Brands like Porsche and Ferrari are loaded with psychological baggage, and Ferrari fandom is as cliché and played-out as being a fan of the great "Michaels" of the 90s. Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan...........Mike Tyson...... anyway, brand baggage certainly registers in any crowd of good taste. As such, I find it prudent to share my dream car cautiously on public forums.
But I can't deny that these childhood dreams led me to the diverse crowd here at Oppo. With the Kinja home gone I wanted to give my former F355 the shout-out it deserves, here on the Hyphen--if not for anyone else, then at least for myself to wax nostalgic.
So in the years of owning my first sports car (a 2008 Porsche Cayman 987.1 described here), I got married and eventually prepared for parenthood. We bought a Fiat 500L for family duty and I inherited my finer half's CPO Accord.
Common sense would have ended the car movements right there, as my colleagues at work reminded me that I'd be lucky to keep a sports car into parenthood. But while cruising AutoTrader.com during Mrs Mid-engine's pregnancy, I made another startling discovery on my journey as a Mid-engine Disciple: Ferrari F355s were already within reach.
So with that possibility drifting in, I immediately listed the Cayman for sale. I also bought a 1998 Escort ZX2 from a high schooler to practise on a stick.
Now I had driven the 360 Spider, and that was an incredible car. But the F355 was literally the Ferrari during my formative years. A somewhat regular sight in 90s Hong Kong, it has a much more striking, cutting design than the smoothed-out 360 Modena. A newer, superior, less needy car could not overcome the power of nostalgia. Over several months, I read up on the, ahem.....unique maintenance needs of the car and budgeted for them.
With inquiries out to several sellers, someone on FerrariChat pointed me to a local car that he had heard about. Seller was a busy Italian car garage just a few highway exits from me, and never bothered to list the car online--it just sat there with an attractive verbal price, and so I stopped by for a visit and some pictures:
The car was in slightly weathered but decent condition for a Ferrari--certainly a more normal car would never look this good at 16 years old. Now I'm not "rich" by Silicon Valley standards, so even the quick-sale price was a stretch for me--I would be relying on significant value retention. We bickered on price and maintenance issues (particularly the exhaust headers, which have a story all on their own) over weeks and months.
The seller was Italian both in ancestry and in personality--often unreachable by phone, the kind of guy you sometimes had to pop over and find in person, lost in a giant mess of Italian cars needing work. I hadn't discovered Oppo yet but this guy is VERY Oppo.
I gradually became comfortable with the car as we explored the maintenance history--the shop had maintained the car for ten years before buying it out from the customer. The mechanicals were running well and the cosmetics were salvageable--I would plan the work later on to restore it to brand new. Eventually I had asked enough questions and paid for diagnostics, so he could tell I was serious.
One summer morning, he asked me to meet at the shop to help him pick up the car from a test run. It was at his house, so I rode with him expecting to ride back in the F355. It was kind of weird that he drove another customer's E38 7-series, but I brushed it off as a test drive.
Come to think of it, it was also weird that he would take a total rando into his backyard to parade in front of his wife and kids, but I brushed that off as being Italian. What happened next will stay with me forever...
He asked me to drive the car back to his shop. "But what about the BMW?" I asked.
"I'll drive it back," he answered. "You drive this one."
The route was congested with the morning commute, but it didn't matter. I already knew to treat the F1 like a manual. I had spent months preparing for this moment--it had come early but there was no turning back. I was alone in an F355 and I was absolutely starstruck.
The paperwork took another two weeks. And so, with a newborn and a babysitter at home, I had the incredible fortune of calling up my mum, asking for a ride to "a local garage" and driving to work in this 1998 355 F1 Berlinetta.
I wasn't sure where to hide it at work, but if there ever were a moment to live in the present and worry about consequences later, this was it.
TL;DR: After months of shopping nationwide, my childhood dream car appeared right under my nose--at a mechanic's shop just ten minutes from home. Also, Italian mechanics are kind of like Italian cars.