Angus Davies drives the Ferrari California, a modern-day car with an iconic name.
Growing up, my childhood memories of going to school for the first time, learning to ride a bicycle and the onset of puberty were punctuated with the launch of new Ferrari models.
I remember an additional wall poster would be procured, showing the latest beauty penned by Pininfarina. Bertone did style a few models, but Pininfarina was the father of Ferrari forms. I would callously swap loyalties from 365 Daytona to 308 GTB, Mondial to Testarossa with the fickle fancy of youth.
With maturity, came discerning appreciation for former classics, a trait for reverence of my elders evolved and this led to quiet periods, away from the dance floor of the school disco, thumbing the Ferrari books I received for birthdays and Christmas.
There was one particular Ferrari model which stood out. It had a timeless elegance seldom surpassed with the passage of time, the 1957 Ferrari 250 GT California. The clear cowling like lenses of the lights fused seemlessly with the front wings. The air-intake on the bonnet captured air to quell the engine’s thirst for cooling breeze and ventilation slats on the sides of wings provided a styling flourish synonymous with Italian stilo.
A modern day California
A middle-aged man, I can now afford to fulfil my dreams, a Ferrari is a viable purchase. I have had the good fortune to own and drive many prestigious cars, some with sporting pretensions. However, I have never realized my dream of owning a Ferrari, the sporting thoroughbred with the provenance to match the marketeer’s metaphors.
The modern day California is a contemporary design, harnessing modern technology but with elements faithful to the original model of 1957. The lights again fuse with the wings in seemless style, but now benefit from better brilliance thanks to bi-xenon and LED technology. The slats on the sides of the wing and the air-intake on the bonnet also feature, providing delicious delight to sustain my appetite for Italian delicacies.
The California offers the benefit of open-top motoring, but with the security and convenience of a hard-top. Enjoy the benefits of quiet and insulation from the elements with the roof in position. Alternatively, with the pull of a switch, watch the roof fold with alacrity, like mechanical origami. The roof panels stow in the boot. An eminently practical feature, it is congruent with the personality of this Italian masterpiece.
A peerless driving experience
Enter the leather-lined cocoon of the California and the first thing that strikes you is the comfortable accommodation which welcomes even the larger framed motorist. But, it is the joy of driving that is the raison d’être of Ferrari ownership and this model does not disappoint.
Adjacent to the steering wheel boss, positioned at 8 o’clock is a red button labelled “Engine Start”. Pressing this button is your passport to pleasure.
Initiating the start, your senses are awakened. Mellifluous music emanates from the twin exhaust pipes, one set positioned either side of the rear bumper. The sonorous sound is the fruit of 4.3 litre V8 power-plant. Tuned like a Stradivarius it would be a cryogenically cold heart that was not charmed by this Italian Tenor.
The first thing that strikes you as you negotiate twisting roads, is the surefooted nature to the handling. Every desire of the driver is instantaneously transmitted to the road with user-friendly adjustment of the steering wheel. This is not a difficult car to drive and lacks the intimidating demeanour of some performance vehicles, which seem to be waiting to punish the incompetent in a heartbeat.
There is often a trade-off between agility on the road and ride comfort, but somehow the California seems to offer both in spades. This car has a special blend of comfort and handling the like of which I have never experienced before.
The performance is electrifying with 0-60 mph achieved in less than four seconds, thanks to masterly engineering prowess of Modena. The twin-clutch gearbox shifts smoothly and speedily through the ratios.
If you have an airport runway available for your sole legitimate use, you may wish to explore the launch function of the car. Place you left foot on the brake pedal, turn the Manettino on the steering wheel to CST off, press the “Launch” button, bury the throttle and now release the foot brake. Nothing can quite prepare you for the onslaught of accelerative forces as the speedometer needle swiftly sweeps clockwise.
A common fault of many open top vehicles is “scuttle shake”. The lack of torsional rigidity due to the absence of a roof structure, sometimes means there is discernible flexing of the bodywork. Not so, the Ferrari California. My spirited drive never revealed any indication that the body was anything less than a homogenous form in harmony with the road.
The racing pedigree of Ferrari does not mean that the austere and functional cockpits of Formula One cars of yesteryear feature in this offering. On the contrary, the California offers a very comfortable cockpit.
The seats embrace the torso, holding you in position but allowing air to enter your lungs and without the numbing intimacy of some automotive thrones. Prolonged driving did not lead to fatigue, my freshness was intact.
The centre console has a design delicacy, appearing to almost float with a lithe profile in keeping with the character of the car. Ferrari has not dispensed with the modern day convenience of satellite navigation, the infotainment centre incorporates this driver aid as well as an impressive audio system.
I personally liked the convenience of being able to look at the TFT screen within the instrument binnacle and being able to see the pressure and temperature of each tyre in real-time. This is another reminder of the practical nature of this vehicle.
Middle-age has brought responsibilities, childhood abandon is a distant memory. Like many Mamas and Papas I share concerns about investment returns and the looming university fees for my children. Property values have taken precedence over fun and frivolity.
I have made a resolution. It’s time to realise my dreams and give further thought to Ferrari ownership. As a fellow Lancastrian once said to me, “there are no pockets in shrouds”, as he enticed me to live a little. There may be wisdom in those words.
The California appears to offer a practical remedy to supercar ownership. It is a grand tourer par excellence. It is not an everyday car but affords its owner a vehicle they could use every day.
Practicality should not be confused with boring. This car has excitement coursing through the veins of its sinuous shape. No aspiring Ascari will feel shortchanged. This Ferrari appears flawless.
My Californian dream would be in a tincture untypical of a car bearing il Cavallino Rampante. My preferred hue would be Grigio Silverstone with Sabbia hide and Scuderia Shields on the flanks of the wings, like Jody Scheckter’s Ferrari 312 T4 of 1979.
The dreams of this Tifosi have not diminished with the onset of greying hair and hopefully will be realised very soon with a child of Moderna I can call my own.