7 April 2017

Why I may not be suited for Ferrari ownership.

I am a new Ferrari owner. And only four days after joining the club, I am dismayed and embarrassed to admit that I may not be suited for club membership.

The Ferrari 360 Modena pictured is the realization of a dream that began when I was three or four years old. My cousin showed me an issue of Road & Track with a Ferrari 308 on the cover. Silver, red interior. Looked like a bullet. That was all it took. Eventually I came to know what the car was—a mid-engined V-8 Ferrari—and have since lusted for one. This one is painted Giallo Modena (Modena Yellow).

Four days ago, on a frigid February morning, the 360 arrived at my home in Michigan, having been trucked all the way from Arizona. As soon as I saw the large orange transporter outside my window, I sprung into action. Jacket, hat, gloves and out the door. I spent about 30 minutes in purgatory while the driver unloaded two other cars in order to get to mine.

The driver returned to the cab and emerged with his blonde wife. “Are those your Ferrari-driving boots?” her husband chided her. She giggled and turned to me.

“I’ve got my own CDL. We drove together for years, but these days I stay on the farm in Michigan most of the time. But it was February and your car was in Arizona, so I was game.”

She climbed a ladder to the upper level of the transporter and swung open the Ferrari’s door. Her knee-high boots with four-inch heels matched the car’s black leather interior. I hoped they wouldn’t damage the carpet as she backed the car onto the truck’s ramp, ten feet off the ground.

Once the 360 was safely unloaded, the driver asked me to sign the bill of lading and handed me the Ferrari key. Then it was the moment of truth: I would finally get to drive my very own Ferrari. Not very far though.

Michigan roads get caked with Bonneville levels of salt each winter, so there would be no Cannonball Run today. I plopped into the seat and looked around. Gray carbon fiber, soft black leather, shiny gated six-speed with the famous ball-topped gear lever.  Then I saw the tachometer, dead center in front of me, resting at a steady 800 RPM. The water temperature, oil temp, and pressure gauges were arranged to the tach’s left and the speedo sat to its right.

I depressed the clutch and slipped the transmission into first gear, hearing my first “tink” when the lever hit its metal home. I fed a bit of gas, let the clutch out, and headed toward the garage. I turned off the engine, found the battery disconnect switch in the front trunk, and turned it clockwise into the “off” position. The tough part would be waiting three months for the snow and salt to fade away

But later in the day I decided that I’d shoot some photos the following morning, Saturday, because the bright blue sky and snowy landscape were beautiful. I thought the car would look especially great in the winter dawn. I charged my camera in preparation.

The sky was still dark the next morning when I excitedly hurried to the garage. The garage door opened, shattering the pre-dawn peace. The bright yellow Ferrari crouched, awaiting its photo op. I opened the door, slid in and removed my shoes. I still hadn’t discarded the protective plastic seat cover or floor mats that the shippers used.

A small carbon fiber panel protects the trunk and fuel door releases in the center console, just aft of an ashtray embellished with crossed Ferrari and Pininfarina flags. I flipped it open and pressed the trunk switch.

Nothing happened.

“Of course,” I realized. It was electrically operated, and I’d disconnected the battery. Surely there must be a mechanical pull somewhere for amusing incidents like these.

I reached for the glovebox. No owner’s manual. I later discovered that it, too, was in the trunk – of course – strapped in with a fine brown leather belt. Perhaps the mechanical release was under the front bumper? Nope. The aerodynamic undertray prevented that possibility. Outside the sky was gorgeous, orange and purple with scattered pink, billowing clouds. The window of opportunity for my sunrise shoot was closing.

Defeated, I went back into the house. My wife asked why I wasn’t shooting. I explained the situation, telling her I was going to consult FerrariChat.com. “Why don’t you just google it?” she said. Within a minute she had the solution: the emergency release is under the passenger-side dash. I was elated. Except that 20 minutes later, with my head on the footwell’s thick carpet and my legs sticking over the doorsill, it was clear that the release was either missing or Google was wrong. The sun had now cleared the horizon.

“It’s not there,” I told her, “Trust me.” Searching online again, we learned that the pull was under the driver-side dash, left of the steering column. I found it in 15 seconds and reconnected the battery. That Italian molehill conquered, I had lost the morning’s perfect light. I decided to wake up early on Sunday.

The next morning, wearing my pajamas, winter jacket and wool cap, I strode confidently to my garage. I dropped into the seat and felt the key slide through the ignition cylinder’s pins. I turned it one click and the instrument panel illuminated like the Griswolds’ house during Christmas.

The small status display in the tach read, “Check OK” in green letters. I took a breath and turned the key to Position III – as the owner’s manual calls it – ON.

Nothing happened. Again.

The Ferrari’s engine didn’t sputter, let alone start. How could the battery be dead? The dash was lit. I tried the radio. It didn’t work either, but that’s because the battery had been disconnected and I still needed to input the anti-theft code. I decided to try again. I spun the key to OFF and back to ON. Check OK. And...

Flat. In fact, I didn’t even hear the starter whirr. I humbly returned to Google. What could I have missed now? I found that you had to let the key sit in the accessory position for 10 seconds so that the electronics could reset.

All ready again. And once more nothing. Back to FerrariChat, where I threw up my arms virtually. “I’m a new owner. What am I doing wrong?”

One guy recommended depressing the brake while cranking. “Obviously I had mashed the brake,” I thought, rolling my eyes, “everyone knows that.” Another suggested that I “press the fob button and listen for a double beep.” Hmm. I guess the alarm system had to identify me too.

Back to the garage. The sun had risen long ago, its soft light now gone. And it was now cloudy.

I hesitantly approached the Ferrari, opened the trunk and checked that the battery was still connected. (It was.) I extended my thumb and pressed the orange key fob. One beep, then a second. The door swung open as I pulled the handle, and I slowly, deliberately sat down. I was moving in half time, going through the pre-launch checklist religiously. I spun the key to accessory – Position II – with reverence. The instruments responded to my faith positively. Light! I waited through 10 full Mississippis and turned the key farther.

A full 40-valve, eight-cylinder orchestra awoke behind me.

“YES!” I sat, contented, and listened to the symphony. I had missed my window for photography and it was too icy to drive the car, but at least it was running, the flat-plane V-8 thrumming behind my head. Once the engine was warm, I revved it to 3000 RPM a couple of times, let the sounds wash over me and bounce off the garage walls, then shut down. Yes, I disconnected the battery again, also.

I wonder if Enzo Ferrari himself would be able to start one of his modern cars without instruction. Or maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Regardless, knowledge is power or something and the photos you see here are from the following weekend, when, I’m proud to report, I again successfully started the 360 Modena’s engine.

I look forward to actually driving my Ferrari soon. After all, how hard could it be?

Postscript: This article was written a few weeks ago and there’s obviously no snow in the photos. Unfortunately, it melted and never returned. Instead, I present the 360 Modena on a misty Michigan morning.

19 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Rob Baltimore April 19, 2017 at 15:28
    I don't understand-- what's the big deal about simply pressing the button on the remote before you try to start the car? Also, why disconnect the battery? Better to keep a battery tender hooked up. Finally, if you don't have a back up remote, get one now-- if you lose yours, and don't have the code, Ferrari will charge you $5,000 to install a new ECU in the car.
  • 2
    Steve Woodward+13 April 19, 2017 at 15:38
    If I see you driving that thing on Woodward during Dream Cruise I'm gonna cut you off........ just because.
  • 3
    Wayne Western US April 19, 2017 at 15:42
    Ahhh, the joys of an exotic. After you get the details mastered, each drive will become an EVENT. Never, ever just a car, drive or trip. You'll learn to love it....until the eventual, exotic gremlins sneak up on you! Then, love-hate sets in, but it's always an adventure. Enjoy! 😀
  • 4
    Ian Pa April 19, 2017 at 16:26
    Buy a battery tender.
  • 5
    Jay Weick Spring, TX April 19, 2017 at 17:04
    Very funny! Hope you enjoy your spaghetti car. I chose to stay American and went with a 2015 C7 Vette. Still complicated to learn all the bells and whistles but that's life in the 21st century. Anti theft devices have become so complex that we now have problems using our own equipment. Wait until you have to service your spaghetti car to the tune of about $20k in 20k miles.
  • 6
    Donald Workman NEBRASKA April 19, 2017 at 18:04
    Great story! Hell, we've all been there. Well, 90% of us have, and the other 10% liars!
  • 7
    Jim Harrington Lapeer April 19, 2017 at 18:28
    I had a similar experience. I bought a F430 in Scottsdale and had the dealer deliver it to my house out there when I was still in Michigan. Three friends and I came out to the Super Bowl and I couldn't wait to impress them with my new car. We got to my house and the first thing I did was go to the garage to admire and drive it. I turned the key and nothing happened. After five or six more tries I let one of my friends try. He got in, turned the key and car started - with that "Ferrari only" exhaust sound. I figured out the left front tire came up against a rubber parking stop I have in the garage to make sure my cars will not hit the wall. The wheel was cocked and put pressure on the steering assembly. My friend was able to get the car started because he had his left hand pulling down on the steering wheel as he turned the key. Good lesson.
  • 8
    Craig McCulloch NJ April 19, 2017 at 18:57
    I think that the misty photos are great. The yellow svelte creature emerges into the light. But I must say, that being such a fan, it seems that you didn't do enough homework before taking delivery. But now you know and before long you'll find that perfect moment with the sun and the car are in their respective places to produce that evasive photograph.
  • 9
    D Johns Pittsburgh April 19, 2017 at 19:18
    Great story and very well written.
  • 10
    jab CA April 19, 2017 at 21:24
    Congrats, really enjoyed your tale of initial ownership. Of most of the contemporary F cars, I prefer the looks of the Modena, a liitle old school, almost Dino like. My only issue with the newer cars is the f badges on the front flanks, seems ostentatious, over the top, unnecessary. .
  • 11
    Brakeservo Tucson, Az April 19, 2017 at 22:34
    I don't mean to rain on this fellow's parade but he obviously did a number of things wrong: Apparently he bought this car without seeing it in person and taking it for a test drive first. A very risky behavior. Then second, before he committed mistake #1, he should have personally looked at an driven a number of other examples so that he'd already be familiar with starting procedures etc. The starting procedure for every Ferrari I've ever driven has been different - it's the one thing John Hughes never quite got right in Ferris Buehler's Day Off.
  • 12
    JSievers Florida April 19, 2017 at 23:23
    Welcome to the club. Many more adventures await you. But first one word of advice. Don't use the battery disconnect, simply hook your car up to a battery tender if it will be parked for more than a week. Enjoy the ride, you will find it involves much joy and many unexpected twists and turns!
  • 13
    brians356 Reno, NV April 20, 2017 at 13:39
    Yikes! That misty morning in MI reminds me of most mornings on Puget Sound, where my sister's '65 Porsche 912, sitting disabled for five years outdoors under a waterproof car cover, literally dissolved in place. "Dew." I assume your garage is climate controlled. Enjoy that money pit! You only go around once.
  • 14
    Bill Maloney Wilmette, IL April 20, 2017 at 06:34
    Thanks for sharing your story of humble beginnings. And congratulations - she's beautiful.
  • 15
    racedoc CT April 20, 2017 at 10:33
    Yoav, you'll do just fine as a "member" of the Ferrari owners "club." The learning curve is not steep! First: get a good battery tender/maintainer, keep the battery in the car and hooked up to the maintainer at all times. The battery will go flat after 5-7 days. Never lock the car/trunk with the the kill switch off!! Luckily, with a convertible, the door handles can be pulled open with a long hook. If you have the F1 trans, I'll give you some tips on how to make the clutch last more than 10-15,000 miles! Enjoy. Bill
  • 16
    Q! New Mexico April 20, 2017 at 11:05
    Great story! I was sitting in your car right there with you. The only thing missing was that incredible, harmonious and unforgettable symphony.
  • 17
    Robert Jenson Phoenix, AZ April 20, 2017 at 00:27
    Hi Yoav: Don't be so hard on yourself, all cars have their idiocyncracies, and you have just solved some (or perhaps all, hope??) of them for your car. Now you can get out when the weather permits and enjoy your dream. Take good care of it. Cheers, Bob.
  • 18
    Mark Columbus April 21, 2017 at 11:22
    Love the story - I have a 360 in Giallo with the F1 gearbox. Just take the time to go through the Owner's manual. Be sure you stay up with the needed maintenance - cam belts/tensioners; ALL fluids; NEVER overfill the engine oil and check it exactly as described in the Owner's manual (engine warm & running at idle/level surface/cap sitting on top of fill nozzle/split the high/low marks). Have fun!!
  • 19
    Chad Clark Michigan April 22, 2017 at 12:00
    Welcome to the club. Maybe I'll run into you on the road. I drive a yellow 355 Spider. There's 2 other ones (599 and an F40) up here by Traverse City that I know of. If it makes you feel better, I had the same problem trying to find that trunk release too to get to the battery.

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