The development of a new Ferrari isn’t taken lightly. Every new model the legendary marque unveils has undergone years of painstaking work on the drawing board, in-depth technical feasibility studies and been subjected to thousands of miles of excruciating, uncompromising track tested by the finest drivers in Ferrari’s crack test squadron.
Yet, how many reviews have you read, though, where a Ferrari is put through its paces only for the all-knowing Journalist to claim that “the old car had so much more soul” or “all this technology feels a bit sterile” and that “it’s a technical masterpiece, but the old car was magical”?
Well, I think there’s a pretty simple solution, and one which would be incredibly easy for the Prancing Horse to pursue.
Ferrari, it must be remembered, is just a company which sells products. Yes, the name is steeped in legend, recognised and understood even by those for whom cars are a necessary evil which should be tolerated rather than celebrated. But at the end of the day it wouldn’t exist. It needs to keep selling its wares, exactly like BMW, Ford and Kia do.
And, to do that, it must have an appealing lineup of products that people actually want to buy.
Of course, Ferrari has a big head start on other companies thanks simply to its name. Slap the prancing horse on anything and it will sell, principally because of prestige by association. When somebody makes enough cash to graduate from a Ferrari-labelled T-shirt or laptop computer to an actual car, he can take his pick from whichever model in the lineup best causes him to twitch in unmentionable places.
A Ferrari might have power, beauty and exquisite craftsmanship, but there’s one thing that no single model in the current lineup has – timelessness. The recent launch of the 812 Superfast pretty much sums it up – as the most powerful non-hybrid Ferrari yet it marks something of an ultimate. But only until the next one. Every Ferrari you can buy today will, one day, be obsolete.
The main reason for every new Ferrari launch is to make sure that existing customers have something to upgrade to. “Liked the 458? You’ll love the new 488” etc. It’s pretty clear that this is the case, because a car at this end of the market is very rarely properly benchmarked against rivals by anybody apart from the reviewer. You’ll probably not cross-shop a LaFerrari against a Huyara – you’ll either buy both or whichever you lust after the most.
Look at the LaFerrari. This, right now, represents the embodiment of everything Ferrari knows about the car, in a car. But pretty soon, it’ll be just a footnote in the company’s hsitory. Yes, its once-ultimate status will give it a kind of immortality so many examples will find themselves locked securely away in gaurded vaults as investments. Therefore, one could arguably say that the LaFerrari is irrelevant to the world of cars because it will never actually be used as a one.
The California T is actually my favourite car in Ferrari’s current range, solely because it can be enjoyed every day as a thrilling yet comfortable way of covering miles rapidly, you know, like the proper car that the LaFerrari isn’t. The role of the California T is the purest reflection of what so many of our favourite Ferraris from the ‘sixties and seventies were intended to do.
Back then the differences between race and road car were far broader than they are now. The wealthy playboys who bought a 275 GTS didn’t want a ride to shake their immaculate Italian teeth out, they wanted primarily to look good, go fast and make an addictive noise. The California T does all that impeccably. The fact that it isn’t in its element on a track is a good thing.
The only thing significantly wrong with the California T is the way it looks. Its styling is slightly fussy, slightly voguish and of its time. It’s unlikely to be referred to in the future as ‘one of the greats’. It’ll probably be seen as the ‘Ferrari Mondial of its time’. The Mondial, incidentally, was everybody’s least favourite Ferrari of the 80s – yet was by far the most usable car the company made during that period.
So what if, like me, you want the joy of taking delivery of a zero-miles Ferrari, but you don’t want to buy into the idea of constant model obsolescence?
Some car companies manage this. Just for a moment, let’s look at Morgan, Sure, over recent years the Malvern company has kept itself in the public eye with a number of fascinating new releases – most recently there was the Plus e concept – and the Aero range mixes bleeding-edge engineering with something of the traditional Morgan aesthetic. Yet Morgan’s core products, the Morgan Plus Four and Plus Eight, are still the most important cars in the firm’s portfolio. Based on a design which has survived largely intact for generations as the essence of British sports car motoring, there would be considerable outcry if they were ever discontinued.
They give the Morgan range something that Ferrari doesn’t offer – a constantly-produced model that represents the very essence of Ferrari. I know it’ll be argued that every single car to issue from between the Maranello factory gates is imbued with that very spirit, but you’re still looking at a range of cars which is transient. In five years time there will be a new raft of Ferraris, the ones which glitter in showrooms today will merely be used cars – still desirable but no longer state-of-the-art.
I propose that Ferrari introduces – or perhaps reintroduces – a car which genuinely will be immortal, like Morgan has always offered. A car that isn’t subject to the same obligatory seven year model cycle that premium brands typically adopt.
It would become the choice of the Ferrari connoisseur. Chosen not because it’s the fastest, the best handling or the most technologically advanced, but because it defines the values which lead the brand to prominence.
Think of something styled like the 275 GT. Not necessarily a slavish reproduction, but something with the same effortless grace, something which will stand the test of time and doesn’t rely on gaping air-ducts, active aero or colossal wheels for its identity.
However, make sure its low, shapely form can subtly accept today’s tyre and brake technology as well as any obligatory safety gear that modern times dictate – but go without modish driver fulfilment aids like launch control, track modes or adaptive suspension. Make it great to drive, but not so that it’s at its best on a racetrack. Think Stelvio Pass, not Suzuka.
Give it whatever powertrain you like, but make sure it’s one that that’s reasonably future-proof. This will be a car which is intended to endure, to accrue high mileages. To be a car that a wealthy gentleman can buy and regard as his trusted steed for years to come, until passing it to his son like a beloved Swiss army knife. Perhaps offer occasional updates for owners, to enable owners of ten-year old examples a taste of what the kids of today are enjoying.
But most importantly, sell it as The Ferrari, No model name, simply the brand. It’s that simple, Yes, you can buy a 488GTO or an 812 Superfast or a LaFerrari if you want, but, if you’re a gentleman, you buy a Ferrari.
Until the above happens, I have to say that Ferrari simply doesn’t make a car for me. Until they do, I’ll have to buy an old one. They had so much more soul, you know.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017)