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A LITTLE ITALY

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Apr 12, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A LITTLE ITALY

By JOHN GRAFMAN

Every once in a while, we get to experience a moment that transcends our differences. The human condition binds us as one when we share a common love. Just mention the word Ferrari to your fellow man, regardless of where he's from, and watch the magic happen.

Typically, say the words Ferrari or Maserati and cities in Italy come to mind. Modena, Maranello, and Fontana. Fontana?

For a few brief days, Fontana became home to Ferrari and Maserati - at least for me and a few other guests. These sporting machines love racetracks, and (coincidentally) Fontana is home to the beautifully serious California Speedway. Maybe there is a connection here.

When the invitation to experience a little magic from both Ferrari and Maserati comes across my monitor, I waste no time in responding. You'll never see my fingers move so fast.

Maserati Quattroporte

I must confess, this isn't my first time inside a Maserati. This is time number two to be exact. Two experiences separated by about three decades, and an unimaginable growth in technology and refinement has been occurring since the initial acquaintance with a red Khamsin back in the 'Seventies. The fall out from my initial encounter has led me down a twisted love/hate relationship with automobiles ever since then. I am leery as to what undue influence this escapade might produce. Time will tell.

Any day behind the wheel of a Maserati would be a good day, but this was a great day. This was one of those epic California days. Days like this during the Rose Bowl game cause the rest of the country to pack their bags and head west. After record rainfall this year, this was a welcome relief. Evidence of weeks past still clings to the nearby mountains. The backdrop couldn't be more picturesque, the snow peaked mountains with luscious Maseratis in the foreground. Dressed in a short sleeve shirt, I still feel a little toasty. God, this is perfection!

When you get down to it, Maserati is a bit player when it comes to total vehicles sold. Out on the tarmac are a number of sparkling new Quattroportes, enough to be a near significantly measurable percentage of this year's production cars being carefully crafted back in Italy.

We begin with a briefing by Jeff Ehoodin, Public Relations Manager, on some of the finer aspects of the Quattroporte. How many cars can offer a 395 horsepower, front mid-engine layout with the engine residing behind the front axel, and client options that can create four million different possible combinations? The history of the marque stretches back ninety-years, and the relationship with Ferrari as an owner began in part in 1997 and completely in 1999. Jeff can sense we are chomping at the bit to get behind the steering wheel.

Outside, on the infield of the racetrack, another Maserati rep gets into the smaller details. Just a few points of interest on the car, little things such as how to execute shifting, then we are then set wild on the streets of Fontana, literally. No, they have good sense not to allow the likes of us media types on the track with their fine vehicles. I'm not so sure if being on the streets is all together much safer. They do provide us the chance to feel just what normal folks who own Maseratis get to experience, as if there are normal Maserati people. For a few scant minutes a number of journalists get to briefly savor the taste of the good life.

Like anything so complex that you have only a moment to understand, some of the details manage to get by under the radar. But there is no escaping the big picture. The Quattroporte is a performer. The exterior design is muscular and for good reason. One stab at the accelerator and the healthy 4,244 cc eight-cylinder engine with 326 lbs. feet of torque is more than willing to flex as if given a shot of adrenaline. This is not your normal four-door sedan. Certainly the styling's intention is to live up to the horsepower the car harness, and it does. The Maserati Quattroporte in particular is dowsed in all kinds of luxury components and materials. The styling of this automobile stands apart from the crowd.

The Trident marque is equally synonymous with sportiness as well as elegance. Experiencing a bit of Italy in the shadow of the big California Speedway Oval, this wasn't lost on me for a moment.

Maybe I need to plan my next vacation in Fontana?

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti

Maseratis and Ferraris are breed differently than any other sports car. Typically, if a car manufacturer wants to market its vehicles as sporting machines, they go racing with cars they initially create for the general public. Not so with Maserati and Ferrari. The companies are dedicated to racing from the onset and it's in their blood. The production cars are a byproduct of the racing side of the family and not the other way around.

Proving the point is the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. Not so long ago, LA Car was at the intro to the 612 at Beverly Hills Ferrari. It's big, bold and just sitting there. It has a sporting flair and a prancing horse up front. All very good. But what'll she do? Without question all of us know that the machine is formidable. It's from Ferrari, so it must be good. Yes, but how good?

Now that we are at a venue of proper proportions, we can experience what makes the Italians so different. On the same course set up for the Ferrari Challenge and the Rolex Series, a factory driver shows us just how good this really is.

By no means is the 612 a small, lightweight coupe. Don't let the size and seat count fool you. The car is all go. While the disguise says street , the performance says race . From the initial launch, forcing me back into the seat, until we finally come to a stop after an inspiring two hot laps, the Ferrari is unflappable. Be it on the high-banked turns, or through tight turns in the in-field track that pushes the grip of the tires to near the point of exhaustion, the race heritage is up to the demands of any street in this country. As our driver points out, if hitting the track is of greater priority, Ferrari has the faithful covered in a 360 Challenge car, or more rightly the new 430.

While our sliver of time on the track is sufficient to make us believers in the race to street development philosophy, this is only one test. It turns out that the media and VIPs are using these cars for three days back to back. While my ride consists of but a couple laps, multiply that by just the journalists in our group and it becomes evident that this is not a lightweight - do a few laps then cool down affair. The 612s are being put through their paces at what would punish and destroy lesser brands. The pure, fresh from the boat, bone stock 612s are effortlessly and tirelessly circulating the track with as much grace as the modified pace cars for the following days race.

Both Italian marques are aptly sufficient in putting a smile on anyone's face. Performance is what will always set these cars apart from the countless other wannabes. From this brief encounter, it appears neither gives up an inch on style or quality either. The execution of the exteriors and interiors are up to snuff with today's market demands.

I think I now know what the few lucky owners feel every time they put their steeds back into the stable. Why should the Ferrari/Maserati be put away just yet? It's just getting warmed up! Maybe another lap or two around the block wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Ah, the magic!

Please visit www.ferrari.com and www.maserati.com

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