I consider myself a fortunate person, sure like anyone who chooses to put their phone down once in a while life will present us with peaks and troughs but on the whole I class myself as one of the fortunate few. I never had to fight in a World War or suffer poverty like so many in this world do so on the whole I class myself as a member of the lucky club. Don’t get me wrong there aren’t yachts either just a normal happy upbringing, a good school, a brother I didn’t hate…. all in all things could be a lot worse! One day where I felt especially fortunate was a day I met my childhood hero. Not a person but yes you guessed it, a car. The poster car. The icon. The Ferrari 355 Spider.
This particular day which I had been looking forward to immensely I was getting to drive the car I had stared at on my bedroom wall for years as a boy. Obviously like all young men my age it was there right next to the “room with a view” poster. Remember that one with the model in all her tennis gear? Perfection. As was the Ferrari in its time, pure motoring perfection. A masterpiece to behold.
This was before the internet was the animal it is today so videos and pictures weren’t accessible at the touch of a screen like they are today. Youtube didn’t exist and I spent all my pocket money on VHS tapes about exotic cars and dreamed of basically being Jamiroquai when I grew up. Only taller. I used to obsess with the statistics of 0-60 and obviously top speed. The car which had the most MPH on the clock was the fastest right!? Those were the days….
Ferrari day. I wanted it to be red or Rosso for the geeks. Sadly, the example that day was painted Le Mans Blue which sounds sporty but is basically Navy Blue which isn’t a colour I would personally buy the car in. Beggars can’t be choosers though and I am still bouncing off the walls in my head. Obviously on the outside of my 24-year-old exterior I was cool as a cucumber but on the inside I was itching to jump in and meet my hero. But there’s the rub, they do say you should never meet your hero’s and I am sorry to say they were right. Crushingly so….
I wanted to love it. To justify all those hours or drooling over it growing up I almost needed it to be beyond comprehension, however by this point I had driven a lot of weird and wonderful machines and without knowing it my dream car had got left behind. The main problem of the car I got to drive that day was the gearbox. It could well have been a totally different experience had it been a manual instead of the F1 auto. The gearbox was woeful, the gears felt like they were ordered in second class post and the thing didn’t move until you had deafened everyone within 200 metres of your location. Joe Public just looked at me as if to say, “nice car, shame you can’t drive it”. Not the experience I was hoping for but a bit of urban boredom and self-consciousness was only for the first ten minutes or so. I know the open road wasn’t far away and my hands were warm on the wheel.
Now beyond the looks, the prestige and all of the other wonderful things about Sports cars they should be fast. They should thrill!! The first time I let second gear fly I could have cried. Lovely noise but where was the drama!? The Evolution FQ 360 I had driven there would have eaten it for lunch! It would have chavved its way off into the distance before the Ferrari could say Monaco. Gutted. It wasn’t comfortable, it didn’t feel solid, the gearbox was dire and it wasn’t quick. Before I get carried away though I could have handled all these issues if it wasn’t for the constant cloud hovering over me. This cloud was full of pound signs ready to pore down on me until I drowned. This borderline certainty that the car was going to go bang any second. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the car but much like a TVR it just had that impending financial doom feeling when driving it.
As I drove on and started to get a bit more comfortable with the gearbox which is saying something I did stop my sulking and began revelling in the sound track of that glorious V8. With the roof down at 6000RPM its howling sent shivers down my spine and I felt ten years of age.
I really can’t say if I regret my encounter with the prancing horse that day. I am glad I drove the 355 as it will always be an icon for me but when the day came that I met my first 360 I realised that this was the car I always wanted the 355 to be. The car is should have been!
I guess I just got to it too late. Technology had moved on and under its beautiful skin I guess it was older than it looked. Much like most of the women who adorned the passenger seats come to think of it…..
So if the chance comes for you to meet your hero take a second and consider how important to you that halo is. Because if you couldn’t stand it not being everything you want it to be, don’t turn the key.
A child’s imagination beats reality every time.
THE AUTO VIP