Articles

Michael Sheehan's Ferraris-online.com Article

Personalized Road Jewelry

The California Spyder options list is 61 items long and growing. If one has a big enough checkbook, one could add $100k to a $197k car

As appeared in:

Sports Car Market—December 2009 issue

Sheehan Speaks

by Michael Sheehan

How many Komodo dragons does it take to cover the interior of a 430 Spyder?
How many Komodo dragons does it take to cover the interior of a 430 Spyder?

Today’s vintage and collectible Ferrari buyers are usually male Baby Boomers in their late 50s or early 60s who have owned many cars, from Alfa to Zagato, over many decades. They can have one to a dozen or more collector cars, and their Ferraris are usually the top of the food chain in their collection. Most have built their business over decades and pay cash for their toys. They grew up with Italian or British cars and understand and can live with the idiosyncrasies and complexities of the older car. Long term, they view their cars as investments, and a limited-production, coachbuilt, topless or competition Ferrari is expected to be the best one.

New Ferrari dealers have always offered a different perspective, with showrooms graced by the latest offerings from Maranello. Today’s new Ferrari buyers are usually in their mid-30s to mid-50s, have “newer” money, and are not afraid to spend it. They want the state-of-the-art, plus the peace of mind of new-car reliability, and will write the check to pay for it. New-car pride of ownership and a factory warranty are an acceptable trade-off against instant depreciation. Their Ferraris are not investments, but then neither are the M-Bs or BMWs that share their garage space. These buyers are unusually disinterested in the older Ferraris and many don’t know a Lusso from a 275 GTB.

A dizzying array of options available

For decades the only options on any Ferrari were the paint and interior color. If the buyer was well connected at the factory, he might be able to order an unusual paint or interior color combination. With the reign of Luca di Montezemolo the rules changed, and Ferrari joined other high-end manufacturers with an options list. In mid-1998, Ferrari introduced the Carrozzeria Scaglietti Personalization Program on the 355, 456, and 550, which began modestly by offering “Daytona” seats, modular wheels, fender-mounted “Scuderia” shields, and colored seat piping. With the introduction of the 360 and 575, the options list ramped rapidly upward, with Challenge grilles, carbon fiber interior, engine and intake kits, and so on. Various options packages have been marketed, such as the Fiorano handling package, or the Schumacher option for the 550, and later for the 456, which featured special colors and trim, or the recent Sessanta package for the 612. Ferrari’s latest is the Atelier (or Studio) customization program, usually reserved for the 612 and 599 buyers who want to pick out the options for their car at the factory.

The buyer has five minutes of glory

The options lists grew ever longer, and with the new California Spyder, Ferrari has done a masterful job of the up-sell, giving each buyer his five minutes of glory checking off items on the options list, all in the name of today’s exclusivity. We start with a plain Jane stripper California Spyder, with gas guzzler and delivery costs included, for a mere $197,349. Under “Racing and Track” options one can add MagneRide Dual Mode shocks for a modest $5,114.

Next on the options list is the “Exterior Colors” section, with an “out of range” paint option for $8,712. If one prefers, he can have Ferrari’s “COLORI ANNI ’50 e ’60” paint for only $10,568. Want to add Scuderia fender shields? Another $1,542. Red brake calipers? $1,259. Black external A-pillars? $1,889. 20” Diamond Finish Sport Wheels? $4,422. How about a carbon fiber rear panel? Another $1,889. And it doesn’t stop there.

Moving to the “Interior and Materials” list, one can order a carbon fiber driving zone with LED steering wheel for $6,768. Daytona-style seats for $3,305. Electric seats for another $5,194. Colored seat piping at $865. Colored seat belts for $802. A red tach for $724. Upper carbon fiber trim interior for $5,666 and carbon trim on the door panels for another $5,666. Alcantara passenger carpets will add another $2,407. A dual color interior with Daytona seats will tack on $5,509, while leather and Alcantara will add another $6,296.

Onto the “Equipment and Traveling” category, where an iPod connection is $881. Rear seat luggage is $3,221. Trunk-mounted luggage is another $6,216. Advanced headlights(?) add $1,809, while cruise control is $1,046. A front parking sensor is $1,470, while a rear camera is $3,463. The hi-fi sound system is $5,037.…

In all, the California Spyder option list is 61 items long and growing. If one has a big enough checkbook, one could spend $100,000-plus on options—on a $197,349 car.

How about an alligator interior?

A few examples of options gone wild are a Fly Yellow with alligator interior 430 Spyder that resides locally. While the normal MSRP on a 430 Spyder is in the $215,000 range, s/n 152545 had an original MSRP of $413,034—about $150,000 for the alligator seats, door panels, steering wheel, roll bar hoops, sun visors, etc., for $200,000 in total options. One would think that after spending over $200,000 in options, the owner would keep it forever, yet it was back on the local dealer’s floor after a mere 285 miles. Sadly for the owner, his very personalized options make the car much harder to sell, and so any equity in $200,000 in options is non-existent, a polite way to say he kissed off two hundred large.

Another example of what can only be described as wretched excess is a 612 Sessanta, s/n 157625. The Sessanta 612 was a limited run of 60 individually numbered 612s celebrating Ferrari’s 60th anniversary. While all were heavily optioned, s/n 157625 was truly optioned out with Rolls-Royce Arctic White paint, white quilted leather, power seats, a white tachometer, red stitching and seat belts, diamond-quilted seat and door inserts, carbon fiber interior trim, white carpets and mats, a glass roof, white leather trunk with red stitching, shields, front and rear parking sensors, ball-polished modular wheels with silver center caps and gold Prancing Horses, yellow calipers, carbon ceramic brakes, and more. The price? A modest $450,000. When this car comes up for resale, it will bring south of $200,000, and that number will only keep dropping…

What would Enzo think?

I know I’m giving away my advanced age, but I grew up in a time when owning a Ferrari meant the ultimate in driving experience, usually reserved for long drives on late nights or weekends, often at indecently high speeds. I owned and drove s/n 12547, the alloy-bodied prototype Comp. Daytona, as my only car from 1974 to 1977, and hit 150 in 4th gear, every night, on my way home to Laguna Beach. I’m the first to admit that run would be impossible today, as the entire area has been built up and traffic is much heavier.

The performance of today’s Ferraris is now so far past speed limits that they are virtually unusable in real-world circumstances. Gone are the days of would-be owners reading Road & Track late into the night and setting their own valves. Like a Rolex or Cartier watch, today’s Ferraris have become road jewelry and fashion accessories. And they are eagerly bought by those who can afford to outfit them the way they want. I’m not claiming the old days and ways were better—just different. And the truly wealthy Ferrari enthusiast today can have the best of both worlds: a new California Spyder, customized to his taste, with a warranty, on one side of the garage ready for the daily grind, and a vintage California Spyder on the other for cruising to Cavallino and the Quail.