Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chaper 1 - I am going to buy a Ferrari

So, yet another edit is done.  This time I thought I would post my chapters on this site as I complete them.  I am a bit ahead of the curve at work and hopt to complete a chapter every day or so.  Please let me know your thoughts.



I am going to buy a Ferrari

After many late evenings, discussing death with my daughter, it occurred to me that I should buy a Ferrari. No, I was not dreaming about cars while Alex and I were discussing where she, Christina, and Max would live when I was dead. During those conversations my mind did not wander. The idea popped into my head one day at work. It was Tuesday October 4, 2007, just after lunch and it took only an instant to make the switch from thinking I should buy a Ferrari to resolving to buy a Ferrari.

Discussing my death with Alex was one of the most painful experiences I have had. Not painful because I was forced to confront and discuss my death but because I witnessed the pain my dying will eventually cause Alex. Painful because, I wanted, more than anything, to tell her it would not happen that we would be here, together, forever. She wanted to hear this, wanted me to reassure her that I would be around. I didn’t. I still feel bad about it; I feel that I let her down.

I am grateful I was able to comfort her during this phase and that she chose to share it with me, grateful that I was able to help her prepare for a time when I will not be around. I remember as a young adult grappling with the realization that my parents were mortal, that I was mortal, but did not share my feelings with my parents.

Although this was a sad time, Alex gave me a wonderful gift. A gift beyond the gratification of knowing my daughter needed me. By sharing her feelings she reminded me that our time here was finite and precious, not to be squandered but cherished. She reminded me to focus on what we had right now and make the most of it.

It is important to note that in the fall of 2007 I was not dying. Well not dying any more quickly than one would expect but what was I waiting for? When was the time to start doing the things I wanted for my family, for myself? In the fall of 2007 I was waiting but I did not know for what or why.

Sitting in my office I did not connect my conversations with Alex to my decision to buy a Ferrari. Sitting in my office I was not thinking about death, I was not trying to focus on the now. One moment I was staring at cranes unloading shipping crates in the Port of Portland the next moment I had decided to buy a Ferrari. There was nothing in between. At the time the decision to buy the car seemed completely related to other events in my life. Hindsight suggests otherwise.

I remember when my father decided not to buy a Ferrari, when a fellow brought a red, rosso corso if you must, Ferrari 308 GT4 to our house. I was probably 10 maybe 11, about the same age as Alex during our mortality discussions. Dad and I were working outside, I think he was building a stairway for the entry of the house and I was helping as best I could. I could hear the car come up our driveway. You can often hear a Ferrari before seeing it. Our driveway was steep and over one hundred yards long, the car sounded great, fantastically mechanical as it made its way up to our house.

As the car climbed the hill I imagined I could hear each valve lifting, not that I knew what valves were when I was 10. I imagined this because Dad had once said if you listened carefully you could hear the individual components in a Ferrari engine and the only engine components I knew by were valves.

The owner, I don’t remember precisely what he looked like but do recall he had brown hair, parted in the middle, wanted to trade the car for a piece of property my father had for sale. They let me come along for the test drive.

GT4s have tiny back seats. When you are 10 these seats are perfect. Thirty years later I can still remember the roads we took and where we made a U turn. I remember when Dad accelerated down a short hill and how the quality of the engine note changed as the revs climbed. When I was older and drove on those same roads I would look back on the ride in the Ferrari with fondness. I would also consider how our life might have been different had Dad traded the lot for the Ferrari. The drive was too short.

Dad chose not to trade, a good financial decision, but I bet we would have had more fun with the Ferrari. I have a faded copy of a photograph of my brother and me standing by the car, dressed in our favorite striped shirts. I thought about this experience as I was going through the process of purchasing a Ferrari. Dad was about my age when he had a chance to own a Ferrari and passed it up.

This was Dad’s second decision not to buy a Ferrari. He was just out of college when he chose a Pontiac GTO over of a 250 Lusso which had spent some time as a race car. If you are not familiar with the Lusso it is a wonderful, flowing GT produced by Ferrari in the early 60s. Under a beautifully sculpted hood the Lusso had a 2.9 liter V12 producing about 250 horsepower. Without a doubt the GTO was more reliable, less expensive, and more practical but Dad, come on, a Ferrari race car when you are just out of college.

When I told friends I was planning to buy a Ferrari they would smirk and pronounce my decision the result of a midlife crisis. Though I expect this is a common response when a nearly 40 year old male decides to buy a Ferrari I resented this assertion none the less. The process of aging was not a worry to me. I told my smirking friends I had two a reasons for buying a Ferrari. First, I love cars and had always wanted a Ferrari. Second, I was buying a Ferrari because I believed it was possible to buy one, drive it for about a year, and sell it for about what I paid for it. Buying a Ferrari was an experiment, to validate my hypothesis. The idea for this experiment and plan to document my experiences in a book came on the heels of deciding to buy the car as a cleaver way for me to validate my purchase.

My friends were right.

A mid life crisis may not have been the only factor in my decision to buy a Ferrari but it played a role in my decision making. To my friends the influence of 40 approaching may have been obvious. For me it took the process of writing this book and examining the reasons underlying my decision to recognize its effects.

I suspect you chose this book to read about Ferraris. Stick with me a bit longer; most of the book is about Ferraris. In addition to the fuzzy mental stuff there were a few practical problems to work out before a Ferrari could find its way to my garage. First, I needed to convince Barbara, my wife, that buying the car was a good idea. Imagine that conversation. “Hun, I am nearly forty, I’ve been discussing my death with Alex and want to buy a Ferrari. What do you think? Good idea?”

On a more practical note, I didn’t have anywhere to park a Ferrari. We have a two car garage and already have three cars; a few years ago I decided to give myself an older 911 as a birthday present. I didn’t want to sell the 911 so not only did I have to convince Barb to let me get a Ferrari I had to convince her to give up her spot in the garage so I could have two sports cars. “Oh yeah Hun, you will have to park the minivan outside because I will now have two cars that will melt if they get rained on. You won’t mind herding the kids in and out of the van during the winter will you?”

The third problem is going to sound a bit silly. I didn’t know which model I was interested in. I didn’t have a vision of the perfect Ferrari, if there ever was a good problem to have this had to be it.

Finally, we have three young children, two in private school and one with special needs, and are fortunate enough that Barb can stay home with them. Not a situation I was allowed to jeopardize. So my purchase budget was limited as was the amount I could afford to lose on depreciation or spend on maintenance. Limited budget, no appetite for depreciation, and little cushion for maintenance, doesn’t sound like a recipe for Ferrari ownership does it? Any reasonable person would have abandoned the plan at this point but I proceeded on the assumption that if I purchased the right Ferrari it would not depreciate much or cost a fortune to maintain.

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