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Tripping The Lights Fantastic On My 54th Birthday

I was asleep and dreaming about driving a yellow Ferrari 458 Spider with my wife Shawie when I heard her voice whispering gently in my ear. “Wake up, sleepy head”, she teased me. “It’s your birthday tomorrow! I’m going to give you what you’ve always been dreaming about ever since we started dating. I’m going to buy you a sports car for your birthday! So get up, get dressed, and let’s get going. We have a lot of ground to cover today.” I could hardly believe my luck: My wife is buying me a sports car for my birthday! It feels like I’m still in a dream. It’s a lot like winning the lottery, only better! So, I hurriedly ate breakfast, showered, got dressed, and got into our car. We drove off towards Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and went into the Autostrada Motore showroom, where we were welcomed by our good friend, Wellington Soong, who’s the proprietor of the dealership. Tito W, as we lovingly call him, greeted me a warm “Happy Birthday” and we sat down on a comfortable sofa in the showroom. He saw my eyes wandering around while we were talking and he pointed towards the cars. “Go ahead. Indulge. Get into the cars. It’s your birthday”, he beckoned.

The first Ferrari that caught my eye was a red F430 that was consigned to the dealership by its owner. The 2004-09 F430 traces its two-seat, mid-engine layout and V8 power lineage from the 1975-85 Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS, the sports car popularized by Tom Selleck in the ’80s TV series, Magnum P.I. I’ve always wanted a 308 GTS but they’re quite hard to find in the Philippines. Thus, finding a successor like the F430 that is readily available makes me want to jump at the chance. Its 483-horsepower 4.3-liter quad cam V8, paddle-shift dual clutch manu-matic transmission, electronically-controlled rear differential and 300-kilometers-per-hour top speed was calling out to me.

“The consignor wants P11.5 Million for that car”, said Tito W. “But the price is negotiable.” I looked at my wife and gave her the best “Lost Puppy” look that I could muster. “You can look at other cars before you decide”, my wife said lovingly. “You can look at brand new ones if you like. Don’t worry about the budget. I’ve set aside enough funds for your sports car. Besides, it’s your birthday so enjoy.” Wow. Did my wife just say “Don’t worry about the budget”? I couldn’t believe what I just heard. She was right, anyway, so we darted towards the other red 2-seat, mid-engine Ferrari in the showroom – a brand-new 488 GTB.

“Now, this is more like it”, I said to my wife. “Thomas Magnum drives a 488 Spider in the rebooted 2018 version of Magnum P.I., which stars Jay Hernandez. This could be fun.” The 488 GTB/Spider is the latest in a long line of V8 mid-engine Ferraris and is more powerful than the 308 GTB/GTS or the F430/Spider. Its 3.9-liter quad cam V8 engine has twin turbochargers that churn out 661 horsepower and deliver a top speed of about 330 kilometers per hour. “It’s nice and sporty”, said Shawie. “But Magnum drives a 488 Spider with the removable targa roof. Wouldn’t you like one like that?” Again, my wife was right.

We asked Tito W if they have a Ferrari 488 Spider in stock, preferably in Corse Rossa (Ferrari racing red). “The 488 Spider costs a little more than the 488 GTB’s P32 Million price tag”, said our good friend. “Unfortunately, we don’t have one in stock right now. We have to order one for you from the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy, but it could take a couple of months to get here.” He saw that my wife was anxious to buy me a gift for my birthday. “Tell you what… we have a Ferrari Portofino with a retractable hard top that you can drive around while you decide. You can take it out for a nice long drive to help you decide on what sports car you’d like to get”, he said with a wink in his eye.

I looked at the silver Portofino parked near the entrance of the showroom. I got into the Ferrari, looked around the interior, and the showroom manager approached to brief me with its controls. I looked at the 3-spoke steering wheel and located the red “Engine Start/Stop” button across the Manettino controls. A push of the red button and the car fired up immediately. I thumbed the switch in the center console to open the retractable hardtop and within 14 seconds, the top was out of sight. Hmm… this could be fun.

Tito W looked at me with a smile. “Bagay! (It fits you!) You look good in it”, he teased. “Why don’t you and Shawie take it for a spin in the South so you’ll appreciate the Portofino more? Perhaps, when you return tomorrow, your mind will be made up.” He cautioned me against the weather that was changing from sunny to rainy almost instantly. “Are you sure you want to drive it with the top down?”, Tito W asked. “Of course”, was my quick reply. “That’s the reason for the Portofino’s existence, is it not, sir?” Tito W gave a big thumbs-up and motioned us to drive off and have fun.

Wellington Soong (in printed shirt) and Ferrari’s Bob Shaw saw us off as we drove the Ferrari Portofino out of the showroom.

As I started to drive the car out of the showroom, I looked at my wife and she looked pleased with the Portofino. “Do you like this?”, I asked her. “Well, it’s nice to have a sports car that can be a hardtop or a convertible at the touch of a button”, she replied. “But it’s your choice. You’re the birthday boy.” I have to admit, she does have a point there. A sports car should not be uni-directional but flexible. It should not be just about form and function but fun as well. It should not be just about power and handling but comfort and safety, too. The silver Portofino was beginning to look golden in my eyes, especially with my wife sitting in the car with a big smile on her face. You know all about that “Happy Wife, Happy Life” stuff, right?

Once we were out of the Ferrari-Maserati showroom, my wife asked me if we could pass by the Vespa/MINI/Lotus/Rolls-Royce showroom cluster of our other good friend, Willy Tee Ten. One of our friends in the construction business, Roy Imperial Bon, bought a Vespa scooter and he asked Shawie to help facilitate its release because his trusted rider was going to pick it up for him since he’s still in Bicol on business. Our curvaceous and sleek Ferrari looked like the proverbial “sore thumb” in a long line of boxy and cute MINIs parked behind the dealership.

After Roy’s scooter was released, Shawie and I waltzed into the Roll-Royce showroom and looked at a trio of elegant black RR automobiles – a Wraith, a Ghost and a Phantom – parked side-by-side. I stood around the cars admiring them and my wife whispered, “Uhmm… honey, these cars may be a bit out of the budget I allotted for your dream car. Perhaps, when we grow our business further?” I smiled at her and replied, “I’m just admiring them, hon. These cars are for the captains of the industries, which I’m not. Well, not yet anyway… so yes, perhaps someday.”

On our way out of the dealership, we saw a brightly colored Lotus Elise parked in front and my eyes followed its sleek sexy lines from the hood to the tail. “That’s cute”, Shawie exclaimed. “And it has a removable top.” I wanted to tell her that it’s a quick car that handles like a go-kart but then I remembered how my back ached in April when I had the most unfortunate and painful experience of a slipped disc. My doctor advised me against contorting my self into tight spaces and I’m sure that my back pain will be back with a vengeance after repeatedly climbing in and out of the low and sporty Elise. If only I was twenty years younger and I was still a hot shoe during track days, this Lotus would be the ticket for me. But then again, twenty years ago, my wife and I can only afford a used Japanese sedan for our family car because we were saving for the future of our kids.

We got back into the Portofino and drove off into the highway. I was beginning to appreciate this Ferrari even more. Our silver car may not have the same visual impact as the red 488 GTB in the showroom or the 488 Spider that Jay Hernandez, err… Thomas Magnum drives around Hawaii, but it’s still a Ferrari. It makes people look. Plus, the retractable hardtop is really quite practical here in our country. It also has the same 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8 as the 488 but slightly detuned to 600 horsepower. The engine is in front and placed longitudinally, just like the glorious V12 Ferraris of the past, and the power delivery is intoxicating. Mashing the throttle and grabbing one of the paddle shifters at the right moment, or experiencing it downshift automatically, provides an aural and tactile experience that may be difficult to replicate with another lesser sports car.

Upon reaching Santa Rosa, Laguna, Shawie and I ducked into the Rose & Grace Restaurant along the main highway and had a heavy lunch of bulalo or beef stew with bone marrow. We were amazed with the number of people stopping and gawking at the Portofino or taking selfies with our car. One waiter even left his post to go to the parking space and take a selfie with the Ferrari. Then, Shawie mentioned that while we were driving it, she observed that some people were looking at us and not the car. “When we are driving around in your 1971 Chevy Camaro or our 1986 Mercedes-Benz 500SE, or even the 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S, I can see people looking at the car and admiring it”, Shawie narrated. “But with the Portofino, I could see them looking at the car and then looking at the occupants, hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity or a VIP. It’s as if they have questions like ‘Who are you?’ and ‘How can you afford such a car?’ It’s just making me overly conscious.” To calm her nerves, I joked that perhaps some people think I’m a corrupt congressman who stole millions so I can afford to drive a Ferrari and that she is my married secretary, who I’m trying to seduce. “Seduction over a bulalo lunch?” she quipped. “Now, that’s hilarious!”

Once we got home, I leafed through my magazines and searched the internet for stories about the Portofino. I wanted to learn more about this Ferrari model that replaced the 2008-2018 California T. I learned that the 3,855cc twin-turbo V8 makes 760 Newton-meters of torque at 3,000 rpm and that it takes the Portofino just 3.5 seconds to go from from 0 to 100 km/h. That it has carbon-ceramic disc brakes all around, with the front rotors measuring 390 mm and 360 mm at the rear. And that it’s marketed as an entry-level Ferrari, which with all its features, go-fast goodies, and P28 Million price tag, does not make it an entry-level anything. It’s simply a fantastic Italian sports car.

The next day, which was my birthday, I woke up early to look at the silver Ferrari Portofino parked in our driveway. At 4,586 mm, it didn’t look that intimidatingly long and at 1,938 mm, it didn’t look that intimidatingly wide. The front 245/35ZR20 and rear 285/35ZR20 Pirelli PZero tires filled the Portofino’s wheel wells just right, while the yellow disc brake calipers peeked behind the 20-inch 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheels. The front fascia of this Ferrari had a front grille and headlight arrangement that looked like it was flashing a menacing smile. My wife sneaked up behind me and hugged me. “Are you convincing yourself to get the Portofino instead of the 488 Spider?”, she cooed. I hugged her back. “I’m almost there.”

On our drive back to return the Ferrari to the Autostrada Motore showroom in BGC, we dropped by the Carrera Cafe above the Audi showroom along EDSA to have lunch with our friends Emerald Joy LaTorre and Sabina Cruz. After lunch, we went to the adjacent Porsche showroom and looked at the yellow 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S that was on display. Known internally as the Type 992, it was the latest in the long line of rear-engine, rear-drive six-cylinder Porsches that started in 1963 with the Type 901. Shawie learned that the price of the new model was P15.5 Million, which was considerably less than the Ferrari. “Like I said yesterday, hon”, she assured me, “I allocated funds for your dream car. If you want to get a Porsche, you can. If you want to get a Ferrari, you can, too. It’s your choice, birthday boy!”

I have never been so indecisive in my entire life! I’ve always wanted a Ferrari but I couldn’t afford one before. Now that my wife is buying me one with the huge financial windfall she had, I was having second thoughts. What is wrong with me? Am I just scared of the responsibilities of owning a multi-million-peso sports car? Or was I thinking of the other less expensive but equally desirable cars that I can buy with all that money? I have to decide soon while my wife is in such a generous mood. Imagine, she didn’t even ask where we’re going to park the Portofino despite the fact that I’m jumbling the available parking spaces we have between her 2016 Suzuki Ciaz, my 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe, and our three project cars – the ’71 Camaro, ’74 Super Beetle, and the ’86 MB 500SE. Adding a sixth car to fit in four parking slots will really test my mathematical, algebraic and geometric skills.

I closed my eyes to inhale the sweet smell of the Nappa leather that adorns the interior of the Ferrari Portofino. “So, do I just write Tito W a check instead of returning this car?”, Shawie teased. “Give me a moment to think this through”, I replied. I closed my eyes again and thought deeply about what my decision would be. Then all of a sudden, I could feel the driver’s seat starting to vibrate, softly at first, and then increasing in intensity after a few seconds. With my eyes still closed, I was trying to think of what could cause this terrible shaking. When the shaking became too pronounced, I opened my eyes and saw…

My wife was standing over me at the side of our bed trying to shake me awake. “Hoy, gumising ka na! Tanghali na! Madami ka pang gagawin! (Hey, wake up! It’s already late! You have a lot of work to do!)” Alas, it was all just a dream, albeit a big, exotic and fantastic one! Oh, darn…

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: PhP28,000,000.00

Body type: Front engine, rear drive, 2-door 2+2 convertible

Engine: 3855cc V8 twin-turbo

Power: 600 [email protected]

Torque: [email protected]

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch semi-automatic

Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs 390mm front, 360mm rear

Length: 4586mm

Width: 1938mm

Height: 1318mm

Curb weight: 1664 kg

Wheels: 20-inch 5-spoke aluminum alloy

Tires: 245/35ZR20 front, 285/35ZR20 rear

0-100 km/h: 3.5 seconds

Top speed: 320 km/h

CONTACT DETAILS

Ferrari-Maserati Philippines

Autostrada Motore, Inc.

Wellington Place, 32nd and 4th, Crescent Park West, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila

Tel. No. (02) 801-7777