‘Would you like to borrow a Ferrari?’
This is not a question I get asked every day, and of course the answer was yes.
The Ferrari in question was a California. A missile-shaped, front engined, V8, 3.8-litre convertible, more a more high performance grand tourer than head banging supercar. Nonetheless it was rather more exotic than the aged Toyota Avensis that is my normal mode of transport. Ferrari claims the latest California T is capable if 196mph and 3.6sec 0-62, which is also a bit quicker than the Toyota, but at over £150,000, rather more expensive.
I loved playing with the electric folding roof, which furls and unfurls with the elegance of a dragonfly’s wing, and my inner schoolboy rather enjoyed the fabulous noise the car made, its balance, poise and stupendous performance, but reading Ferrari’s press car loan details made a degree of anxiety creep in.
The car had massive, complex and frighteningly expensive alloy wheels, and if I kerbed them I could, potentially, be liable for their repair. This was a big, very wide car with a low seating position. My drive is steep, lined on either side with stones and bricks and little broader than a Ferrari California. Inching up it was a very slow process.
The car had an optional set of tiny rear seats, suitable for small children prepared to sit very still, or a very small dog. We have a very small dog, but I looked at the seats’ grey leather covering and intricate stitching, thought of the dog’s hair shedding habits and his sharp little claws and shuddered. In the end I covered this area with a DIY protector, made from old cardboard boxes. Somehow the Walker’s crisps logo of one of them jarred with the rest of the interior.
The Ferrari was to be filmed in Chelsea, where it blended in the many exotic cars that live there, but I found threading it through the tight little side streets quite thought provoking. Then a marauding taxi bore down on us, and to avoid collecting it as a bonnet ornament I swung toward the kerb that naturally, I hit with a front wheel.
Climbing out of the California I felt a sense of dread, imagining that one of its second mortgage alloys would now have a cheese grater finish. I was lucky. The tyre had a dusty mark on its sidewall, but the alloy was fine.
Having stopped hyperventilating, I managed to enjoy the rest of my time as a Ferrari California driver, but have to admit that in the end, I was very glad to give it back.