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We Visited the Ferrari Headquarters And Drove a California T in Maranello

It doesn't get much better than this
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To visit Ferrari’s headquarters in Italy, you either have to be a preferred client (meaning a major Ferrari owner and spender), a VIP, which means having good relations with members of the company’s big bosses, or a journalist.

Good thing I was one of the three.

Thanks to representatives of Autostrada Motore, the local dealership of Ferrari, I had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of visiting the home of the Prancing Horse in the tiny town of Maranello (population: 20,000). The luxury automobile brand prized the world over has been lovingly crafted here since founder Enzo Ferrari moved the operation from nearby Modena in 1943.

The sprawling headquarters of Ferrari in Maranello, Italy

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IMAGE: Paul John Caña

This view of the iconic yellow Ferrari sign against red walls is familiar to tifosi or Ferrari fans who make the pilgrimage to the headquarters

IMAGE: Paul John Caña

I was allowed a peek inside different buildings inside the sprawling complex, where the streets are named after Ferrari Formula One drivers. One was a garage where a row F1 racing cars in the marque’s distinct Ferrari red, are kept. Each year, the six to eight cars that Ferrari manufactures for the races are sold to private buyers, many of whom choose to leave them here in Maranello. The starting price for one of these cars? A cool one million euros (about P60 million).

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The Classiche division is where Ferrari cars that are 20 years and older are brought for tune-ups or restoration

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Owners of vintage Ferrari cars sometimes also visit the Classiche division to get certificates of authenticity for their beloved vehicles

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IMAGE: Paul John Caña

Next door is an even more expensive garage, if you can believe it. Here there are cars in Ferrari’s XX program, a top-of-the-line race car with an extremely limited production. Only 30 of these supercars were made for a very select clientele, each of whom shelled out at least two million euros (about P120 million). The price tag includes an advanced driving course at the Fiorano track, located just across the street, which owners would need because the Ferrari XX cars can only be driven on a race track and not on regular roads.

At the main assembly plant, natural light filters in through glass walls. It’s an aspect of the company’s workplace program called Formula Uomo or Formula Man, where Ferrari puts a premium on the needs of its workers—from ergonomic working conditions (engineers don’t have to bend down to pick-up materials for assembly and are assisted by machinery for heavy lifting), lighting systems, green areas and other practices that make workers’ jobs easier.

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Clients can choose fabrics colors and finishes to personalize their Ferraris

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Just one of the Ferraris on display inside the headquarters

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IMAGE: Paul John Caña

Ferrari produces only about 7,500 cars annually, ensuring that every vehicle is highly personalized. Clients can choose nearly everything from liveries to special rims (diamond-forged ones can shave up to 7 kilograms off overall weight) to interior hues. Poltrona Frau leather is used for interiors. There’s even a Ferrari Styling Center where designers can help clients decide on their colors, fabrics and finishes. Options include Classica (classic), Scuderia (racing), and Inedita (unedited).

At the first floor of the factory is the assembly line for the cars with V8 engines, which comprises about 80 percent of Ferrari’s entire production. There are 50 stations in this line. Up at the second floor is the 35-station line for cars with V12 engines, comprising the remaining 20 percent.

For clients who want to bring their beloved vehicles for tune-ups and repairs, Ferrari has a Classiche division next to the main assembly factory. Some car owners visit to request for a certificate of authenticity. This division also houses the company’s archives that detail almost everything Ferrari has made in its over 70-year history.

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The last stop in the visit is also the newest—the offices of the racing division called Scuderia Ferrari. It is here where the magic of Ferrari’s Formula One program happens. There’s even a simulator here where drivers like Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen practice.

This room inside the Ristorante Cavallino is where Enzo Ferrari himself used to dine. It has been preserved by the owners of the restaurant

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IMAGE: Paul John Caña

If my jaunt through the headquarters ended there I still would’ve had an amazing time. As it turned out, the best was yet to come. 

After lunch at Ristorante Cavallino just across the street from the complex, where founder Enzo Ferrari used to dine, I was handed the keys to a 2015 California T. It was mine to drive for the next couple of hours through the Italian countryside. To get get behind the wheel of a Ferrari is a privilege granted to a very select few, but to get to drive it in the land of its birth is a different thrill altogether.

The California T has since been discontinued and replaced with the new "entry-level" Ferrari, the Portofino

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IMAGE: Paul John Caña

The author poses with the Ferrari California T he drove in the hills and countryside near Maranello, Italy

IMAGE: Paul John Caña

I followed the suggestion of officials to follow a pre-set route in the navigation system that would take me up through winding hills to an even smaller town called Serramazzoni. I drove along narrow mountain roads that hugged precarious cliffs that soon opened up to spectacular views of green and brown hills dotted with the occasional earth-colored houses. Eventually, I reached an area where snow the previous evening blanketed the landscape, helping turn the terrain into something straight out of a fairy tale picture book.

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Despite the temptation to floor the accelerator, I erred on the side of caution and maintained a safe cruising speed. The California T is a convertible but it was too cold to bring the top down.

Eventually, I keyed in “Home” in the nav system and followed the directions that took me back to the Ferrari headquarters, through the gate with the yellow sign set against a red wall. It’s a familiar sight to countless tifosi (Ferrari fans) all over the world. All too soon, the drive had come to an end. Still, in the tally of best driving experiences of my life, this one had to be at the very top. 

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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