About a year ago, my friend Eric joined a pretty cool car club. They have about 60 cars (I think) and a few hundred members. When you join, you get a certain number of points and those points can be redeemed to take out the club’s cars for anything from a few hours up to a week. The cars range from old classics from the 60s to modern exotic supercars like the Ferrari F430, Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Gallardo, Ford GT, Audi R8, Mercedes SLS, Aston Martin Vantage, etc. There are also a host of other fast cars that don’t really fall into the “exotic” category. Cars like the Audi RS4, Mercedes E55 AMG, Porsche 993 Turbo, BMW Z8, etc. Tons and tons of really fast cars and they are all manual (a few have SMG or F1 paddles) which is really awesome. Eric has taken out at least 10 of them over the last year, maybe more. And since maintenance, insurance, storage, etc are all included, it’s a great low risk way to try out a ton of awesome cars in a fairly economical manner.
So anyway, this past weekend was Eric’s turn with one of the club’s three Ferraris. In this case, the red 2005 Ferrari F430. It’s a 480 horsepower V-8 and it’s really REALLY fast. The F430 was the replacement for the well-known 360 Modena and it has recently been replaced by the 458 (the club has a 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia as well). But the F430 has been a really highly regarded car in the exotic car world for good reason — it’s absurdly fast, sounds great, looks amazing and is actually really comfortable to ride around in.
So first of all, here’s a video of me doing a walkaround the car, followed by Eric driving off. For obvious reasons, given that Eric doesn’t own the car, we couldn’t film and publish any really abusive revving of the engine or anything like that (of course we didn’t do that):
Also, Eric’s neighborhood is really bad for parking cars so he couldn’t stay at his house and park on some tightly packed street. And he didn’t feel safe about leaving the car in a random garage given the amount of attention that it would draw. So he decided to book a hotel room at the Four Seasons for Saturday and Sunday just to keep the car well looked after when it was parked. I actually thought it was a pretty reasonable decision given that it was $500 spent to keep the car out of harm’s way — plus a fun experience.
So here’s a gallery of pictures (click for a high res version):
I’m including a few pictures of other club cars just because I happened to have them on my phone.
Overall, driving around in a Ferrari was really interesting and cool. For one, a huge number of people go nuts when they see it. Tons of people stare at it, take pictures, honk, etc. The car constantly makes you feel like you’re the center of attention because, frankly, you are (as much as possible if you aren’t Justin Bieber). While many people didn’t even notice the car, the ones who do notice it go nuts for it. I was estimating that we were making something like 10 to 20% of peoples’ day when they saw the car. That was a pretty uncomfortable feeling to have people staring given that we drove all the way from New York to Philadelphia and then we drove around the Philadelphia area a bunch. If I ever get a Ferrari, I would probably get a silver one to try to minimize the staring. But I suppose anyone with a Ferrari or similar is pretty much asking for a lot of attention.
The other interesting thing is that you get used to the car amazingly quickly. Within about 50 miles, the car became pretty much any other car on the highway. Until you get on a road with a lot of turns and acceleration/deceleration, the car was normal. I know that’s how it’s supposed to be but I definitely had a different picture in my mind of what it would be like to ride around in the car. As Eric said, it wasn’t really euphoric like you might imagine. All that being said, the car really shined on curvy and hilly suburban backroads. And the engine sound was absolutely amazing.
My overall verdict after the weekend is that I think I’m significantly less likely to ever own a Ferrari. And, prior to this weekend, if I had enough money, I would have said I would be 100% to buy one. While I’m not going to say never, it would need to be a pretty compelling situation AND I would need to get pretty lucky and come across a lot of money for me to buy one. I think that cars in the $40k to $60k MSRP range are the sweet spot where you’re actually getting decent value for your additional money spent (as opposed to, say, a $20k MSRP car). Although I think you can usually spend less than that because I think it generally makes sense to buy cars that are something like two years old. It seems like cars above that $60k MRSP range tend to have VERY fast diminishing returns for every dollar spent. Obviously a $150k car is going to be nicer than a $50k car — but the returns for the extra $100k are a pretty inefficient way to spend $100k in most cases. And this weekend with the F430 definitely helped to convince me of that sweet spot for car cost. I still loved the experience though!