It never ceases to amaze me how deeply I am immersed into car culture. The excitement car business can be rekindled with just one simple experience. Mine happened on February 14, 2008 when I attended the VIP night at the Toronto auto show.
After wandering rather aimlessly for about an hour, sampling the hors d’oeuvres tables washed down with a couple (OK, more than 3) cocktails (Vodka tonics, lemon) chatting up a number of old friends, I found myself in front of the Ferarri stand. With low expectations. Although the entry was open, it was clear that unless you were a VVIP (sports star, media celebrity, very rich guy), the closest you could get was a safe 10 feet from the 430 Scuderia.
Some background. From my first words at age three (“Opel Kadet”…my dad was driving a very cool 2 door coupe from Germany) I moved very quickly to master the word, “Ferrari”. I collect models, I have built models, and I follow the ups and downs of the Ferrari team in Formula One. I enjoyed the driving of Gilles Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher and even Felipe Massa. I have enjoyed the watching various 430 models race at Mosport. However, I have never been closer to an actual car than 10 feet. Tonight however was to be different. (maybe it was the suit…good advice from my wife).
Man behind the rail says to me, “Want to get closer?” Didn’t have to ask twice. I had just met Saint Peter and he said I had been a good boy.
Peter (not his real name of course) turned out to be the Dealer principal from a dealership in Alberta. He was a Ferrari fanatic. We talked about the copious amount of carbon fiber in the car and the serious de-contenting that helped make it faster. We talked about the speed of the shift…seriously fast! We talked about how Ferrari was more concerned about the security of this car than the Schumacher F1 that was at his dealership in Alberta. We talked and talked and it was clear under the watchful eye of the other Ferrari officials that I could not actually touch the car.
And then the magic. In a low conspiratorial voice he very casually mentioned that if I was very, very careful, I could sit in it.
Let that sink in a minute. Only 5 destined for Canada. More expensive than my house. 2 feet away. And I was going to get to sit in it. I was going to be the guy who got behind the velvet rope.
The actual experience is nearly impossible to describe. And no less vivid some months later. This must be what it feels like to be in a fighter jet. Purely functional. Not an ounce of frivolity or waste anywhere. Everything exactly where you would expect it to be. For a car with no extras, the seat fit perfectly, the steering wheel fell to hand, the instrument panel directly in the line of sight. Beyond comfortable. I mean PERFECT!
And carbon fiber absolutely everywhere: door panels, seat, gear paddles, console, and engine bay.
I sat there for what must only have been a couple of minutes but what felt like a lifetime. Maybe the cockpit of the F1 car would have been more perfect but I’ll have to read about it.
Getting out was actually easier than I expected. Found the door latch first time exactly where you would expect it to be and made a relatively graceful exit. With a grin that will last a lifetime.
Saint Peter never told me his name. He didn’t have to. He new that he had just let me into heaven.