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.

"We have lots of entrepreneurs. We have lots of corporate CEOs. We have a lot of people you would never recognize on the street. There are certainly people you would recognize -- athletes, CEOs, whatever. All walks of life," Andy said. "Those who own Ferraris typically own other luxury brands. Again, most of our owners have multiple cars in their fleets. They might have two, three, four, five … 10 … 50."

Fifty cars? I don't even own 50 pairs of socks let alone 50 luxury cars.

And that's only if you can get your hands on a new one. Turns out, paying the steep price is only half the battle in buying a new Ferrari. There is waiting list for a new 599 GTB.

But Matteo said some customers actually sped up the process by flying in their new car straight from the factory in Italy, which saves about a month.

Ferrari sold about 1,500 cars in North America this year and hopes to sell more next year.

And the company's customers are loyal -- more than 60 percent of those who buy Ferraris already own or previously owned a Ferrari.

"A lot of people, when they pick up their car, say, 'Put me on your list for your next car,'" Andy said. "They may keep the car they already have, but they are in that cycle."

A new Ferrari starts at just under $180,000. But Andy suggests to new customers that they buy a used car in the meantime.

"Ferraris are generally not everyday driving cars. Generally speaking, people don't commute to work in a Ferrari," Andy said. "So they tend to be lower miles. So you can buy a 2- or Ferrari with 5,000 miles on it. It's a great way for the customer to get into the lifestyle and develop a relationship with the dealer."

Three Words

When I think of Ferraris, the three words that pop into my mind are Italian muscle, power and style.

For Andy, the favorite word was "passion." For Matteo, it was "tradition."

"This car wants to be in the tradition of other Ferraris of the past. It recalls other Ferrari models," Matteo said.

The 599 GTB looks like its ancestors. It has a long hood, the cabin is pushed back, and the rear end is decorated with round, red taillights. My two-seater GTB was dressed all in black.

For a quarter-million-dollar car, I expected the door to fly open, futuristic-style. But nothing fancy here -- it's actually quite heavy and bulky.

The smell of the charcoal leather in the 599 was no different than any other luxury car. It also feels the same. The seat feels like sitting in a baseball glove.

In the driver's seat, I sat looking slightly upward; my head and arms protected on all sides. I was face level with the steering wheel. There was no need to look for arm rests or cup holders because there are none -- the aerodynamic design didn't leave extra room for such trivial amenities.

There is, however, an advanced stereo and air-conditioning system.

"Breathtakingly fast car. Unbelievable performance, but still you want to be comfortable," Andy said.

I immediately wanted to check out how cool I was sitting in a new Ferrari. I turned down the sun visors to catch a glimpse of myself, but no mirror.

I was forced to push myself up from my seat and look through the rearview mirror. Yeah, I looked awesome!

But what was even more awesome was that almost everything I needed to drive the car was located around the steering wheel.

Gear changes are actuated by paddles that grow out of the side of the wheel. The horn is integrated into the sides of the steering wheel. And a one-inch button located on the front of the wheel starts the car.

The rumble of the 12-cylinder is actually quite pleasant.

"Want the exhaust to be pleasant. It's musical," Andy said. "There are engineers that work on the sound of the exhaust. It's an aggressive sound without being overblown."

With the engine revving, I was ready to shift into first and make sure the car could really get to 60 mph in three seconds. But not today.

I'm guessing the look of me tightly gripping the wheel, revving up the engine, while biting my lower lip and staring straight out the windshield told my hosts that I just wasn't ready to hit the road.

Another day, perhaps -- time to start saving my nickels and dimes.

I turned the key and climbed out.

It's hard falling in love, but I guess I still have all those matchbox cars somewhere.