by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img Garage Current :::1999 Ferrari F355
GENERALLY, our favorite Yokohama shop of Teutonic wonders is, just that: a purveyor of the best that Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, RUF, and BMW offered us in the 80s and 90s. This Ferrari F355 Berlinetta happens to be a happy exception to the Germanic majority.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: YouTube ::: Golden Eye Aston Martin v. Ferrari F355
LOOKING back on Bond movies of the Pierce Brosnan era, the production values now seem a little cheesy. That doesn’t stop us from enjoying a good car chase through the South of France, though.
WHERE were we?
Ah yes… convoys, Ferraris, and Autumn View Farms.
Not to be confused with online listings for “Autumn View Farms” in ME or MD, but rather Autumn View Farms of Warren, Massachusetts.
Nestled sweetly between soft ridgelines near crystal lakes about 20 clicks from the Connecticut border at Staffordville, Autumn View is a horse farm owned and operated by a Mr. and Mrs. Smith (truly).
Today, this corner of the Bay State is the platform for an amazing showcase of Ferraris, Porsches, Alfa Romeos, BMWs, and the like.
The Smiths have a clear appreciation for thoroughbreds.
Which helps explain why their lovely equestrian setting has capped another season of Ferrari owner get-togethers for the second year in a row.
The September sunshine is giving the fields a summer cast that contrasts with the dark deciduous forest of yonder hills.
There’s a long, loose stone driveway (that no one is using!) which leads to a pleasantly low-key house and cuts left to a large brown barn. Inside the barn are immaculately kept stables with gorgeous horses giving the attendant crowd sidelong glances; occasionally reaching through the bars snorting appeals for carrots or oats.
The horses have an easy life at Autumn View. As do the thoroughbreds that have assembled here. Behind the house, two rows of Italian and German autos point uphill.
Ranging in ages, like a popular FM station – playing your favorites from 70s, 80s, 90s and today – one exotic after the next makes an entrance in a grand parking parade.
Like some die-hard Cranberries or Sheryl Crow fan, I keep wanting the same 90s tracks at first – the F355s and 348s. Sigh, childhood. Memories. Ferrari Challenge Series at Lime Rock. Road & Track.
To my mind’s eye, the 355′s were perfection. In red, the 90s Berlinetta was the quintessential Italian mid-engined sports car. Achingly beautiful. Idiosyncratic. Supremely well proportioned.
Charms in banana yellow.
Seduces in jet black.
But speaking of mellow-yellows, I encounter Jay who proceeds to tell me about his yellow on black 355 f1. He bought it from a Floridian last year and brought it up north to New England’s inhospitable clime. As we take in the pleasing view of a Ferrari V8, he tells me that every few years the belts need changing as part or a routine service.
He suggests that if this routine was carried out by Ferrari, the bill would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,000. Unlike more conventional setups, the belts are wound towards the firewall – not an easy reach.
So, having never before worked on a 355, Jay did what seemed sensible for a mid-winter’s service: he propped the car’s body off the ground with, gulp, floor jacks and removed the five hundred pound powerplant from beneath to change the belts himself.
The work proceeded slowly over the course of cold winter days, he says, and was only accomplished through the online advice he got from the helpful chaps on FerrariChat.com.
Crazy, I say. Wasn’t he worried of catastrophic failure?
Yes. But, he gives my astonished inquiry a what’s-an-adventure-but-a-disaster-avoided shrug of the shoulders. Indeed.
Listening in on this conversation is Frank. Wearing a black Ferrari cap, he’s a mild mannered ’06 F430 owner who, bless his soul, made sure his redhead came with a six-speed notched gate shifter.
I ask Frank if he’d consider getting his F430 in the same yellow as Jay’s F355 and Frank’s mildness melts into a flat rebuke.
Red’s his choice.
Speaking of color, there’s a lovely dark blue 355 spider at this party and its not a hue I’ve seen on a Ferrari anywhere outside of Albion. The British are generally a bit off with their automotive color palettes, it should be said.
The 355′s owner is Manolis, a young Greek-American who’s eagerly passing out glossy event cards for his site Supercarroadtrips.com. His previous car was an AMG SL and like many, he frowns on how Mercedes designers bastardized the facelift.
An R129 generation SL makes a subtle entrance.
Anyway, pulling a reverse Clarkson, he traded in his Benz for the Ferrari which you see here. I ask him why he doesn’t start a car club in Hellas?
The costs are too great there, he insists. Unlike America where the good life can be had at a discount, in Greece, Manolis warns, you have to be a multi-millionaire to own and operate Ferraris. Not just a millionaire.
Anyway, Manolis’ mission is to unite exotic car owners here in America with tour events similar to the one we’re enjoying today. He admits that the events are tricky to coordinate and that the participants seldom say “thank you”.
I wonder aloud how many people will thank Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
I find myself lured by a bright red Boxer in the corner field.
A product of the 70s, the 12 cylinder two seater seems to reflect a wilder, carefree time. The Boxer possesses a certain raw edge that Ferrari seems to have spent the subsequent years refining into softer, more coddling cars.
It stands in modernist contrast adjacent to a classic Alfa GT.
The afternoon rolls on and antsy to drive (or simply show off?), the bulk of the posse decides to head for town.
There’s a golf cart polo match later in the day (which turns out to have been much fun had by many). But we’ve had our fill in what’s been a tremendous day.
Saying our goodbyes, we slip back down the loose stone driveway.
By Gunnar Heinrich
FERRARI hasn’t made beautiful cars in some time.
The last gorgeous, stop-me-in-my-tracks-HOT set of equestrian wheels to come from Italy was the F355. Frankly, I’m tired of Maranello’s artistic drought – it seems that all the style has fled from the barn to the lesser stables on the Fiat ranch – principally Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
Let’s prescribe an eye crossing double negative by observing that Ferrari’s latest top-down, pedal down roadster fails to not disappoint. The styling is the offspring of a late 90s Fiat Barchetta that was crossbred with a Lotus Elise (already a strange looking car).
Throw some California and Ferrari badges on it and – voila! – a Ferrari that will likely be priced to appeal to those with more modest means – Porsche drivers, namely.
There was some yabbadabbadooing about reintroducing the “Dino” nameplate*. But that idea just didn’t fly and only Hannah Barbara knows why.
The square lined matrix grille that curves into a rye smile is a plus. But the also-ran five spoke rims are forgettable and stand in awkward contrast to the torch blown undulations of the car’s flamboyant flanks.
Counterpoint – the interior looks as glove soft and sweetly hide bound as a Ferragamo boutique. In cream, it’s tactfully and tacitly well executed.
But back to bitchin’, as one commentator on Jalopnik noted, the electronically retractable hardtop looks German-car complex and far too heavy to befit a lithe Italian sports car.
What happened to the 575 Superamerica’s beauty by simplicity?
I can’t wait for Ferrari to start making beautiful cars again.
*Note* – A hallmark of another era of sports cars, the original Dino (1968-1976) was a less expensive model series that founder Enzo Ferrari named in memory of his son Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari who died at a young age.