California Dreaming — Ferrari California, That Is!

The Ferrari California is the company’s first front-engine V8-powered car…and one of the most visually-pleasing designs in years (photos courtesy of Ferrari S.p.A.)

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone here at The Four Wheel Drift organization who isn’t a self-proclaimed Ferrari fan. Consequently, the recently officially announced Ferrari California has us all giddy — like the first time we got to second base with pretty girls.

“First time” is actually a good theme for the upcoming Ferrari California. The model will be Ferrari’s first front-engine V8 — ever. It will also be the company’s first series production front-engine 2+2 convertible.

Despite being Tifosi (the name given to Ferrari fanatics), we’ve also been quite outspoken over the years concerning the lack of really pretty cars coming from the house that Enzo built. Sure, we have liked the 360/430 series, but we’ve gone on record calling the 612 “ugly”, the 599 “questionable”, and the Enzo “without soul”. We’ve even referenced the lack of passion and risk-taking in the lines of cars of the 550 and 456 GT series. A couple of us went so far as to discuss our opinions at great length with the project manager at Pininfarina responsible for producing Jim Glickenhaus’ wild and alluring Enzo-based P4/5 custom…

…So we’d like to think our words got back to Ferrari and the Pininfarina groups that worked on the California, because this car is gorgeous! It’s not perfect, like a 246GT Dino, but it has the attitude, sex appeal and presence of a summer blockbuster’s leading lady without the shock-value or polarizing weirdness of a runway model.

The last time Ferrari delivered a 2+2 convertible was the Mondia of the 1980s and early ‘90s. With all due respect to my friend who just bought a 1989 Mondial T convertible, these were not the prettiest cars. Furthermore, heavy bodies and bulky luxury equipment made the Mondials a little too slow and ungainly in corners to excite purists.

This time around, the Ferrari California will certainly deliver performance with its style and extra seats. The 4.3-liter V8 utilizing direct injection will likely deliver 460 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. This will probably put the 0-60 time at 3.6 seconds – over twice as fast as the Mondial convertibles with the 3.0-liter quattrovalve V8. Helping acceleration will be an all-new dual-clutch paddle-shift gearbox, which was developed largely by reverse-engineering the hardware and software of the industry-leading Audi unit.

Acceleration is helped by a weight-saving all-aluminum body. The California also utilizes an automatic folding hardtop — a Pininfarina specialty. Ferrari has yet to release to us the photos of the car with the top up, but we can already see the tight lines with the top down. Speaking of tight, the rear seats will be best used for gym bags and briefcases. And to ensure that no Mondial-esque complaints are made about fat-guy-on-rollerskates-like handling, the new suspension and front-midship placement of the V8 engine will pay dividends in apex carving duties.

Original leaks had this pegged as an entry-level Ferrari called Dino. Using the California name was a smarter move, evoking the original 250 GT California Spyder, which first appeared in 1957. California Spyders were built by Scaglietti, initially on the long-wheelbase 250 GT platform using the standard three-liter V12 developing 240 hp. (Later cars switched to the shorter wheelbase chassis and some were fitted with higher-power engines.) Thanks to a recent $10M-plus auction sale for one example, the 250 GT California Spyder is now the most valuable car model in the world, and hence on of the most coveted classics on the planet.

Ferrari is choosing to cash-in on the model name’s always-strong-but-still-rising stock. Unlike the Ford GT, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, or Chevy Camaro, which were little more than old looks on modern technology, the new Ferrari California uses only subtle cues to remind of its ancestor. It is retro in spirit, but not in design or lines, an obvious key to success in the supercar market. The most important homage to the great 250 GT California is that this new Ferrari will be just like its dual-purpose grandfather: just as capable of being driven during the week to work as on the track during weekends.

Alas, we probably won’t be able to afford one, since it likely will be priced similarly to the current 430. The current 430 will get a modest price increase, holding true to initial reports that the California will indeed be the “entry-level Ferrari”.

Hopefully we’ll be able to steal a ride when one comes stateside. And we promise that there will be no “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”-like calamities when we take out the new Ferrari California for a first date.

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2 Responses to California Dreaming — Ferrari California, That Is!

  1. Randy King says:

    California Ferrari…..any idea when they will hit the streets here in the U S?

  2. Randy,
    Most information points to the car coming out in 2009. A few stories have indicated that the car will be a 2009 model, which could mean production models rolling out as early as late October or early November 2008.

    Like most new Ferraris, don’t plan on seeing any on the streets for the first six months — unless, of course, you live in Seattle, LA or Miami. Chances are that most of initial production will go to the standard “good customers” of the Ferrari dealers.

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