Ferrari Fun in Priddis, AB

Richard White, July 21, 2014 

My California T (Cali T, to those in the know) almost didn’t happen.  Brenda brought in our mail and seeing the invitation from Ferrari of Alberta and knowing I am not a big car guy, threw it in the paper-recycling bin (in her defense, I am not a big car guy). A few days later she happened to ask, “do you know why you got an invitation to a Ferrari event?” I didn’t have a clue, but the idea of Ferrari event captured my interest so she retrieved it from the big blue bin. Turns out it was an invitation to test-drive their new redesigned California T at the tony Azuridge Estate Hotel in Priddis.  Too tempting to pass up!

Though I had no idea what a California T was, I thought this could be a fun experience.  As an opportunist, I am always looking for new experience so I signed up. By chance, later that week, while having lunch at Da Guido Ristorante, who do I meet but Carlo Galasso the owner of the Ferrari of Alberta dealership.    When I told him I had signed up for a test drive but was questioning if I should go as I am definitely not in the market for a new car let alone a new Ferrari, he convinced me to go, adding I wouldn’t be disappointed.

When I arrived they had two blue Cali Ts waiting for a test drive. Where was the red one?

Ferrari 101

I arrived early, wanting to check out the Azuridge Estate Hotel.  While waiting, I was introduced to Dante Luciani, Sales Manager for Ferrari of Alberta who was a wealth of knowledge.  Who knew there are 600 Ferrari owners in Alberta and that on a per capita basis, Calgary has the highest Ferrari ownership in Canada.  And, there are half a dozen owners in the city who buy a new Ferrari every year.  I also learned that Ferrari only makes 7,000 cars per year so it is not surprising the waiting list for a Ferrari in Calgary is currently 6 to 8 months.   Not to worry, while you are waiting for your new toy, you can get a pre-owned vehicle - probably one of the vehicles owned by the six guys buying a new one every year. 

He gave me the lowdown on the Cali T (as he called it); the most memorable thing I learned was the car can do 300km/hr.  He also informed me the car has 7 gears, which has more to do with reducing emission controls than performance. The Cali T starts at $239K with no ceiling - there is a tailor made program that allows you and your local dealer to go to the factory in Maranello, Italy to custom design your car.  He told me Ferrari owners have exotic tastes, incorporating things like python leather seats and teak wood into their custom cars.  

I found the red one and jumped in? I think Cali and I make an attractive couple?

The Test

Finally, it came time to get in the car for the test drive with a professional driver in the passenger seat. I jumped in and was immediately confused. Where are the clutch and the stick?  I was quickly informed it was an automatic with paddles.   In fact, you can’t even get a traditional manual transmission.  This just didn’t seem right. One of the great things about driving a sports car is that you get to control the engine, not just steer the car.  You get to feel the power.  This was not a good start for me – damn those computers.

However, when I turned on the engine, the roar didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, I couldn’t peel out of the driveway, as the Azure hotel is located at the end of a gravel road so we had to wait until we got to pavement to let ‘er rip. 

The paddles worked better than I thought, but I really would rather have a clutch and stick, somehow it seems more manly.  And, yes I did managed to get a little tire squeal pulling out onto Highway 22.  Fortunately, there was not much traffic so I was able to test the 300km/hr limit passing another vehicle (later I was told when behind another Sunday afternoon driver getting ready to put the pedal to the metal that I shouldn’t pass; I think I caught the professional driver off guard when I just took off – oops). Though I didn’t get it all the way to 300km/hr, I have no doubt it could do 300km/hr with no problem. 

But seriously, test driving Cali T was a great (but too short) experience. I couldn’t believe how comfortable the ride was – you could definitely take this car on a long road trip.  There certainly was no comparison to my Mustang GT or my brother-in-law’s Mustang Cobra. 

Cali would be very comfortable to drive in the city too – no worries about bottoming out or constant gear change, just pure driving joy.  The seats and ride were as comfortable as any car I have ever ridden in.

Facing Reality

Though not a big car guy, there must be something in a guy’s DNA that makes him love the power of a sports car.   I am already thinking maybe if I buy a lottery ticket every week, I just might get lucky one week and win enough to buy my own Cali T.  Or maybe now that I am on Ferrari of Alberta’s invitation list, I might get another invite. 

Buying an expensive car must be like buying an expensive artwork or bottle of wine – you really have to appreciate what you are buying.  As a modest art collector, I have often wondered what it would be like owning a really expensive piece of art; now I am also wondering what it would be like to own a great sports car.

Time to return to reality. I got back into my 2010 Nissan Altima S (“S” for slow) and quietly rode back to the city.  I was missing Cali T already.

Engine as sculpture?

I think I have seen something like this in an art gallery before.

I wonder what just the engine would cost?

I wonder what just the engine would cost?

After the test drive I was presented with this lithography of Cali...it is probably the only Cali I will ever own :(

PS  Yes, there is room for two sets of clubs in the trunk if you put the back seats down.

PPS Thank you Ferrari of Alberta for a fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

PPPS Brenda promised never to again toss out anything from Ferrari of Alberta again.

The Azuridge Estate Hotel is a hidden gem in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  It would make for a great quickie get-away

Reader Comments:

I am always amazed at some of the comments I get from my blogs and how people relate them to other events.

DF writes: Sounds like that was a lot of fun. I’m on a waiting list for one, too – I’m waiting for the Bank of Canada to fall from the sky so I can pay for one.

 I wonder what owning one would really be like, though. Years ago, I read the memoirs of Mike McGear, Paul McCartney’s brother, about the time Mike took a drive during the ‘60s of one of George Harrison’s European sports cars.

 A quick “vroomska,” as Mike put it, and he was suddenly rocketing down the road at more than 100 mph, having barely shifted. Mike parked the car on the side of the road, turned off the ignition and walked back to Harrison’s house.

 Shortly thereafter, socialite Tara Browne, an heir to the Guinness brewing fortune, smashed into the back of a parked lorry in London while driving a Lotus Elan sports car, killing himself (apparently, he was going 170 kmh, or 106 mph). He only had a few months to go before he came of age and could inherit millions of pounds, back when a pound was really worth something.

The accident inspired John Lennon to write A Day in the Life after reading a newspaper that contained a story about a coroner’s verdict on Tara –  and also an article about the infamous holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, that were so many, they could fill the Albert Hall.

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