Oh, Baby, I'm in a Ferrari


If sex had a nationality, it would be Italian.

If it could live and breathe, it would be named Ferrari.

Sadly, not everyone can afford to drive one.

With the the latest edition to the Ferrari family, the sleek new Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, hitting the U.S. market this week, I finagled a meeting with Ferrari for a chance to see the modern muscle car firsthand -- and possibly even drive it.

Driving a Ferrari is a fantasy of any boy who has ever played with matchbox cars on the carpet of his parents' living room. I owned several when I was a kid.

Getting up close and personal with one of these powerful world-class racing machines was a unique opportunity and a dream come true. And it didn't disappoint.

Center of Ferrari North America

Ferrari's North American headquarters is a 20-minute drive from ABC News' Manhattan offices.

The Ferrari headquarters is located on an unassuming suburban street, close to a Cadillac dealership, several community banks and gas stations -- not the ultratrendy modern neighborhood one might associate with an Italian muscle car.

The headquarters itself didn't have lots of Ferraris in the parking lot. And I was surprised to see there wasn't one displayed in the main showroom.

In fact, there wasn't anything in the showroom except a few red leather chairs, the receptionist, a few Ferrari posters and a foot-long model of an old model Ferrari.

Shortly after my arrival, an Italian man walked out and introduced himself as Matteo Sardi -- the public-relations manager for Ferrari in North America.

Matteo walked me to a downstairs garage to meet Andy Shaffer, a manager at Ferrari, which of course has one of the best jobs in America.

As my Ferrari minders, Andy sold me on the car and Matteo drove home the point that the car was definitely Italian.

Needs No Introduction

I was about to feast on the 599 GTB, which two weeks ago had its North American rollout in the Pan American 20,000, a three-month race from Brazil to New York.

"This is the maximum of what we can do," Andy said. "This is the quickest production Ferrari ever made."

Just how fast is this car?

The 6-liter V12 engine can go from 0 mph to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 205 mph. Gears in the transmission can be changed in 100 milliseconds.

"They're power. To see one is breathtaking. They're gorgeous cars, and people don't get to see them every day," Andy said. "Ferrari is a small club, but this is the top of the club. The goal is to see the cars concentrate on racing."

Of course most buyers won't be driving in the Indy 500. Do drivers actually race their cars down the highway at 200 mph?

"We advocate obeying all your local speed limits, driving rules, all that sort of thing," said Andy, while conspicuously looking at his feet and smiling.

It's All About Passion. … And If You've Got the Money

Of course, paying for the right to obey those laws can be expensive. The 599 GTB that I was looking at costs $265,295.

The guys gave no indication that Ferrari owners were affluent. They just repeated over and over that they were passionate people who cared a lot about racing.

Ferrari dealers typically throw cocktail parties and events for Ferrari owners, and Andy made a passing reference to the financial elite who could afford such an expensive hobby.

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