Driven by Passion - The 2005 Ferrari Superamerica

 Driven by Passion

The 2005 Ferrari Superamerica


Dom Miliano

 What is it about a car that speaks to a potential car buyer? For many, it’s price. For others, it’s utility or safety and, of course, performance.  But for the Ferrari owner, it’s almost always about passion – an unexplainable, maybe irrational, emotion for the car and the company. I have talked to hundreds of Tifosi over the years and their feelings for the automobile, the marque and the history come through loud and clear.  Of course, Ferrari knows this full well. I heard it described to perfection by no less an expert than Ferrari Head Honcho, Luca Montezemolo. He said that you may love our cars or hate our cars but when you drive them you must feel something, and that something is our passion.




            Jeff Grossman, owner of our subject 2005 Ferrari Superamerica, caught the passion early in his childhood.  He explained, “Since I was a young boy I have always had a fascination with the automobile. I had many ear operations when I was about 4 or 5 years old. We were very poor but my parents would scrape together money to buy me a matchbox {car} when I came out of surgery. And I think ever since then I have always been interested in cars. Then I started to follow Formula 1 and, for me, that was the turning point. And following Ferrari, obviously, was incredible. So why do I love Ferrari? That’s pretty much the reason why.”  He adds, “I have had other cars; Corvette, Lotus, Porsche. But for me the Ferrari has the mystique; Ferrari has the history.”



Jeff first fueled his passion in 1994 when he purchased a used 1987 328 GTS. “It was red with a tobacco interior, kind of an unusual interior color,” he explained.  He had that car for a while, but says he “graduated” to a new 2004 575M. “The car was black with a beige interior.” He said. “And then the genesis of the Superamerica for me was when we took the black car to Concorso Italiano in August of 2004.  I had received an invitation from Ferrari of North America to see their tent on the third h*** of the green at Pebble Beach. So my wife and my children and I go to this tent. They pretty much… Well they didn’t frisk us but they made sure there were no cameras on our bodies.  And my daughter uses a wheelchair and they even checked her wheelchair out to make sure there were no cameras on that!”  Grossman went on to describe what sounded like a setting for a spy movie. “We go into this tent and there is a beautiful Ferrari sitting there and then there was a tent inside the tent and inside that tent was a car sitting under a red cape with spotlights on it.” He pauses for effect, “And they asked us to please gather around the car. All the doors shut and guards are at all the doors. A very nice gentleman from Maranello said, ‘We’re thinking of building this car. We don’t know if we’re going to do it yet. We’re trying to get everyone’s feelings on the subject’. Well, the cape is pulled back and there is the prototype for the Ferrari Superamerica. Well, my jaw must have dropped. And I’m just silent. The whole room is in silence; everyone is captivated. My wife, she leans over to me, and no one else can hear this, and she says, ‘Oh no!’ ”  


Jeff says that a couple of months went by with no further contact. Then at his local fall Ferrari Festival, that all changed. He explained, “In October, the dealer principal of Algar, Bob Segal, comes up to me and says, ‘The prototype that they showed at Pebble Beach; they’re going to build that car, are you interested?’ I said, ‘Well, obviously, very interested but I’ve got to put it to a vote.’ ” And, literally, that’s what he did. He said, “That night the four us sat around the dinner table and I said, ‘What’s everyone think?’ ” He smiled and said, “And everyone gave it thumbs up.” However, one of those votes came with a question. Now he laughs, “My wife said, ‘Is it in addition to or instead of?’ ” In wife-speak that meant, what’s going to happen to the black 575M?  Jeff explained, “I said, ‘Instead of’ and her response was, ‘That’s the right answer’ ”.  So Jeff traded in his 2004 Ferrari and set about ordering the Superamerica.


To keep the fires burning, in November of 2004, Ferrari held several more “invitation only” preview events at their corporate showroom on Park Avenue in Manhattan.  Naturally, Jeff and his wife were invited. And naturally, they came armed with questions for the Maranello factory representative, Giuseppe Bonollo.  Mr. Bonollo confirmed that this Superamerica was really going to be super – with a 540 hp motor (25 more than the 575M), Scaglietti coachwork and the GTC handling package available as an option. All told, he and his wife spent two hours in the showroom, just admiring the car.  At the end of the day, he wrote in his journal, “The Superamerica is a work of art.” 


So while Jeff was sure that the Superamerica was for him, he had another hurdle to pass. You see, buying a new Ferrari isn’t like buying any other car. Because only a few thousand cars are built every year, you just can’t stroll down to the dealer and buy one off the lot. (Put away your pens and emails, I know there are exceptions.) But buying a limited edition Ferrari, when the world-wide demand will easily exceed the supply, the procedure is even more involved. Jeff explained, “As it turns out, a couple months go by and there is a process that you have to go through. You have to send in paperwork, driver’s license; all these things, to Ferrari North America and they send all that information to the factory and then I found out a couple of months later that the factory then chooses who’s going to get the car.”  Here, Jeff smiles and says, “So somebody upstairs likes me or somehow, I don’t know how, I was fortunate enough to be chosen.”  Behind the scenes, Ferrari is doing some detective work to ensure that no one is buying two or more cars from different dealerships; such is the demand for their limited edition cars.


If you are Jeff Grossman and your passion is for Ferrari and you know that Ferrari’s passion is for racing, then it seems perfectly logical that selecting the options for your Superamerica should come from the performance side of the menu. With Jeff’s car, that’s exactly what happened.  He said, “I spec-ed out the car with racing in mind, because that’s the heritage of Ferrari.” He quickly recites the options list from memory, “Full carbon fiber trim, large racing seats, F1 transmission, GTC handling package (this includes the amazing carbon ceramic brakes), Scuderia shields, fire extinguisher, plus all the other neat features like hi-fi, navigation system, even the luggage – this car is pretty much the most fully optioned car you can put together.” I glanced at the window sticker and saw that the price paid for all of the options would buy a pretty nice Ferrari 308 – OK, make that really nice 308.



Months go by but finally, in March of 2005, the word comes in that his car has reached the factory floor – the car is being built and will be ready for delivery by June.  Because Jeff is so excited about his car and he also happens to live a few minutes from Algar Ferrari, he makes a point to check in every once in a while to get a progress report. In his journal he writes, “June 15, 2005, I went to Algar today and Rick checked on the progress of the car. The car is at stage 20 but Rick informs me that he has spoken to the Ferrari Factory and that it will change to stage 70 very soon which means final testing!”


Unfortunately, the delivery date started to slip back from an anticipated July 4th arrival to one that put it closer to the end of the month. The problem is that Jeff wanted to bring the car to the Concorso Italiano – birthplace of the whole idea of buying a Superamerica. Jeff explained, “I wanted to share it with everyone there. But if I wait and put it on a ship, it’s going to take 30 days and I’ll miss Concorso.  So I did a really loony thing. I actually flew the car over in the belly of an Air France 747. So at the end of July, it left Bologna airport, flew overnight to JFK, it cleared customs 2 days later, was delivered to Algar, I had it serviced and then we trucked it to Concorso.”  


As you can imagine, the car was well received by the fans of the blood-red cars. “Concorso was really great. Many people came up to me because it was the only one there. They said how wonderful it was, to actually see the car in the flesh. They had never seen one; they had only seen pictures, and they never thought that they would see a car, especially one that soon. I think it was one of the first 8 in the country.”   


And in perfect storybook fashion, the parents of another young boy came up to Jeff and said that their 8 year old had drawn a Superamerica and they had put it on the board at school. His parents then asked if their child could sit in the car, Jeff recalls, “I said, of course you could!  He sat in the car and it was just a wonderful moment.”  I guess that’s how a new Ferrari guy gets born.  But then another spectator came up to Jeff and asked if his girlfriend can sit in the car and Jeff said no. He said he told the guy, “She isn’t 8. The only girl who can sit in the car is my wife and my daughter.”


With that as preamble, I am honored when Jeff says, “So do you want to drive it?”  These are life’s most difficult moments. Do I chance driving a car that is more valuable than my house, car and bank account all rolled into one? Will I cry and kick my feet like a spoiled brat when it’s time to give the keys back? Will it spoil me for every other car on the planet? Should I just give a polite no? Naaaah!


I settle into the Connolly hide covered large racing buckets and the first thing I notice is that they are amazingly comfortable and supportive. Are these buckets worth the nearly $12,000 the window sticker says they cost? My large bucket says absolutely yes. The car fires easily and with a few blips of the throttle, I fill the air with the sweet sound of 12 happy Italian cylinders turning fermented dinosaur juice into pure pleasure. At this point in the story, let me remind you that this car has 540 horsepower (or as my German friends say, horsepowers).  To put things in perspective, that’s over 300 horsepower more than my daily driver. And let’s not forget that this car doesn’t weigh as much as my daily driver and it has a 0-60 time of about 4 seconds. So when we start off and Jeff says it’s OK to give it some stick, I happily oblige.


After I pull the “Up” paddle shifter once, and make sure that the front wheels are pointed in the direction I want to go, I do what comes naturally!  I seldom run out of adjectives and adverbs – I keep an ample supply in my desk. But when I press the go-pedal to the metal (or carbon fiber), the feeling leaves me speechless. The best I can do is to describe it as what I imagine it’s like going up in the Space Shuttle. You know how in most ordinary cars there is the lag between when you step on the gas and when the gas, engine, transmission all get the command, process it and actually start doing something? Well, it ain’t happening that way here. Ready, aim, FIRE! – it’s like being shot out of a cannon. Bang, zoom!! More accurately, it is like there is a direct connection between the “lets have fun” part of your brain and the rear wheels. Think about going faster and suddenly, no, make that instantly you are doing exactly that. I have driven a lot of fast cars in my day, from a Twin turbo Porsche at Pocono raceway, to auto-crossing a 360 Modena, to a full day pounding a 550 Maranello on the Autostrada and at Lime Rock Park race track and even flogging a 456 M GT from one end of New Jersey to the other; none of these cars, nothing I have ever driven hooks up like this car, grabbed my attention like this car and made me grin like a fool like this car. 



But Ferraris are also about handling and braking and this car has both in spades.  Jeffery lives in a hilly, winding two lane road part of Pennsylvania.  Picture blind corners and tight curves linked by short straight stretches of narrow asphalt. In other words, perfect sports car territory.  I am following Jeffery’s directions as we make our way quickly around these unfamiliar roads. While the “don’t do anything stupid” voice in my head is still yammering, telling me to take it easy, my confidence builds and I gradually realize that the car’s performance envelope is bigger than my courage and skill. Every corner we whip through can easily be taken at “put me in the slammer” speeds. The grip is nothing short of Velcro.  More important, despite my total lack of familiarity with the roads and the car, I never put a wheel wrong.  I credit all of that to the handling and predictable, forgiving nature of the car.


And then there are the brakes. You have to believe me when I tell you that if you ever find the need to apply them in anger, you might actually affect the speed of the earth’s rotation. Really, I think the Italians have done tests.  


When we arrived back at Jeff’s garage (I call it a shrine, he calls it his Galleria in honor of the Ferrari museum in Maranello) we sit and play around with the flip-open electrochromic top. This cool feature gives the owner the benefits of a coupe with the joy of open air driving with just a 10 second push on a button. It even has technology that makes it darker or lighter through some amazing form of electronic magic.



Jeff feels that this car was purchased and optioned the way that Enzo would have done it – loaded with racing inspired technology. (Such is his passion, Jeff even suggested to the Factory that all 559 of the Superamericas built come equipped with the F1 transmission as standard.) He proudly points to the “auto” button (for automatic transmission) and states, “I’ve never touched it!”  He tells me that he plans to own it, share it with his fellow Tifosi by bringing it to lots of Ferrari events (the week after my visit, he drove it to display at the Reading Concours) and, of course, drive it for the pure pleasure of it all.  


The 2005 Ferrari Superamerica, a car both driven by passion and driven with passion.             



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