There are certain things in life that you just can't refuse: Unlimited refills, free shipping, and the chance behind the wheel of a Ferrari, especially if that Ferrari is now an almost disgustingly shiny red 360 that has to be the most well-documented car in existence. Here's what that's like.
Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the hilarious rantings of Doug DeMuro, stop what you're doing immediately and go read any and all of his articles. Also, where have you been? There are like 19,000 of these stories.
I met Doug one particularly well-lit morning at Classic Car Club Manhattan, at a small gathering the Jalopnik staff had to check out BMW's latest acid trip. He parked right in front of the building, in a no-parking zone that was packed with others cars who understood the unwritten parking rules of Manhattan, but didn't bother to tell me before I parked 10 miles away.
The car was impossibly red. So red, in fact, that the glossy paint looked as it it hadn't dried yet and could rub off on your hands if you weren't careful. It was polished (or at least maintained) to a standard that you'd never, ever see in any regular car. It doesn't matter if your Camry had a $10,000 paintjob after the insurance settlement, the finish on a Ferrari will always look better.
As I snuck a peek inside the car and shut the door behind me, I got a small glimpse into the life of an exotic car owner (or at least, a near-exotic). The carpet was clean and even had the remnants of symmetrical vacuum marks that you see in fancy-pants classifieds where multimillionaires sell off the toys that their escorts grew tired of riding in. The leather that adorned the seats was so unbelievably soft and padded that it made my perforated S-Class nappa seats feel like I was sitting on 80-grit sandpaper wrapped haphazardly around a cinder block by comparison. This was no joke.
A bit later in the day at Grant's Tomb, after mulling it over in my head and coming to terms with the fact that I probably wouldn't have a job on Monday if I just stole the Ferrari and started a new life in Mexico, I asked Doug if he would take me for a ride. Mensch that he is, he threw me the keys and said "You can drive it".
As I'm somewhat of an automotive journalist/reporter/blogger/curmudgeon, I have to be as forthcoming as I can be with the matters of which I write. Up until that point, I had never driven an exotic car before. Cars with a six-figure original MSRP, sure, but nothing that actually required me to find special insurance if I was to actually own it. This was sort of a big deal and why I got the kind of scared that 3rd graders get right before a piano recital — not a huge accomplishment in the grand scheme of things, but it sure felt daunting at the time, which you would've deduced if you'd have followed me on Twitter and seen my good ride-along pal chronicling my terror/delight.
I turned the key and fired the 3.6 liter V8 up behind me, which felt wrong to my front-engined virgin ears. I took the car for a lap around the park, and it set in: I was driving a Ferrari. Not a rental, but a hand-built Italian supercar that someone felt inclined to give me the keys to, for free, after meeting me once. I didn't hoon it, but just tried to take in the sounds, the clunks, whizzes and bangs, of which there were many, all of which were absolutely welcome.
The car was ridiculously stiff. Even on the relatively rut-free road around Grant's Tomb on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the car felt like the wheels were welded to the chassis with re-bar and set in concrete. I obviously didn't mind, because I've driven a Honda Civic with a mickey-moused eBay suspension setup before, and I'd much rather endure a purpose built, stiff ride than a haggard, broken one. The car felt solid, a far cry from the fragile stereotypes these cars tend to carry around with them for one reason or another.
And then came the noise. When you can't categorize the sound coming from an engine, that engine sound must be unique. This flat-plane crank, tiny pistons, and amazingly rev-happy valvetrain culminated in an engine that screamed "Ferrari." The induction noise emanating from the engine bay a foot behind my head filled the cabin with a sound that I can best describe as pure. It wasn't an engine modified for performance, it was built from the ground up as a performer, and the car rode a sharp torrent of horsepower until the next bend, and the next, until I felt that it was a little more familiar. I wasn't getting used to the car, it was breaking me in.
The shifter feel was extremely heavy, and required concentrated finesse and a deliberate touch, as if the car was Odin, granting you the power of Thor every time you went for a gear change. It made me feel like a better driver because I was aware at all times of what the car was doing and how I was engaging with it, therefore actually making me a better driver. I didn't care about the climate control settings or how well the radio worked. I didn't care about gas mileage or anything else that would normally encompass a relatively short, but telling test drive. All I wanted to do was to push the car a bit further, knowing that the further I pushed, the faster the drive would be over – a catch-22 if ever there was one.
After driving an exotic car around a regular city street with actual traffic, potholes, and pedestrians, I can safely say that everyone needs this at some point. Everyone needs to have a car that makes the right amount of noise and sacrifices a certain amount of practicality, if only to serve as a reminder that just because something is rough, doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't the most fun you've ever had. It will change you for the better. And I thank Doug for giving me the chance to find this out on my own, with his insanely red, 4-wheeled masterpiece.
(Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove, Tavarish)
If you'd like to find one of your own and experience the thrill of rediscovering the art of driving, check out eBay and see what they're going for. They're a hell of a value.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.