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  1. Luxury
November 20, 2008

Whoa, Nellie!

By Spear's

The 612 Scaglietti is a fine addition to Ferrari’s stable of classic, classy thoroughbreds. William Cash takes the frisky new filly for a canter around Tuscany.

There comes a time in every young man’s life when you decide you need to order your first tailor-made suit. You’re ambitious, you work hard and you deserve it. No more off-the-rack; you want — or rather require — the real thing, something that expresses your taste and personality, down to the lilac silk lining and the typed name and date label in the inside breast pocket.

So you find yourself heading off to Savile Row in London, which is the spiritual home of bespoke. Of course, there are other tailors, but a classic English suit — as worn by any self-respecting Euro-society Italian, Frenchman or German — just doesn’t feel the same when you know that the stitching has been done in a basement in a garment factory on the Lai Chi Kok Road in Hong Kong.

The same applies to that moment — probably a decade or so on — when the hedge-fund bonus cheque has been cashed (we are assuming some hedge funds still dish out bonuses post-credit crunch) or the business has been sold, or the divorce settlement has been paid off, or whatever reason one has to spend a little money on moi, and you decide it’s time to buy a serious sports car. A thoroughbred. A ‘f*** you’ car that will never, ever be parked around the back of a hotel; a car that not only turns heads in the street but is also so beautiful, fast, well bred and shamelessly expensive that each time you drive it around Berkeley Square or down the Amalfi coast your serotonin levels surge off the dial.

Not a once-famous English marque that is now owned by the Germans or the Americans; not something that is designed in the suburbs of Tokyo and built in Sunderland. For a die-hard purist and aesthetic snob like myself, there is something dishonest, like eating apples imported from New Zealand during the height of the British apple season, about such crossbred mass-marketing creations.

Which is why, when I got a call from Ferrari inviting me to Maranello, the iconic birthplace of Ferrari and where they still develop, test and build every single car, including their F1 cars, I had no hesitation in rearranging the schedule of my honeymoon accordingly. Having recently driven a 1973 Ferrari Daytona, a few weeks before it was sold by RM Auctions for £150,000, I was looking forward to driving the latest incarnation of the Ferrari GT stable — the new model 612 Scaglietti (originally launched in 2004), perhaps the world’s ultimate Gran Turismo (GT) sports car that comes directly descended from the classic DNA of the famous Daytona stable.

The Scaglietti — fitted with a fearsomely powered 12-cylinder all-aluminium engine which punches out a jaw-dropping 540CV at 7,250 rpm — is named after Sergio Scaglietti, the legendary former Ferrari coachbuilder from Modena who created some of the most iconic and beautiful body parts for Ferrari in the 1950s and ’60s.

So what’s it like? Well, the people at Ferrari know all about foreplay. They make you wait for your pleasures. When I arrived at the Maranello factory, which is set back from a busy main road, a sleek, dark grey Scaglietti 612 stood invitingly in the car park. First they let you see the car, then they take you to lunch, a real northern Italian lunch à la Ferrari at Rossella’s Trattoria close to the factory — a restaurant better known as the Ferrari drivers’ staff canteen.

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The restaurant is part of the Ferrari history. Photographs of all the Ferrari drivers decorate the walls, with scrawled comments such as ‘With love to your pasta and also to you’ from Felipe Massa. We sat in a private room — a Ferrari shrine — where a smart-looking Ferrari executive behind us sipped water and tugged on his purple-striped braces. We ate a salty and tangy shoulder of lamb cooked in a rich, old balsamic vinegar; unusual, distinctive and entirely memorable. Quirkiness, character, colour and family passion sum up the restaurant, which was founded in 1967.

‘If we were having lunch in Rome, we would not be using the balsamic vinegar,’ says my host Davide Kluzer, a senior Ferrari executive in charge of deciding which journalists around the world get to drive the one and only new model 612 press car available. ‘It’s a local thing.’

And that’s what makes Ferrari so special today. In our globalised culture, where we consume the same Hollywood films, the same shoe brands, the same luxury hotel chains and even follow the same football teams, Ferrari is a bit of unique magic. From the moment you step into the factory site you still feel the spirit of Enzo Ferrari, a man whose personality, drive, determination and passion are still very much a part of the Ferrari story today (under president Luca di Montezemolo). Enzo Ferrari was famous for never keeping examples of his racing cars in the 1950s and ’60s because they were all works in progress to him. ‘The best Ferrari is the next one,’ he liked to say, adding that he only really wanted to produce a ‘succession of prototypes’.

That pioneering, competitive spirit lives on at the glass and steel factory — although workers are given a reminder of the exacting standards with various models of the most successful historical Ferraris parked at the back of the factory floor. This gives it the feel of part classic-car museum, part industrial factory, part art installation — as well as giving out the feeling of an exotic Italian version of Kew Gardens, thanks to the tropical foliage planted around the machinery (designed to check healthy air levels).

The attention to detail at Maranello gives an insight into the way of doing things at Ferrari. When I toured the factory — something anybody who buys a new Scaglietti is entitled to do — you understand why Enzo Ferrari used to say that the demands of mass production were simply against his ‘temperament’. My favourite moment was when we were talking to a mechanic and Davide pointed to his special factory shoes. Looking down, I saw that he was wearing what looked like platform shoes in a chic Ferrari patent red that included the Ferrari prancing horse and a specially enhanced, reinforced toe. Only in Maranello.

Before I drove the Scaglietti 612, I had only ever driven one Ferrari. Back in the late 1960s and ’70s, the Daytona — which was first developed as a racing car at Le Mans and Daytona in America — was the chicest car for touring the Côte d’Azur with your mistress or girlfriend; it was the chicest car to have parked outside any stately home for a party; and it was the car that launched a thousand GT imitators.

Today, the Scaglietti 612 is simply — along with its sister car, also built at Maranello, the Maserati Quattroporte (which helped Maserati win the Spear’s Luxury Brand of the Year award in 2008) — the smartest car around for anybody who likes to enjoy their driving, their touring, their shooting, their shopping, and, above all, their travelling. When it comes to luggage space and sheer sartorial indulgence, no car can beat the Scaglietti — not even the Aston Martin DBS.

Ferrari have completely reinvented the GT concept, creating a car that captures the Spirit of the Age for a new generation of affluent discriminators. Never before have Ferrari encouraged their 612 customers — and there is, like any club worth joining, a waiting list — to indulge their preferences, introducing an Atelier programme that allows you to personalise your 612, choosing the exact leather, trim, seat and accessories; or even matching the seats to the colour of a favourite leather belt, as one client asked.
The 612 Scaglietti is, above all, a genuine gents’ coupe and a true four-seater with space in the rear seats for two adults, in addition to allowing for enough luggage to last a fortnight touring Italy.

The design is pure Ferrari — a stylish and elegant throwback to the earlier days of the marque with a vast, never-ending sleek bonnet, wonderfully sculptured body lines and sculptured flanks that pay homage to the 1954 Ferrari 375 MM that film director Roberto Rossellini commissioned for his wife, Ingrid Bergman.
Before handing over the keys, Davide had reminded me of how the tradition of Ferrari has always been to adapt the technological advances developed for F1 for the GT cars. ‘The technological transfer is what makes us unique,’ he said. ‘It’s just two minutes’ walk from the racing department to the GT department. The gearbox you will be driving is taken from F1 technology.’

As a result, the car goes over 315kmh. The combination of a wide bonnet and the narrow roads in Tuscany made any attempt to find out what it felt like to travel at 200mph impossible. With the roar of the engine kicking in as we screamed up the road from Florence to Siena — stopping off for the night at the exclusive Villa Mangiacane hotel, the former home of the Machiavelli family — I was too scared to go above 200kmh. But I found it effortless to reach 100kmh in 4.3 seconds. The F1 technology also finds its way into the F1A semi-automatic paddle shift system, which gives an idea of what it is like to be in the cockpit of an F1 car.

No hedge-fund manager, even the few that haven’t blown up, will want to be seen in a flash Ferrari — the ‘butcher’s choice of car’, as some used to call it in the 1980s, when the cars looked plastic and it was the dream of every blue-collar worker in America who watched Miami Vice to own a Testarossa. To be exact, in the early series Detective Sonny Crockett drove a black 1972 Ferrari Daytona Spyder 365 GTS/4, which was upgraded when Enzo Ferrari himself donated two 1986 Testarossas.

My point, however, is that in the 1980s a Ferrari was a speed machine; it was a babe-puller; it was glitzy, macho and a little brash. It was aspirational and was the last thing Sherman McCoy, Wall Street bond dealer and the Master of the Universe of Bonfire of the Vanities, would have been driving when he knocked over a black honor student and began his descent into social hell. No, no, no — McCoy was behind the wheel of a black Mercedes 380SL roadster.

Today, there is every chance he would be behind the wheel of a 612 Scaglietti — probably in gunmetal grey, like the one I drove in Tuscany. And not, I should add, with a frisky redhead with a southern accent who happened to be my mistress — although I am sure the Scaglietti has accommodated many of the breed — but rather my wife Vanessa, a self-confessed Ferrari freak who found the car handled not unlike her thoroughbred horse, mixing power, pedigree and speed — although the matchless carbon ceramic disc brakes were a lot more effective than her horse’s halter.

At this point, I should add that I am a GT sort of person. GT people are purists, connoisseurs, wine obsessives, detail maniacs — the sort of people who will take grave offence if they are sat at a bad table at the Ivy, who will lean over another’s seat during a flight to read their copy of The World of Interiors; the sort of person who has a Michelin guide to the South of France by their bedside table; a person who is made to weep by the word ‘compromise’; somebody to whom beauty — whether it is cars, watches, wine or women — is a personal religion that requires passionate indulgence.

The late Mark Birley was a GT sort of person; just as an English gentleman will always have two vents in his suits, so homme GT would never so much as consider a sports car that has four doors, and you can rest assured that a Ferrari made and assembled in Maranello — the stud farm of Ferrari — never will. ‘Nor we will ever build an SUV,’ added Kluzer over coffee. Thank goodness that some things — like Ferrari’s contempt for mass-market fads — will never change.

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