After my recent Huffington Post article about the Beverly Hills Automobile Show ran here, I received a phone call from a friend who shares my love of automobiles and said I had to meet Giacomo Mattioli, owner of Ferrari Maserati Beverly Hills and Ferrari Maserati Silicon Valley. He asked if I would like a ride in the new Ferrari FF? Would I, yes!
We met for lunch at Caulfied's, one of my favorite dining spots in Beverly Hills at the Thompson Hotel on Wilshire. Then we walked directly next door to... a heavenly arena of cars, leather and chrome. Beside the front door are two Maseratis, but my attention was immediately riveted on an automobile standing in the center of the showroom. My mind flashed back to the moment last November when I received in the mail the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog and it featured 10 specially-designed "Fantasy Gift" Ferrari FF's for sale... for $395,000 apiece. Each car was sprayed in exclusive "Grigio Caldo" gray (This was about $95,000 more than the listed price at a dealer for the upcoming car, which is just becoming generally available to current customers.) I do remember checking and learning that all of the Neiman Marcus cars sold in less than an hour, for delivery in the spring of this year. And here was the one remaining vehicle not in private hands... sitting in the middle of the dealership's showroom.
Giacomo smiled and said that I could have it for an even $400,000. But in the meantime, we were going to take a drive around Beverly Hills in the same-model vehicle, the latest much-heralded Ferrari. We moved to the rear prep area and there it was, the 12-cylinder 621-horsepower 2012 Ferrari FF, a revolutionary four-seat car, the first V12 Ferrari to feature both traditional high-performance and superb passenger comfort and versatility, a unique street-wise vehicle. FF stands for Ferrari Four, four seats and four-wheel drive, the fastest four-seat GT in the world. I told Mr. Mattioli that I had actually come close to buying an older street-friendly Ferrari from a friend, the late Mark Nathanson, but finally, realistically thought better of it at the last minute....thus keeping my '63 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 3 for another few years. My friend, Charlie Windish-Graetz, joined us and we admired a red 1967 275 GTB Ferrari which Giacomo regularly drives around town from his Brentwood home. Charlie, who is more conversant with these things, whispered to me that this street-friendly car was worth about $1.5 million. I asked Giacomo if he ever valeted his car, and he twisted his face into a grimace as he replied, "Rarely, but I have done it. Nervous time."
The moment had arrived. Giacomo sat in the drivers seat as Charlie got in the rear and I sat in the front passenger seat. The proud owner showed me some of the controls... how with a simple switch of a lever you could go from "normal" mode to "sports" mode, changing the suspension. He set it at sports mode and we slid out of the alley to South Crescent Drive and headed south toward Pico Boulevard. It was like riding in a missile, only smoother. When we reached Century City and turned into Avenue of the Stars, we noticed that the avenue in front of us was unexpectedly devoid of all cars for the moment... and suddenly I felt the most incredible surge of power as we went from 0 to... well, whatever a missile can do... in about four seconds. Officially, it goes from 0 to 60 mph in less than 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 200 miles an hour. I swallowed and peeled myself off the back of my seat as we slowed down and reached Olympic Blvd. and my heart stopped pounding while I caught my breath. As close as I will ever get to driving in a Formula One vehicle. Oh, my, how I enjoyed this car. Street-friendly, sure! Imagine entering and exiting a freeway with this power? It has 651-horsepower, a proprietary lightweight 4WD system as well as a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission for seamless automatic shifting.
My new Italian friend (I hope) told me that the people who bought the Neiman Marcus Ferraris had gotten a free bonus, a seven-year maintenance plan and enrollment in the 2012 Ferrari Winter Driving Experience in Aspen, Colorado. There is 16 cubic feet of trunk space, but it is fitted with several custom pieces of soft-touch, semi-aniline leather luggage to match the interior finish.
Giacomo later told me a little about himself. Born in Modena, Italy, the home of Ferrari, he had studied law but after one month as a lawyer realized that his dream was to work at Ferrari, so he joined them as an intern. He took over the task of reaching out to existing companies who made toy Ferraris and other Ferrari-branded products. He laughed as he told me that they all had agreements based on a handshake with the late Enzo Ferrari, and no licensing fees had ever been paid. "So I made it my task to make this a new and much-needed-at-the-time revenue source," he said. "They all screamed, but money started flowing in and I had a career at Ferrari. I was married for awhile to Enzo's granddaughter, Antonella Ferrari, and we have a son, Enzo." Giacomo also has another son, Alexander, who is currently studying at the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts.
In 1996, a year after coming to the United States, he became general manager of the Beverly Hills and San Francisco factory-owned dealerships, supervising the sales of new, pre-owned and classic cars, as well as service, parts and racing team duties. In '98 he became owner of the franchise, now the largest and most profitable in North America. He also co-owns the Silicon Valley dealership. I asked if he had sold any cars to the new Facebook millionaires there and he merely smiled and nodded. When we discussed where he likes to drive the ultra-fast cars, he said that the Malibu canyons are fun for him. We ended our conversation after he told me that "Ferrari is developing a new range of products, moving toward a more user-friendly and even more environmentally-friendly product line. All of this without altering the Ferrari DNA."
Giacomo told me that his Beverly Hills dealership will be getting a complete renovation in August, so that all of the dealerships around the world will reflect a similar design ethic. Speaking of the new FF, he said that there is a long waiting list for this "street-friendly four seater," and that existing Ferrari customers get preference. I asked him how many Ferraris there are in Beverly Hills, and he estimated about 3,000. I joked and asked if they held their resale value, and he smiled and said that Ferraris almost always hold or gain value due to their scarcity. Some '70s and '80s models such as the 308 and the Mondial are the exception.
As I said at the start of this story, he is one of the most eligible bachelors in all of Los Angeles... and the only one to have the keys to more than 50 Ferraris and Maseratis!
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