To many of you, this is old news.  But I have resisted writing about it in my blog because I’ve felt uncomfortable about “going public”.  But I have recently come to the conclusion that I should share my experiences on this topic because I am so passionate about it.  So here goes.

Since I was a little boy, I’ve loved sports cars.  When I lived in England, I’m told that I would sit on the floor in our house and race my little cars while listening to the trucks and cars go by on their way to a track where Jackie Stewart would practice.  Like many young lads, I had that iconic Ferrari Testarossa picture on my bedroom wall, along with assorted Porsche’s, and Lamborghini’s.

About 8 months ago, at breakfast, I mustered up the guts to say, out loud, to Helen “Honey, I’d really love to get a Ferrari.”  So I’m expecting a rational, well thought out response something along the lines of “well, that’s nice dear, but it’s not an effective investment vehicle, so let’s not do that.”  But God bless Helen, she says “You should do it!”.

So that started the process.  I started looking at F355 Spiders.  I really liked the look of them.  And due to the incredible strength of the Canadian dollar (or is it incredible weakness of the US dollar?), I decided that the best selection/price combination would be found by importing the car from the US.

I have never imported vehicles into Canada.  Helen imported both our vehicles when we moved back to Canada.  So I had some homework to do.  I quickly establishes that the F355 is not currently admissible by Transport Canada’s Record of Imported Vehicles (RIV).  So I started looking at the newer (and curvier) 360 Spider.

The 360 is a much different car mechanically, and esthetically from the 355.  I love them both, but the 360 is much lower cost/hassle on maintenance (so you drive it more).  More research was commenced.  This particular Ferrari was the first all aluminum chassis/body model, which reduced weight while maintaining stiffness.  Here’s a view of the 360’s other vital stats:

  • Engine: 90 degree 32 Valve V8
  • Engine Displacement: 3586 cm^3 (thus the ~3.6L = 360)
  • 395 BHP (redline at 8500, and what a sound that is!)
  • 0-100km/h in ~4.5s
  • Curb Weight: 3197lbs (fuel+lubricants, no people)
  • Production Years: 1999-2005

What years was I looking at?  What options?  Color – well, my first Ferrari was going to be Rosso Corsa Red with a tan leather interior.  I settled on finding a car with these options:

  • Year: 2002 – 2004
  • F1 Gearbox
  • Scuderia Shields
  • Tubi Exhaust
  • 1 or 2 owner car with low (but not ridiculously low) mileage

Those were my “must haves”.  However, I was concerned about the import process, as well as finding a quality car, so I reached out to James Simpson, President of Simpson Automotive Consulting.  He specializes in importing exotic cars into Canada, and knows all the ins and outs.

In late January, the search was starting to turn up some candidate cars.  After some discussion with the dealers (I wanted to stay with Ferrari factory dealers), we narrowed the search down to 2 cars.  One in Scottsdale, AZ and one in Denver, CO.  After some more diligence, we decided the Denver car was the one to look closely at, and have a Pre-Purchase Inspection performed.

As fate would have it, I was driving from Waterloo to California for my last week at McAfee, and could stop in to see the car myself, and take her for a drive.  It was a great plan!

So, to make a long story a little less long, but still longish, the test drive blew me away.  Bill Orth, the GM of Ferrari of Denver was a wealth of information about the car, company and brand, as well as a really nice guy.  After the PPI came back clean, I said “Bill, ship it to me!”.

My 2004 360 Spider, affectionately named “Sophia” (after that other curvaceous, beautiful Italian lady), arrived April 8, 2008.  She also has the following options (in addition to the ones above):

  • Power Daytona seats with black piping
  • Modular Wheels
  • Black carpet
  • Front & Rear Challenge Grills
  • Premium Sound (like the sound coming from the engine isn’t premium enough?)

One of the places I’ve learned alot about the cars is FerrariChat and FerrariLife.  I’ve met some great fellow owners and enthusiasts in the Toronto area, and have gone on a couple of country drives.  What a great days those are!  Imagine 17 Ferraris touring through the hills and curves north of Toronto.  Heaven!

Helen and I took Sophia to Montreal with us for the F1 weekend.  Sophia was VERY popular with the crowds on the street.  And she managed to consistently get us primo parking right in front of the restaurants we were dining at.  We are both still getting used to all the attention coming our way when we’re driving her.

I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had driving her.  When a childhood dream comes true, it’s hard to describe how special that feels.  But I don’t for a minute forget how fortunate I’ve been, and while I’ve worked very hard and started from pretty much zero, I’ve also been blessed with great opportunities that 99% of the people I share this planet with don’t have.

Oh, and for those of you who are screaming “Mid Life Crisis”, I will share with you a joke I was told prior to buying my first Ferrari:

A man comes home to his wife and says “Honey, I need to get a motorcycle, a 20 year old mistress or a Ferrari.”  His wife says “Dear, you better get the Ferrari, because the other 2 will get you killed.”

Thus my torrid affair with a red headed Italian girl begins…

mJm

Before I get into it, I must state up front that I’m breaking my promise of posting pictures tonight.  The truth is, I didn’t take any.  Really.

Tonight, we ate at La Queue de Chaval Steakhouse.  I did some research a few months ago looking for really good steak places.  This one was highly recommended.  We had 7:30pm reservations upstairs.  Before going to the restaurant, we went for a short walk up Peel Street to see the Ferraris.  Helen wasn’t enjoying the walk as much, because she was breaking in new shoes.  Ouch.

When we arrived at the Ferrari display, I was a bit shocked.  I know the Ferrari Club of Quebec uses this as a fund raiser by having sponsors pay to have their logo present with the cars, but it seemed to me they went a bit overboard.  There were sponsor logos all over every car.  It looked like corner-store NASCAR.  I’d much prefer some decent signage around the cars and leaving these works of automotive art alone.  It really ruins the pictures, and thus, I decided to not take any.  I spent a few minutes pointing out the differences between the 360 and 430, as well as the Challenge Stradale models.

So, appetite worked up, and off we went to dinner.

We were early, but our table was ready right away.  Awesome!  As we were seated, we met our waiter, who asked us where we were from, and if we were in town for the F1.  We mentioned to him that when we were walking to the restaurant, we passed the Sheraton, and saw a bunch of Honda-clothed folks.  He told us Honda was indeed staying there, and that the team dined here last night (including Button and Barrichello).  Wow!  He then pointed out the large table being set up down from us, and told us it was for the BMW team.  Double Wow!

So, we then reviewed the awesome menu.  They do things LARGE there.  Helen ordered a shrimp cocktail consisting of 2 shrimp.  They weighed about 11 lbs each, so they were filling.  I had the crab claws, which involved effort, but I needed the exercise.  As we finished our appetizer, I saw a familiar face walking towards me with some other guys.  It was my old friend Vitantonio Liuzzi.  He used to drive for Torro Rosso, but lost his seat, and is now testing for Force India.  A few minutes later, Giancarlo Fisichella joined him.  Neato!  Two drivers at the table next to us.  Our main course arrived (filet for Helen, Big Ass Hunk-o-Protein for me) in walks the ever-likeable Rubens Barrichello.  Bingo.  Of course, I’m Twittering this all madly, as Helen makes fun of me.  I point out that this is essentially notetaking for my blog, and she sees suddenly the utility of Twitter.

We’re finishing our main course, and then in comes Kwik Nick (though, not as Kwik as Kubica this year) Heidfeld, Robert Kubica and Christian Klien.  There’s also a group of Formula BMW kids with them and some folks who I assume are there to drive the important people around and pay the tab.

I was curious what these finely tuned 150lb athletes eat and drink.  Well, the Italians seemed to be enjoying some seafood and wine.  I couldn’t tell what Kubica/Heidfeld were eating, but from what I’ve read recently, Kubica doesn’t eat much, and feels hungry all the time.  Pretty crappy place to hang out if you’re hungry if you asked me.

There was one last Celebrity Spot – Justin Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister.

Anyhow, we finished dinner and dessert and I escorted Helen to the Bar downstairs so I could be a great gentleman and go back to the hotel to pick up the car and meet her at the restaurant.  I wouldn’t last 5 steps in those shoes, but I suspect there’s charity money to be made in orchestrating that spectacle.  As I waited to cross the street, I saw that I was standing next to Christian Klein.  I said hi to him, and we crossed over together.  He was being picked up in a BMW SUV with Kubica inside.  Must be a party somewhere, or else Kubica couldn’t stand looking at my steak when all he eats is celery.

Quicker than you can say “Can I please have the bill for my champagne?” I was back.  Parked outside, looking quite dapper I think.  Helen hopped in, and off we went for a tour of Old Montreal.  I had a list of team hotels I wanted to check out/drive by.  Well, apparently there’s a Hotel St. James in West Montreal and it is NOTHING like the one in Old Montreal where Ferrari stays.  I knew we were in trouble when TomTom had me on 20W heading back to Toronto.  After a U-turn in a dodgy area, I got us back to Old Montreal.  I couldn’t (and more concerning, TomTom couldn’t) find the real St. James (it must be very exclusive).  But I did find the hotel where Red Bull was staying (it was dead, like it looked closed).  And we found the hotel where McLaren are staying.  It was pretty funny because when we turned the corner, I saw about 50 people just standing around across the street from the hotel.  Then I realized, they’re doing the same thing I am, only they’re more dedicated.  I’m willing to drive by and wave at a driver, but I ain’t gonna stand around waiting when there’s fun to be had in Montreal.  To each their own.

I’m all packed for tomorrow.  I have my luggage cart-thingy that will bear the load of my camera equipment this year.  It may rain, it may not.  I don’t care either way.  I have bags for my gear, and I’m not made of sugar.  I am going to try the sweet on-site parking that I scored through a club connection.

I’ll be watching Fisi’s practice times tomorrow with great interest.  If he had the Tiramisu then I’m sure he’s at least 3 tenths slower.

mJm

We have arrived in Montreal, and already the excitement that pervades the entire city for the F1 weekend is evident!  Our drive was pleasantly uneventful, and fun.  With the roof down for the last 2/3rds of it, we got our share of sunshine and fresh air.

Our checkin at the Marriott Chateau Champlain went smoothly.  I spoke to the valet/doorman and scored a primo parking spot in the valet section right in front of the hotel.  I also managed to get agreement on my self-parking in the valet section (that gives me in/out privileges).  It was either the money that exchanged hands, or the appreciation of cars that sealed the deal.

Our room is north facing on the 31st floor, and to my surprise and excitement, faces straight onto Peel Street, which today/tonight is hosting “Ferrari Night”.  There is a brilliant eleven on the road made up of over 30 beautiful Ferraris.  We’ll definitely be taking a look at that on our way to dinner.

After dinner, we’re going to drive around town, and try to stop off at some of the hotels in Old Montreal where we know Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull are staying.  I haven’t completed my recon for the other teams, but expect that to be done tonight.

I genuinely love this weekend.  F1 is a incredible mixture of sport, engineering, fashion, culture and passion.  It’s clear why it’s so popular with the many global sponsors that foot the bill for the extravegant costs involved in participating.  Which reminds me, I think I’ll have to get serious about a goal for myself involving starting a company that is successful enough to either have me sponsor a team, or dare I dream, own a team of my own!  There’s nothing wrong with letting the 40ish owner drive the car once in a while right?  And I have alot of friends who’d love a few laps too.

Anyhow, I’m pretty excited, and so is Helen.  She shows it differently.  Like right now, I’m gyrating between looking at the Ferraris out the window and updating my blog, while Helen is sleeping.  Ah, the fresh air, massive renovation, and 4 hours sleep last night must have gotten to her.  Well, she better rest up, because we’re partying like rock stars this weekend, and it’s going to be LOUD!

Next update will include some pix..I promise.

mJm