Being post-fifty years of age and active in a particular hobby for thirty of those years gives one license to natter about how things have changed during his period of observation. Some curmudgeons see nothing but societal decay and fallen icons when things change, while others begin to notice the truth in my mother’s saying: “Keep anything long enough and it’ll come back into style.”
As an example, most old hands in the hobby can attest to the cyclical nature of the market for our cars. There is a ten-year sine wave that regularly repeats itself from feast to famine. During the 1980s, the market value of Ferraris advanced slowly but steadily until Enzo’s death. The passing of a ninety-year-old man should have been no surprise to anyone, but the international investment climate at the time was ripe for a new ‘commodity’ to exploit, and a dramatic run-up in Ferrari prices resulted for many reasons completely unrelated to Mr. Ferrari’s demise. Investors in the Pacific Rim were particularly active, but when the Japanese stock market tanked in ’91, the house of cards crashed back to reality. Over the next nine years the Ferrari market again steadily strengthened until the tech balloon blew up and we suffered 9-11 to boot. Once again, right on schedule, the market fell, but we are now already seeing the unmistakable signs of recovery this early in 2002. The line-up of new models from Maranello, one scheduled to appear each year beginning with the 550 Evolution (properly called the 575M) in a few months, the F-60 next year, the 456 replacement and eventually whatever new eight-cylinder car will replace the 360 during this decade has excited much renewed interest.
You know all of this. What I really want to ramble about this month is ‘couture,’ or style, as manifested in the colors Ferraris are painted. Women tend to be more sensitive to style changes than men and often suffer some ridicule at being ‘told’ what to wear by ‘designers.’ However, I submit that this freshening is one of the ways that our ladies maintain their allure. Anyway, I have noticed that styles in Ferrari colors are also in a constant state of flux, but on a bit different timetable than the cars’ market wave and annual hem adjustments. As any student of Ferrari history knows, the classic models of the ‘50s and ‘60s were rarely Rosso Corsa. In fact, beautiful jewel tones of blues and greens, often two-toned with silver or grey, predominated at the Paris and Milan auto shows and many of the customer cars were painted in similar shades. It was only later, during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, that it became almost mandatory to have a red Ferrari. Think about how many Daytonas and Dinos were originally Pino Verde, Blu Scuro, Argento and even Oro Chiaro* before being repainted “Resale Red” during the late ‘80s. Well, if you weren’t into Ferraris then, take my word for it.
In 1980, the FCA National Meet was held in Asheville, North Carolina. I vividly remember seeing rows of each production model that were beautiful palettes of variety. At the famous Prancing Horse Farm meets during the early ‘80s the same rainbow scene was repeated. But not long thereafter the ‘style’ began to change—your Ferrari was ‘supposed’ to be red and other colors began dropping from the order blanks. By the late ‘80s, your resale value was in serious jeopardy if you had chosen anything other than Red. The only close second choice was Black—everything else was valued several thousand dollars less in the marketplace and even with that adjustment was often tough to resell.
During the next ten years that truism held pretty firmly, but by 1998 we began to notice a significant movement away from that prejudice. “Fly Yellow,” not really very popular during the previous decade, quickly became very popular—actually equal to Red--and it replaced Black as the ‘most acceptable alternative’ to a Red Ferrari. I frequently have prospects complain these days that they can’t find a yellow 308 or 328. The reason is simple: very few Ferraris were painted that color during those years due to low demand—or being ‘out of style’!
The next big change was ‘Titanium.” In 1997 pininfarina chose this new shade to highlight the debut of the 550 Maranello, and it instantly became very sought after. How many of you recall how undesirable the very similar color Grigio was during the early ‘90s? But after the influential designer had endorsed it, it became a runaway success—for a while. (It has since dropped significantly in popularity.) Over the past two years, we have seen Silver and any of the dark metallic blues become very popular if they are combined with the ‘right’ interior color. Interiors, too, have very definite desirability quotients. In Europe, Black is the nearly universal choice for a Ferrari interior no matter the exterior color. The only reasonably popular alternative is Crema, but in North America even a red car with black leather is considered less desirable in the retail marketplace, and crema even less so. The ubiquitous Tan, considered nearly essential by enthusiasts here, is actually pretty unpopular on the Continent! But, in an example of just how confusing fashion dogma can be, the otherwise less-desirable black leather is the most popular choice in Silver and Yellow cars right now!
In another parallel to feminine fashion, certain colors are very model-specific with Ferrari. Just as older women often don’t wear the same colors and styles as their daughters, the bright, aggressive, red and yellow shades are poor sellers on the 456M, which generally appeals to a more mature audience, whereas the conservative dark greys and deep greens are equally out-of-place on the 360 Modena. My focus with this tale is simply to acknowledge that things change—even our formerly iron-clad prejudice that all Ferraris should be red. Its actually nice to have variety in the colors being ordered and appreciated today. (I used to occasionally have clients who would admit that they really didn’t even like red, but felt that they had to order it!) Several factors seem to have contributed to this new acceptance. The new-generation Ferraris, starting with the 355, are so much more user-friendly and downright good cars, that a lot of new people, untainted by old prejudices, have joined our ranks and brought new color ideas to our ‘family.’ Also, as the years have gone by, many of our senior owners have had a couple of red Ferraris and now want something a little different.
Old silverback that I am, it took me five Ferraris before I had a red one, and then only because it was the best car available at the time. Which brings up my last observation: when shopping for a used Ferrari, some folks choose an inferior car just because of its color when a much better one is available in a different shade. Several years ago, when blue wasn’t very popular, we had a really solid, well-kept 308 that was Blu Chiaro. We sold several other not-as-good Rosso Corsa 308s while we had that car—and for more money—despite telling the customers that the blue car was actually the better choice! Today, I am frequently asked for blue 308s! So, the moral of this month’s story is: as hemlines go up and down, so too, do the values of Ferraris and the way they’re dressed!
n Bill Orth --
* Rosso Corsa—traditional bright red; Pino Verde—pine green; Blu Scuro—dark blue; Argento—silver; Oro Chiaro—bright gold; Grigio—medium metallic grey; Crema—cream; Blu Chiaro—bright blue