August 10, 2012

Buying a Ferrari 599 GTB

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Ferrari 599

I am a serial car-searcher though. Sometimes I wonder if the thrill of the chase is actually more addictive than owning and driving the car. I tweeted something about a Vanquish S about six weeks ago. A few weeks later I own a 599 GTB. You what?

It went something like this. Aston launched the new Vanquish and I thought, well, whatever. In fact I thought it looked bloody half-baked and reminded me how desirable the last Vanquish S models were becoming and, come to mention it, wouldn’t one of those make a cracking low-depreciation smoke for a year or so. Maybe even turn a penny?

I scoured and investigated and what looked like the perfect car appeared at Nicholas Mee & Co: a Vanquish S, converted to manual by the Works Service, 45,000 miles, J Bond, etc. Predictably, the mileage scared me for the £74,000 asking price. I went and drove it and thought N Mee and pals were a terrific bunch. But it wasn’t to be.

Lower miles would mean more money. Was a Vanquish worth nearly £90K? This inevitably led me to employ the man maths calculator to persuade myself that £90K pushed me into 599 territory. I know, the male brain is deeply confused. I set off to see my old pal Matthew Beard who is now running Ferrari Swindon. This is a strange situation given my current status with the Scuderia. Even so, they treat me like a human being – but I still bring along a caged rodent to taste all beverages for traces of Polonium. That last bit was a joke.

A moment of vulnerability
I know I’m biased because I like the Lovett group, but you have to go and see this new Ferrari/Maserati showroom by the M4. It’s the biggest in Europe, it feels like a kind of permanent motor show – oh, and it’s about the most dangerous retail environment yet devised by Homo Sapiens. I drove a black 599 and loved it. The Aston was charming, the Ferrari felt 20 years more modern and looked good value at £106K. Good value is a term listed in the man maths lexicon of delusional car-purchasing phrases. It can apply to any car of any price.

The classifieds were not reassuring though. 599 prices appeared to be of the severed lift cable variety, with early cars under £100K and tanking. 10 days later Matthew phoned to say he had a Grigio Silverstone car with 20K miles for mid-90s. We haggled. I bought it. £40K in, rest on the dreaded drip. About £350 a month.

Is it madness? Suppose it could be. There’s no shortage of 599s out there, and they’re still depreciating fast. The Ferrari situation didn’t come into it. It’s the car I want, not being pals with the company that builds it.

My reasoning went thus: I wanted another special car, I miss driving Ferraris because they are great cars even if the company is nuts. The F12 has already been announced, so the 599 is already, technically old-school. It is also a third of the price of a new F12. Is it really only a third as good? I’ve always liked the standard 599 without the harsh HGTE chassis pack.

When the 458 was released, 430 prices plummeted, but then rallied when people thought they looked too cheap and the gap to the new car was so vast. I’m partly hedging that situation being repeated with the 599 and F12, even if I’m grown up enough to know that V12 Ferraris are far worse news than the V8 variety. A good 575 is still a £70K retail car, so even if I lose out, you’d have to hope it wasn’t too tragic.

The clincher was a Porsche 911 test car I used for as week recently which listed at £92,947. It’s a great car, but the Ferrari has 620hp and will scare the shittle out of you in third gear.

I have one year’s Power Warranty on the 599, covering major mechanical failures, otherwise I’m on my own. It’s a flipping impressive machine. Big, endlessly powerful and, to my eyes, beautiful. I had a 575 a few years back, and even though I adored its manual gearbox and old-fashioned GT style, the 599 runs rings around it.

So how does it feel to have bought a Ferrari that became officially ‘old’ just a few weeks after I paid for it? Altogether good. Like you I’ve read the F12 drives, and it looks amazing, but it’s so far out of my league it just doesn’t figure. I’m sure it would blow my car into the weeds, but I can’t use all 620hp of mine much of the time, so that part of its performance is probably lost on me. However, its smaller overall size really does appeal – the 599 feels massive on UK roads.

Sadly, I had to have the F1 gearbox. There were no manual 599s for the UK market and I didn’t have the appetite for a LHD car. For me the paddles are the weakest part of the package, but on quick upshifts it’s still pretty damn impressive. Given my partisan stance on these actuated manual ’boxes, I’m very disappointed at how little I am hating using it.

The first 800 miles have been reasonably uneventful, bar a puncture during a video shoot, which showed the tyre pressure monitoring system to be rather handy. At gone 10pm in darkest Wales, using the computer to monitor the deflation, I had to stop every 20 miles to re-inflate the tyre. Next morning I found the compressor in the boot. Idiot.

A fellow 599 owner said his tyre valves had leaked, and I should check mine, but a large hole in the centre of the 305-section put paid to that theory. Two new Pirelli P-Zeros cost £600 plus VAT, plus fitting. Ouch.

I usually judge the success of a purchase on how much I use it. So far, I’ve driven the 599 every day. It’s easy when you want it, insane when you need it.

Lord knows how long I’ll keep it. For now it’s an effective, expedient but expensive method of making all those sodding F12 reviews written by other people a little more palatable..

If you have been lucky enough to make a new car purchase then please do contact us for your Performance Car Insurance.

Many thanks to Pistonheads for their kind permission to use the above – the full article can be found here.