Hmm. Don’t want to look too dumb but I cannot figure out how to get in the car so I stand there wondering if I should reach inside and use the opener on the inside to open the door. Problem is that opener is not immediately obvious either.
Luckily after just a few minutes Joe walks up and asks if I fit. I had not sat in the car thinking it was owned by someone wandering around in the dealership. So back out I go.
Joe opens the door. Turns out that the door handle is in one of the air intakes. I had run my hand along the intake but the door handle is recessed a bit and I had missed it. You could leave the keys in one of these cars and most car thieves would be unable to steal it.
Tighter fit all around than the 360. The most awkward part is the steering wheel which is more between my knees. There is more room in the 360s but I do fit. Interior is similar to the 360s but less nice and showing some wear but this car has more than 25000 miles on it. We decide to take it for drive to have something to compare to the 360.
As Joe pulls the 355 out of the lot it is immediately apparent that this car has a much different character than the 360. Less refined, smaller, lighter. Less serious. Similar to my 911. Where the 360 is bordering on or is in supercar territory this car seems more normal.
Joe reinforces this feeling by getting the car a bit sideways in the dealership driveway. Not something you would do in the 360. This car is loud. The engine note is rougher than the 360s and not as tight. Joe mentions that it has an aftermarket TUBI exhaust that is responsible for much of the racket.
Joe drives a few blocks and pulls over so we can switch places. I shoehorn myself into the car, it is a tight fit. This car is no where as intimidating as the 360. Can’t tell you why. Maybe it is because I have driven the 360 and I know that I am not going to do anything too foolish, maybe it is the price of this car, or maybe it is the less serious ethic of the 355. Whatever the reason I notch it into gear let out the nice progressive clutch and we are off.
Immediately I am struck by the differences between the two cars. The 360 is a broader, tighter stiffer car. The 355 is a nimble playful car. The 360 felt as if it would bail me out if I got in over my head. The 355 feels as if it will joyfully help me get in over my head. Again there is the feeling that all systems in this car were build to work together. Nothing seems out of place, nothing seems out of proportion. The car is fantastically balanced, steering light but direct. The feedback from the road good but not as good as that in the 360.
While I stick to my test driving methodology it is apparent that this car is not as fast as the 360. It also feels a bit more delicate. Not fragile but delicate. We wind out through the country on the same roads we drove the 360 on. The car is fun to drive but less of an experience than the 360. However , I am gradually coming to realize that this car would satisfy my “one year with a Ferrari” better than the 360. By the end of the test drive I really like this car. I agree with Joes assessment that it is more tossable than the 360. I would add that while harder to drive it is less intimidating.
During the test drive I have one bit of trouble. My feet are pretty big and the foot box on the 355 is pretty small. The one time I open the car up a bit I over rev the engine on the shift from 2nd to 3rd by a bunch. I can’t pull my foot off the throttle. There is a heater vent down by the throttle and if you have it opened up and slide your foot over to the side you cannot get your foot off the throttle. That will take some getting used to. I have a similar problem in my 911. To make heel toe work in the 911 easer I fabricated an addition to the pedal that raises and extends the pedal towards the brake. If I wear the wrong shoes or am careless I sometimes catch the brake and throttle simultaneously.
Back at the dealership we spend some time going over the car. There was an odd rattle coming from the motor that seemed to vary with RPM. I certainly cannot afford to buy a Ferrari with any hidden problems but the mechanics have not gone through this car yet so it is still on the list. I decide to come back and drive it once it has been through Gran Prix’s shop. This car is easier to walk away from than the 360 but during the test drive Joe said he figured they would sell the car for about $74000. That’s $62000 less than the 360. I have always been attracted to bargains. I sometimes want to buy stuff that I don’t want just because it is a bargain. I am now not sure if I am attracted to the 355 because of the price or because it is so much less expensive than the 360.
I am having trouble deciding if the 355 will satisfy my Ferrari desire so I call Brain Abers, a friend who will understand this dilemma and provide a good sounding board. Let me paraphrase our conversation.
“Brian, got a question for you. Do you think that my one year with a Ferrari idea has less value if I go with a 355 rather than a 360?”
“Well Box what are we talking about here? Are there any bad Ferraris?” Brian responds.
“No it’s not like it’s a Magnum PI car.” I say.
“And even a 308 is a Ferrari and is faster than most cars on the road”
At this point one of our cell phones dies and I move on.
Brian has two good points. Any Ferrari is a Ferrari. (I would have figured that out by myself) and any Ferrari is going to provide a driving experience that will be unique plus I feel I would be more comfortable handing the keys of the 355 to my wife, business partner, father, or friends than I would with the 360. I think I am getting close to making a decision. Scary. To make matters worse Joe has a 2006 BMW M6 sitting on the floor. My business partner is a BMW guy and Joe had offered to let me have the M6 for a day to convince John that he should buy the car.
Tomorrow I will research pricing on 355s.

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