Saturday, December 1, 2007

You Can Drive a Ferrari in the Snow

Yesterday Barb and I drove the silver 355. We almost did not go. Late Thursday night I wanted to check sales activity on 355s so I looked at recent ebay auctions. Two cars had sold. A yellow 1997 spider with 49 thousand miles and a black 1997 spider with 24 thousand miles. The yellow car went for $55100 while the black car brought $60000. There were several pictures of the yellow car. It looked to be in good shape. Neither car had enough service history information to provide a good picture of its mechanical state.
I then looked at the current crop of 355s for sale. The silver 355 from Gran Prix was listed and already bid up to $72950, Gran Prix’s asking price. That is frustrating as I had planned to drive the car the following day and make an offer in the high 60s pending service history review and PPI.
After looking at the bid history on the car and both bidder’s recent activity I felt better. I then took a look at what the high bidder has been bidding on. An Xbox, some video games, and watches. I have posted screen shots of the bid history if you are interested. Huh? Finally, I compared the price for the silver 355 to other cars currently for sale. The silver car is the most expensive 355 in terms of bidder activity. Based on the cars bid history, the high bidders history, and the unusually high price relative to other cars I believe the bid is spurious. I have a mental picture of a pimply 12 year old in Peoria with his new ebay account bragging to his friends how he is buying a Ferrari. I accept the possibility that I am completely wrong. The bidder could be a local buyer, familiar with the car, who does not want to purchase directly from GP. Not sure why as they are very easy to deal with. The bidder could be someone who has always wanted a silver 355 with red interior and is willing to pay extra to get it. In any event I decide there is no reason to drive the car tomorrow event thought it will be the last day of the month and Joe wants to get the deal done. If the ebay auction falls apart I will have ample chance to buy the car. I will know that in five days. If the auction is successful I have missed out on another good car but there will be others and I have some good content. Beaten to a Ferrari by an 8th grader.
The next morning I call Joe, tell him I have seen the auction don’t feel it is necessary to drive the car as they have sold it for more than I am willing to pay.
“Come drive it anyway.” Joe says. “No one is going to buy the car until you decide what you want to do.”
I know this is a tactic to get me in the dealership and drive the car but it works anyway. I call Barb and we head to Gran Prix to drive the car.
It has been raining lightly but as we get closer to Wilsonville the weather gets worse. There is some snow falling. While I have never expressed this verbally I always assumed the test drives would take place on sunny dry days. It is 37 degrees and trying to snow.
When we get to Gran Prix the main show room is being remodeled in preparation for their new role as Lamborghini Portland. All the cars are crammed into the second show room or sitting outside, looking forlorn in the rain. There is a red 360 Challenge Stradale on the floor. What a fantastic thing. This has to be the most impressive Ferrari I have seen to date.
The Challenge Stradale is a performance oriented 360. As if ordinary 360s are not. The interior has just the creature comforts you would need to make the car passably comfortable by today’s standards. Engine output is increased to 425 bhp and there are significant but unobtrusive aerodynamic modifications. This car is fantastic. The seats are great. The spartan interior wonderfully rendered. What a great car. At $230000 this is a Ferrari that is inappropriate for my project but this is the Ferrari I would want in my garage if I could only have one.
The 355 is sitting behind the Stradale with a big red bow on the roof. I should have brought a camera.
Barb and Joe head out in the car first. I wander around the dealership and while talking with the guys in the office on my cell phone. I also call my dad to tell him we are test driving a Ferrari in the snow.
After about 15 minutes Barb is back and it is my turn. I ask her what she thought as we are changing seats. “Easier to drive than our Porsche.” is her remark. The car is roomier than I remember. No problem getting in once I have the seat back. I brought appropriate shoes this time so hopefully no getting stuck under the heater vent.
We head out of the dealership and onto the country roads. It is immediately obvious that Joe’s crew has found and fixed the odd noise coming from the engine. The car sounds great with no odd mechanical noises what so ever. I want to take a longer test drive this time and get to know the car a bit better. We do find nice stretches of road with good curves. Joe mentions there is a dip in the road where he became airborne with a fellow during a test drive in a 911 turbo. He need not worry with me.
The test drive is uneventful. The car performs great on the wet roads. Ferrari’s have windshield wipers like regular cars. I test the clutch for slippage by putting the car in 6th at about 45 miles per hour and flooring it. The car accelerates smoothly as the RPMs raise.
After a longer than normal test drive we head back to Gran Prix. It is about 12:15 and Barb has to pick our son up at school before 2:00 so we have limited time.
Joe shows me the service binder they have. The car has had the valves and exhaust manifolds replaced the clutch is new and the 30,000 mile services was performed about three thousand miles ago. All good from my perspective.
I tell Joe that I like the car and offer mid to high 60s for the car. Joe responds that he already has an ebay bid for 73 thousand and they have mid to high 60s in the car. I ask Joe what they want for the car. Closer to 73 is his reply. On the drive down I set my high offer at $67,000. If I can buy the car for $67,000 I will be getting a great deal and have a good chance of breaking even on the car. As I don’t know the service history $67,000 gives me a bit of wiggle room. I now know service is up to date but do not want to offer a higher bid without reflection and consultation with Barb. I tell Joe I will be in touch.
That night at dinner Barb and I are talked about the car. We both agree it will be a good fit. Barb remarks it felt like it could be one of the family. I tell about a conversation I had at dinner the night before with my business partner and a mutual friend. We were discussing the book and I mentioned that Barb was going to drive the car the following morning. I had not yet done my ebay snooping. Someone remarked that you don’t see many women driving Ferraris. There was consensus at the table that we would all be intimidated by a woman driving a Ferrari. Barb liked to hear this. I bet she puts as many miles on the car as I do.

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