Never Stop Driving #7: Another reason to celebrate Ferrari

Ferrari, maker of soul stirring cars for the one percent, has taken a stand against robotic drivers. “No customer is going to spend money for the computer in the car to enjoy the drive,” Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna recently told Bloomberg Television. “The value of the man, of the human at the center, is fundamental.” Amen, brother, even if your company abandoned the manual transmission years ago.

This is a fascinating development because Vigna, who has a degree in physics, worked in the technology sector before joining Ferrari a year ago. Like many observers, I assumed he was hired specifically to chart a course for Ferrari in the autonomous vehicle future, but it turns out Vigna has taken a stand in favor of enthusiast drivers and Ferrari tradition.

“The human at the center,” Vigna continued, “is fundamental” to the experience of owning and driving a Ferrari. I absolutely treasure that quote, partly because now I don’t feel so bad about the thousands of dollars I’m dumping into my middle-class Ferrari restoration. I bought what is likely the least expensive Ferrari available, a 1975 308 GT4, for $25,000, which is Mustang money. For my home-garage restoration, I’m hiring experts for the big stuff like paint but am personally tackling whatever I can. Here’s my latest progress report. The body and engine are currently at separate shops so I’m currently in a holding pattern.

308 on lift
My 1975 308 GT4 before disassembly. Cameron Neveu

While researching a piece on Ferrari’s 75th anniversary that will be in an upcoming issue of Hagerty Drivers Club magazine (If you don’t get it, please sign up for the Drivers Club. You’ll be glad you did.), I asked Luigi Chinetti, Jr. what Ferrari fans thought of the 308 GT4 when it debuted nearly 50 years ago. Chinetti, Jr., with his father, the famous Luigi Chinetti, helped make the United States one of Ferrari’s largest markets. Chinetti’s answer provides a strong clue about why the GT4, which was sold under a Ferrari subbrand called Dino, is relatively cheap. He said, “When I saw the 308 GT4, I thought, ‘oh, boy, this is the time to sell the dealership.’ While it was nicely balanced, drove well, and you could see out of it, the GT4 was just cruelly ugly. It was unsalable. We had to take a Dino label off the front and put on a Ferrari badge. If it had remained a Dino, we would not have been able to give them away. And I’m being kind.”

Some people are sensitive to unfavorable opinions of their cars. Not me. I laughed when Chinetti told me that and appreciated the historical perspective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I happen to love the GT4’s design.

308 on road
I bought this 308 GT4 after it had been sitting for 20 years, so I breathed a big sigh of relief when I got the engine running and was able to drive it. Cameron Neveu

Swedish company Einride recently received approval from NHTSA to test its new, driverless, long-haul truck on public roads. The Einride truck, which looks straight out of a near-future sci-fi movie, has a maximum speed of 85 kph, or 58 mph, and a maximum range of 186 miles, depending on payload.

The Einride Pods are monitored remotely, and the remote operator, the company claims, can take control of the truck if it runs into odd situations that the autonomous system is unable to handle. Einride recently announced a new trailer that includes a massive battery to extend the truck’s range to 400 miles.

California regulators declined to lift a ban on autonomous tractors, which is a bit odd since the state has an extensive regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles and paid robotaxi rides are already underway in San Francisco. Current Cal/OSHA regulations state that “all self-propelled equipment shall, when under its own power and in motion, have an operator stationed at the vehicular controls.” John Deere announced a fully autonomous tractor at CES earlier this year, and California-based Monarch Tractor has its own autonomous, electric tractor in development.

The self-driving revolution continues to accelerate in the commercial space, while passenger car AVs remain years away. That is probably just fine for fans of Gridlife, the automotive/racing/music festival that’s proving that young people still like cars. One of the attendees brought a custom Mazda RX-7 that might be the best-sounding car I’ve ever heard.

Finally, this is cool but crazy, too: A half-million-dollar restomod Subaru.

Have fun and be safe during this holiday weekend!

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