Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chapter 2 - Choosing a car

Throughout my experiment with the Ferrari I kept notes, which I posted on a blog. I did not expect many people to read it but the threat of someone stumbling across it kept me focused on writing. People did read it. Predominantly surfers found their way to my blog through keywords. Most of the keywords made sense. Some were humorous. Some made no sense at all.

Eventually an attentive reader will realize that the dates for the keywords I chose are inconsistent within the context of the book. Keywords presented early in the book come from the future. Part way through the book this paradox undoes itself. It is as if the keywords become aware of time and their relationship to this story.

Choosing a car

Choosing a Ferrari was more difficult than you might think. Ferrari is a small company but they have been making road cars since 1947 and have produced a staggering variety of models, sometimes turning out only a handful of each model, sometimes only one. To narrow my choices I identified four requirements and decided to focus my search on cars which met at least two.

1st the car had to have suffered significant depreciation.

2nd the car had to be unmistakably a Ferrari.

3rd the car needed to be at a point in its life where it would be inexpensive to maintain.

4th back seats were a plus.

While they met two, or more, of my requirements I did not consider, the 308 and 512 TR. They are great cars but they are too iconic. They didn’t make the list because they are iconic in the sense that they quintessentially define Ferrari for an era, they do. They didn’t make the list because of their association with TV shows.

When I see a 308 my first thought is of Tom Selleck, Magnum PI. Specifically, I think of the opening to the show where Magnum looks over, grins, then power slides the car in the grass by the side of the road. At over six feet with bunch of dark curly hair I look too much like Magnum to drive a 308. Besides, my head would stick out of the targa top. The Testarossa brings back memories of Miami Vice. Sure the earlier shows featured a Daytona but I associate Testarossa’s with pastel jackets and loafers without socks.

If, after deciding to buy a Ferrari I did nothing different, did not alter my actions from the second before the decision I would never end up with a Ferrari. I didn’t have a Ferrari, why should I expect a Ferrari to appear in my garage if I continued my current course? I decided that each day I would take some action towards finding and buying a car. Each day I would do something which moved me closer to my goal.

My first step would be to research the different models and identify those meeting my requirements. The hours spent aimless browsing car sites on internet was no longer aimless; I was doing research, valuable, important research. Unfortunately, my research did not take long. I chose to focus my efforts on three models: the 355, 360, and 456. These three made the cut because of their price, looks, Ferrariness, and in the case of the 456, back seats.

What about the Mondial you say? It has back seats. Back seats would be really useful. If it had back seats, I could use the Ferrari to take the girls to school. What’s more, a Mondial costs less than a Camry, yet comes in Ferrari red with a little prancing horse hood ornament. Mondials are even easy to maintain. The Mondial looks like a Ferrari and sounds like a Ferrari yet I could not accept the Mondail as an appropriate choice. Mondials didn’t fit my vision for a Ferrari.

I wanted a Ferrari which would be wonderful to drive. By drive I don’t mean the get in the car and trundle to the nearest coffee shop. By drive I mean to take as much from a twisty, challenging bit of road as I can. I love the constant, subconscious analysis this type of driving requires. The digestion of data from eyes, hands, ears, seat and feet that combine with intuition to telegraph what the car is doing and what it will probably do next.

I am lucky, less than half a mile from my house is a perfect road. Well, as perfect as a road dotted with pot holes and frequented by gardeners with big trucks and Starbucks sipping minivan driving soccer moms can be. Humphrey Boulevard hugs a wooded hillside as it winds through the southwest hills of Portland. On Humphrey the view of the road ahead seldom exceeds more than a few hundred feet, through some corners even less, the line of sight blocked by the hillside and trees. There is one set of tightly spaced turns where you can feel the car roll over the ridge created by the transition from one turn to the next, like rolling over the wake behind a boat. The pacing of the turns and changes of elevation are graceful. Humphrey is proof that somewhere in the Oregon Department of Transportation lives a genius.

Humphrey invites a brisk pace. A pace at which the elevation changes, turns, and bends can be appreciated without the worry about driving fast. When I drive on Humphrey the short lines of sight and tight turns conspire to make me feel like I am going fast, like I can really drive. A quick glance at the speedometer and what I thought was 50 is really 30. I am not that fast after all. Going fast is not the point, go too fast and the rhythm of the road will be missed, the pacing of the turns obscured by stress and the transitions lost to excessive body lean.

At 1.6 miles Humphrey is fleeting but 1.6 miles is enough. It is a stretch of road you can know intimately. Each bit of uneven pavement, each dip, each hole. Start on the west end and exhaust echoes off the hillside, trees form shady tunnels. Stone walls, lawns, driveways, a hillside and steep drop off, a wooded section, an unexpected big house, more woods and another steep drop off, two great back to back turns, then it’s over. I go out of my way to drive on this road. There are certain turns where I swear I can feel rubber shearing off my front tires, others, when driven just right result in a weight shift which balances the car perfectly for the exit.

Maybe I need a fifth requirement, engaging to drive with better performance than my 911.

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