Retractable Hardtop

The Ferrari California offered a number of firsts upon its debut in 2008. A retractible hardtop. A front-engine V8. A dual-clutch 7-speed transmission, for those seamless gear changes. And as a result of this transmission it presents at least one last: The last Ferrari to offer a manual gearbox. It’s a natural classic, all good looks and serious performance, and it’s got a foot in the present and the past.

It’s also got something called backseats, which seems like a cute concept for a Ferrari — a “2+” is the technical term. The $230,000 auto is called a “grand tourer” I suppose for this reason, though you’d better find some small friends or very young children if you want to do any grand touring without major leg circulation issues.

Built for For Small Friends

Its link to the past is right there in the name — the California is so named for the 250 GTs that awed a 20th-century world in the late ’50s. You’ll remember the most famous dignitary of the 250 series as the car in the 1986 John Hughes classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” That was a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California, one of few than a hundred cars (as noted by Cameron). (The car in the movie was a replica, not an actual 250, because if it had been, Ferrari enthusiasts would have burned down Hollywood had Hughes actually destroyed one of the rare beauties.)

Speaking of flying, you probably remember the Calfornia’s ancestors from a movie called “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The mythic car in that film was a (say it with me now) 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder. It ended its life by sailing out a window, a scene which horrified the Ferrari cognoscenti in audiences across America — who may still have unnecessary nightmares, as the car in that film was a replica. There were fewer than a hundred 250GTs made, and as a result they were valuable cars. To give you an idea just how valuable: In 2008 a 250GT sold at auction for more than $10.8 million. Million. Dollars. So, yeah. Replica.

I Wouldn’t Call it Nice, It’s Aggressive

But anyway yes the new California gets its name from those cars of yore, and while it’s sure a fine product from those Italian fellows, it seems to have gotten a lot of gossip about being a “nice” car. Pretty but not exotic, and with a rear end that offends some, it’s clear that the new California has a mellow side that its cousins do not.

But Ferrari was serious when it decided to build a car that could perform but could also fit a small child (say, the child of your mistress) in the back seat. A little something for everyone, it seems. Everyone who has $230,000 and a wish to take your best normal-sized friend and your best small friends for an exhilarating trip.

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