Falling in love again at Oktoberfest.
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.
“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.