Valet Tales: "The Hot Ferrari"

A while back when I was working a saturday shift at my very part time valet job, low and behold, I hear the sound of some whiny Italian V-8.

We’ve had our fair share of sports cars and exotics show up at this particular unnamed hotel, anything from 100k mile Porsches to Aston Martins, Corvettes to Maseratis, and a few big Bentleys. Looking over my left shoulder I spot a black Ferrari 355GTS slowing creeping up to our valet staging area. Behind the wheel, a gentleman who looked like well, your typical Viagra user. My jaw dropped not only because it was a Ferrari, but a 355, which in my opinion is one of the coolest Ferraris to ever come out of Maranello. I still argue, that the Ferrari F355 Spider is one of the best looking convertibles ever made. Period. 

The other valets seemed to back away as the black Ferrari pulled closer, I walked forward and told my co-workers “I got this.” Score 1 for Robby. Opening the driver’s door, I rattled off my usual valet monologue…but this time, with a more assuring professional tone, in order to convince the owner to let us valet it. Sometimes, people just prefer to park their car on the street our leave it up front after slipping us a $20 bill. He asked me if I knew cars, I confidently responded, “yes this is the Ferrari 355, one of my absolute favorite Italian sports cars, very nice car you have here sir.” I helped him remove his luggage from the front hatch, filled out his valet ticket, and padded him on the shoulder assuring his Ferrari would be in top-notch care. “I need to explain a few things to you before you take it,” he told me. “First, the car gets very hot after you drive it so before you park it and put the cover over it, you absolutely have to keep the hood open for at least 15-20 minutes to cool off. Then put the cover over it carefully, not letting it touch the ground.” Okay, now I know that Ferraris tend to catch on fire when it gets a bit hot outside, but now I was a bit worried I’d be roasted. I nodded my head in understanding and continued to hear his lecture. “Also this car has a security system in it for the ignition, you have to put the key in the ignition, press the button on the remote, turn the key forward twice, backwards once, and then forwards again to start it….but make sure the car’s in neutral.” What…..the…..hell? When I worked at a major Toyota dealership in high school as a detailer and lot attendant, I came across all sorts of bizarre security systems. Everything from your garage-install Viper alarms, to my favorite: the one Toyota Corolla that required you to pull the high-beams stalk while you turned the key, in order for the ignition to start. I’m glad he had left the targa top on, which I’d imagine would have been even more obnoxious to deal with. 

“I only want you to drive it,” he said as he thanked me and walked inside. I nervously walked towards the car, with the key in hand. This was my first time driving a Ferrari and gosh I was excited. I struggled for 10 minutes trying to get the car started, thanks to the owners ridiculous security system. How many valets does it take to get a Ferrari started? Plenty. I finally got it going, and let that V-8 engine scream to life. Best part about this Ferrari 355GTS, was that it had a true, six-speed manual transmission with a metal gated shifter. Clink clink clink gear changes all the way! The pedals on the 355GTS were extremely close to each other, and I’m surprised I didn’t have any trouble getting it going off the line. It was in fact much easier to drive than the Aston Martin DB7 I drove a few days earlier. I stalled that one out pretty bad infront of the hotel haha. The sound was incredible while I idled at the stoplight. On green, I slowly accelerated through the intersection and once I was away from the hotel, I punched it. I had to. Soon enough I was going about 60mph and already in fourth gear. The clink of the true manual gearbox upon shifting sounds way better than the stupid F1 flappy-paddles that this car could have been bought with. This was a drivers car. But wait! It’s a July day, sun is shining, and the temperature was approaching probably around 85 degrees. Upon pulling into our parking structure, I found a spot away from other cars in a corner, to avoid door dings. I shut it off and noticed a “Slow Down” light on the dashboard…..what?

I popped the hood on this mid-engine exotic, and immediately felt a rush of heat hit my arm and face. Wow, this car is hot. I waited about 20 minutes, taking pictures with my iPhone, excitedly Tweeting to friends about it, and just checking out all this Ferrari has to offer. When I reached for the door handle to get out of the car, my hand became a bit sticky, and upon looking at it, it was black. The door handle area looked like it had been slowly melting in parts due to the heat. Really? This happens in a Ferrari?  Who cares though I had just taken one of my dream cars for a quick wild ride, and I was as a happy as a kid in a candy store. 

“Dude you got on it haha!” the other valets said to me after I jogged back to the hotel. “Oh yea, I know,” I replied with a smile. The next day, I headed in to work early  for a short shift, that consisted of me waking up the sleeping black Ferrari, having one last 4 minute joy ride, and walking away with a $50 tip. 

By day, Robby DeGraff is an industry analyst for an automotive market research and product-consulting firm. Based an hour from Road America in Wisconsin, he once piloted a Suzuki Jimny around Iceland for two weeks alone. Robby's personal fleet includes a bright red 2001 Chevrolet Camaro that sometimes runs, his second Saabaru wagon, and hopefully a Volkswagen Vanagon in the future.

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