Ferrari builds motor cars in much the same way Claude Monet painted landscapes--not to please the populace, but more to satisfy self, a technique and a coterie.
Mellowed by mystique and myth, living very high off racing legends, its reputation secured by a product-appreciation rate indeed close to that of Impressionist art, Ferrari sees no need to advertise its cars.
Nor does this Italian company have a public relations representative in the United States.
The year 1990 is halfway into history. Yet Ferrari is just now getting around to introducing its 348 series sports car that actually was built last year but will still cost $103,400. Without a radio. Without a spare.
All of which supports a sales-and-marketing rationale which seems to be this: Simply getting a Ferrari is the best deal a buyer can make.
Despite such indifference, Ferrari sells everything it makes and may very well have been back-ordered since 1949.
* A barely used Ferrari Testarossa currently costs $100,000 \o7 more\f7 than a \o7 new\f7 Testarossa. Because all new Testarossas have been sold out for the next few years.
* A really used Ferrari--a 250 GTO race car built in 1962--recently was bought by a Japanese collector for $14.6 million. GM should find such profit in selling 28-year-old cars.
* Now the 1989-cum-1990 Ferrari 348ts is dribbling into Southern California showrooms. If you want one from Hollywood Sport Cars, don't expect to be impressing tourists on Melrose any time soon. "We got a couple of (deliveries) for June, but we don't know about July yet, and August is a long way off," said general manager Cris Vandagriff. "We're sold out three years in advance."
Said a sales representative for Newport Imports of Newport Beach: Order your Ferrari 348 now. Pick it up some time after Memorial Day. That's Memorial Day 1996.
An obvious question: Is there anything in this world worth a six-year wait?
The definite answers: Mr. or Ms. Right. Blue-eyed twins. Peace in Northern Ireland. A quit-claim deed to Santa Barbara.
Also a Ferrari 348ts.
And not because it is an outrageously expensive car, a known quickener of pulses and envy. Nor because Magnum PI made it a virility heightener. But simply because a Ferrari is the best at what it was designed to do.
Forget cost and image. Consider only purpose, craftsmanship and inexorable evolution.
By such measurement, the Rolls-Royce is the superlative of rich, regal transportation. At the other end of that scale, the humble, snuffling, pirouetting Hyster forklift becomes the ultimate example of vehicular utility.
Ferrari, like no other motor car, assumes \o7 its\f7 place among the pure by being constructed around the lusty essence of a thinly disguised sports-racing car.
Or as Enzo Ferrari explained before his death in 1988: "\o7 La Ferrari\f7 was born with racing and with racing it progressed and developed. Can the automobile deny its origins? I don't think so."
And the urgent pedigree of the new 348--from the first ripping snort of its 290-horsepower engine to the initial tug of broad tires biting like pit bulls--remains an instantaneous suggestion to motor somewhere in a secure but horrendous hurry. Preferably beneath a helmet.
Ferrari's 348ts and 348tb (for \o7 transversale spyder\f7 , or targa, and \o7 transversale berlinetta\f7 , or coupe) replace the enormously successful 308/328 series.
They were handsome, powerful, fast and desirable. Yet not an impossible act to follow. Ferrari simply has crafted a successor that is better looking, stronger, faster and thoroughly irresistible.
Styling, naturally, is by Pininfarina and sculptured heavily from aluminum and composites. It is a grand softening of the 308/328's swoopier lines and sharper edges, retaining enough of the old to satisfy those thinking of moving up, but adding touches of today for anyone intent on purchasing a milestone of the '90s.
The Testarossa's air intakes that feed left- and right-side radiators have been transferred to the 348. But they are smaller, aren't so obtrusive and are much less suggestive of cheese graters.
Like the ears and orthodontics of Britain's royal family, the sloped nose, chin dam and hunkered-down derivatives of all modern Ferraris are with the 348.
Yet there are distinctions. The 348 runs on 17-inch wheels (compared to 16-inchers on the 328) that fill the wells better than Schwarzenegger fills a work shirt.
The car is taller, wider and with a longer wheelbase than the 328. Overhangs are shorter, which further increases that crouch with the whole appearing blunter, more purposeful.
Incredibly, amid all these aesthetics, there are uglies.
The side air scoops are formed from composite panels screwed into the doors. The screw heads are Phillips, black, quite exposed and stick out like four zits on a bare shoulder.
The grille is also a yawning illusion, a dummy. It catches nothing but bugs and slow sparrows because the car's radiators are in its flanks where they breathe through the door intakes.