One owner and just 1,222km from new 2009 Ferrari California Coachwork by Pininfarina Chassis no. ZFFLJ65B000165925
"It's a stretch to see how the qualities of a convertible, a GT and a sports car could be combined better than this". Autocar, 16th October 2008.
The launch of the California was nothing less than a revolution for Ferrari. Indeed, such is the list of firsts it introduced that it could well go down in history as one of the most innovative Ferraris ever conceived. The first with a folding metal roof. The first to use direct fuel injection. The first with a double clutch gearbox. And the first car in Ferrari's 63-year history to site a V8 in front of, rather than behind, the passenger compartment.
And yet, when pictures of it were first published, the feeling was that the Pininfarina bodywork looked unresolved. Those initial concerns fell silent when the car was seen in the flesh for the first time at the Paris Motor Show in October 2008. As is often the case, it's a car that works better in reality than it does in pictures. The lines are tauter and more cohesive and the rear end is notably less bulky. A classic Ferrari? It remains to be seen if the new car will have the same long-lasting impact as those that went before...
As its name suggests the new California follows in the footsteps of the 250GT Spyder California, first launched in long wheelbase guise in 1957, then replaced by a short wheelbase version three years later. Safe to say the new car will sell in bigger numbers. All told, just 45 examples of the earlier car and 55 of the later one were produced.
So what of these technical innovations? The all aluminium engine has elements in common with the F430, but a marginally wider cylinder bore and shorter stroke drop the displacement from 4,308cc to 4,297cc. Meanwhile the direct injection allows a rise in the compression ratio and also serves to clean up emissions, allowing the California to comply with Euro5 legislation. Tuned for torque instead of outright power, the 90 degree V8 delivers 453bhp at 7,750rpm and 358lb ft at 5,000rpm, 75 per cent of which is on tap from just 2,250rpm.
The engine soundtrack may lack the penetrating bark and yowl of the F430, but the note is still suitably strident in its upper reaches and few will complain about acceleration that can hurl the 1,735kg roadster to 60mph in under four seconds. The ability to do this stems largely from the seven-speed double clutch gearbox, which anticipates and preselects the next gear, so when you pull one of the column mounted paddles to change ratio, the shifts are instantaneous, with no interruption to the torque flow. Massive carbon ceramic brakes are fitted as standard, giving the spyder enormous stopping power.
But while the oily bits are all well and good, it's the retractable hard top that sets the California apart. Made almost entirely of aluminium, it opens (and closes) at the simple press of a button in a mere 14 seconds, working quietly and smoothly to show off the car's interior and the occupants of course.
Aside from the complex sat nav screen, the attractively laid out driving environment is refreshingly simple. There aren't too many buttons and the steering wheel mounted Manettino switch has only three positions. A low, snug driving position ensures driver comfort, but it's fair to say anyone sitting in the back won't be doing so comfortably unless they're under ten years old. The boot's big, though and the rear backrest folds so longer items such as skis can be stowed.
Build and material quality is first class, wind flow over the cabin is well managed so hair is subjected to no more than a light ruffling, and even when driving on bumpy roads there's precious little evidence of windscreen shake or structural shudder that would betray a lack of chassis stiffness.
So it's stiff, it's fast, it's got a blisteringly quick gearbox and a fine cabin, and yet the California is not a conventional Ferrari. Right from the word go it feels surprisingly comfortable on the road. It's a reminder that this isn't a snatchy, edgy supersports car, but a new type of Ferrari, one that aims to cosset as much as thrill.
Disappointing to drive, then? Not at all, just different. Keep your inputs smooth, develop a feel for what the car is telling you and you'll be able to make the most of the light, accurate steering and suspension that ably rounds the edges off sharp bumps. Better still, the chassis has a delightfully neutral balance, and the less aggressive set-up means you can approach the limits safe in the knowledge that the California isn't going to bite back.
This is a calmer Ferrari, one that has a more relaxed manner and actually relishes a spot of gentle loafing. It's a perfect car for a Sunday afternoon tootle or a roof-down cruise along the Cote d'Azur. The ability to combine those cool, calm and collected characteristics with a chassis that comes alive when you want it to, V8 howling, gearshifts snapping home and rear end squatting as it digs for traction out of corners, actually makes this a very special car.
The car for sale here has covered only 1,222 km since delivered new to Peter Baumberger in April of last year. It was to be his last Ferrari in a distinguished line stretching back to the 1960s and including 250GT 'Tour de France' and SWB berlinettas, three new 275GTB/4s for his Three Bears racing team, a new F40 and countless others. Peter even co-founded the Swiss Ferrari Owners Club. Unsurprisingly his California is in immaculate condition and further benefits from a classic colour scheme: Rosso Corsa paintwork and a beige leather interior with black carpets. It cost CHF.269,700 new plus options to the tune of a further CHF.6,120 to include front lighting system, Scuderia shields, red brake calipers and red rev counter. Standard equipment includes satellite navigation, Bluetooth, an iPod connector, voice control, electric seats, climate control and a 6.5 inch touchscreen control centre.
"Give it a chance, get some miles under your belt, and you'll find it strikes an effective balance between GT comfort and sports-car directness. Roused, the performance of its V8 is solid and energetic, and the refined twin-clutch gearbox manages it brilliantly. Push and you'll find a car that is friendly, poised and exploitable... you're never in doubt that you're driving a Ferrari. It's a credit to the team that created and developed it that the California manages to be GT and sports car in one, and in some style." Evo, August 2009.
The Baumberger collection California is offered with Swiss registration (cancelled) and a full complement of owners handbooks.