Ferrari Classiche Revisited

We begin with a brief history lesson
In 2002 Ferrari started their first certification process for early Ferraris by issuing a minimalist single page Heritage certificate, easily obtained online by submitting the model, plus the chassis, engine, transmission and differential numbers, no inspection required. Between 2002 and 2005 about a thousand Heritage certificates were issued. In the same time period the FIA was starting to inspect and certify historic race cars. Ferrari feared losing control of the parameters defining “originality” of many of the most significant racing Ferraris and introduced the Classiche department in 2005. From the beginning there was a defined process which, after inspection, detailed photos, application submission and acceptance, the Classiche committee would issue its now ubiquitous hard-bound red book in its matching case, badged with a replica of the car’s original data plate identifying the car by serial number and model type. Classiche also issues the Yellow Book (for La Ferraris and other limited edition cars), the Grey Book (the 350 units of the 70th Anniversary cars) and the White Book (for cars of special historical interest such as the Breadvan, etc.). Since inception various people, from Roberto Vaglietti, to Antonello Coletta to Marco Arrighi to Luigino “Gigi” Barp, have managed the Classiche department.

The Factory’s Classiche in-house restoration department was officially opened July 2006 by then-president, Luca di Montezemolo, with vice-president Piero Ferrari, the son of Enzo Ferrari as Chairman of the Classiche Certification Committee. Ferrari Classiche is not a “restoration shop”, but instead an assembly and delivery shop. Almost everything is outsourced. V-12 engines are built by Modena Motori, 4-cylinders are built by Hall & Hall. New body panels are usually done by Autosport in Bastiglia or by Brandoli in Montale. Paint and body work is done by Carrozzeria Mirage or Zanasi. Interiors are done in house. Needless to say, Ferrari Classiche marks up any work under its direction and while it makes little financial sense to have one’s 308 rebuilt at Ferrari Classiche, a majority of the most valuable 1950s and 1960s Ferraris must be restored at the factory to get the Red Book certification. I’m told the average markup on sublet work is about 40%.

New day, new rules
In March of this year Luigino “Gigi” Barp, the latest head of both SAT (Servizio Assistenza Technica) and Ferrari Classiche, sent every authorized Ferrari dealer world-wide a ten page Dealer’s agreement. The latest agreement requires each enrolled dealer who signs up to be a Classiche center has to pay an annual enrolment fee and have a designated space for Classiche inspections and service. It also requires that those dealers who sign up send a technician (or technicians) to the factory for Classiche training. Further each Classiche center is required to send 300k €uro in restoration work to the factory every year. The “Ferrari Classiche” sign in the authorized dealers is now owned by Ferrari and is leased to the shop at $5k a year to US dealers and 3.5k €uro a year to European dealers. The list of new rules goes on, but as just one example, in the agreement, Line 3, paragraph 7, the dealer needs to advise the client that Classiche process “provides the car with high added value” although there’s no indication on how to establish that “added value”.

All of this is part of each dealers K.P.I. or Key Performance Index. Most recently Ferrari has a 5% hold-back on new-car sales. A dealer has to give back 1% if he carries other marques, another 1% if he has other marques under the same roof and yet another 1% if he doesn’t meet his quota for accessories, on-line training, doesn’t have his staff attend all the training and marketing meetings or doesn’t get his clients to track events and driving schools. Add in another 1% if he doesn’t meet his service or Classiche quota and last but not least another 1% if he doesn’t meet his sales quotas. But wait, it gets better. If a dealer fails to sell $35k worth of “options” on every new Ferrari they are penalized. And nope, the sales department can’t make that up by selling $70k worth of options on the next car as their sales staff obviously failed miserably on the “no-or-low” option sale….

To date ten US dealers have signed up to be Classiche certified and six Classiche dealers for Northern Europe, with four in England, one in Germany and another in Holland. Italy will have only one center outside the Factory, Rossocorsa, the dealer for Milan. To exercise even more control over the vintage Ferrari market, all Ferrari owners that want to enter the various events held in Italy, such as the Mille Miglia or any of the Ferrari-organized tours must have their cars Classiche certified.

What does it cost?
In 2010 the inspection, photos and application usually ran in the $1,500 range, with the certification, approval and Red Book starting at app. $2,000 for a 308 up to $3,000 for a 365 GTB/4 and $7,500 for a 250 GTO plus the cost of a metallurgy test plus $500 to $3,000 for research on the GTO. Today the same 308 would be $3,750, the 365 GTB/4 is $8,750 while the 250 GTO would be $16,250 plus the cost of a metallurgy test plus $3,125 for research. In 2009 Ferrari Classiche supplied the various dealers doing Classiche inspections with a chassis dimension sheet for each of the 1950s and some 1960s Ferraris, which requires detailed measurements of all critical chassis dimensions. These were then double-checked by Classiche, adding $700 to the inspection process. Ferrari also required a metallurgy inspection which is done with a $34,000 spectrometer to confirm the chassis’ composition. The charge per metallurgical inspection is about $1,500. Additionally Ferrari charges an extra research fee of $3,125 for all 1950s and most 1960s Ferraris, most of which can only be inspected at the Factory’s Classiche department. As of March of this year, Ferrari has certified just under 6,000 Ferraris, of which just under 1,000 are US-based cars.

Some basic math tells us that 6,000 cars certified at an average of, let’s say, $6,000 per car = $36,000,000 in revenue to date, plus the markup from sublet work and the billing for in house work, making the Classiche department a profit center. The cynical might point out the initial inspection fee is just the beginning, as the certification process is essentially a means of identifying any faults then offering to correct them for an additional charge. Ferrari would argue that the Certification ultimately adds value to the car, but one has to question how much value is added when an existing engine is re-stamped with a Classiche number or a new, albeit sanctioned replacement motor is installed. Is that really any increase in value over the correct type but non-matching engine that was previously in the car once it has been re-stamped by Classiche?

The Little Red Book and More
Today, when one gets their proverbial “Little Red Book” from Classiche, it now comes with a Classiche supplied “Service Manual” for cars over 20 years old. This latest edict is a mandatory annual service, at a Ferrari Classiche workshop, to “maintain” the Classiche certification. Once the annual service check is done at the Ferrari Classiche Workshop, a Classiche Workshop stamp will be affixed in the Service Manual as confirmation. If the annual services aren’t done, it will lose its status as a Ferrari Classiche certified vehicle. Europeans are comfortable with the latest edict, as the English have long had to go through an annual MOT (Ministry of Transport) inspection, the Germans have a TUF annual safety inspection and the Dutch have an APK inspection to maintain licensing & registration. Americans are more skeptical. Not everyone values their red books and they can occasionally be found on eBay.

Ferrari’s position is that once they have received the red book many owners modify their cars. This is certainly true. If you own, for example, a 365 GTC/4 with wire wheels, you probably borrowed a set of Chromodora mag wheels mounted with XWX tires for the Classiche photos. After-market stainless steel mufflers on your Daytona? You probably borrowed a set of stock mufflers for the photos. The certification process has always been a reflection of the car at a “point in time”. The reality is that many owners are only doing it as part of the sales process, they expect to have sold their car in a year.

A new breed of buyers
Many of our older clients who’ve owned their 1950s and 1960s Ferraris for many years feel that the Classiche process has become automotive extortion because of the work and costs needed to bring older restorations up to today’s Classiche standards. Conversely, a new generation of younger buyers, who want 308s, 328s, Testarossas and F40s accept that the Classiche process has become an integral part of the ownership process and the Red Book has become their historical certification. Because parts are available, these cars are relatively easy and inexpensive to push through the Classiche process, and as cam-belt era Ferraris, they are easy to service and schedule for re-inspections at the dealer, helping to keep the Classiche dealer’s workshop busy. The standard complaints with anyone going through the process is the four to six months or more needed to get their Red Book in hand and that costs have effectively doubled in the last seven years. In speaking with the technicians doing the inspections, Ferrari Classiche needs more staff to answer technical questions on what Classiche will, and will not accept from dealers/clients; more qualified people to process the paperwork and more frequent “committee” meetings. The Factory counters by saying that certified cars have an increase of 15 to 20 percent in value, which seems both overtly-generous and optimistic. I’d opine that any increase in value varies by model, with a more substantial increase in the top end of the market.

The real issues lie back in Maranello, for it is there the success of the Classiche operation will be decided. Processing a red book for a 308, a 365 GTB/4 or an F40 is not interpreting the Dead Sea Scrolls, it should be a quick and simple process. A dealer can try to keep his clients involved, but until Classiche speeds up the process, clients will find it hard to accept a six month wait for a Red Book to arrive.

My thanks to Marcel Massini, Mike Lynch, Mark Shannon, Rick Carey and the other members of Ferrari Historians.