When Your Husband Wants a Ferrari
A personal story about scratching the midlife itch
It’s the same every year. I ask my husband, Steve, what he’d like for Christmas, and he says: “A Ferrari.”
We laugh and he gets a nice sweater.
Sometimes I wonder if his desire for the car stems from life dissatisfaction — the classic crisis that can lead to dubious decisions like running off with the nanny or buying a toupee. When I’ve asked Steve about this, he assures me that really, he just loves Ferraris. Specifically, he’d like an 8-cylinder 458 Italia, a sweet coupe that goes from zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds and has a top speed of 202 mph. Red, please.
Anyway, this past year, right after our annual “what do you want” routine, I happened to click on my weekly Travelzoo newsletter, and there it was — a picture of a shiny red Ferrari. You could sign up to drive it for $149.
Maybe, I thought, this would scratch the car itch and Steve could move on to other dreams, like a helicopter flight over New York City or the Grand Canyon, or maybe testing a jetpack off a Hawaiian beach.
What You Get
As I discovered, loads of people have done these thrill drives. But others, including many friends who pumped us for information when we got back, would like to. I never knew so many carry a flame for fast cars. So here’s the lowdown:
What I actually enrolled us for was not a few spins around a racetrack. It was three laps on an autocross track, an oval set up with cones, like a car agility course. Ours was in the parking lot of a big convention center in Schaumburg, Ill., outside of Chicago. If that sounds unglamorous, I can assure you, you're right. It didn't gel with my idea of luxury.
Several outfits set up similar courses across the country throughout the year, including Imagine Lifestyles, Extreme Experience, Exotic Driving and Rush 49. Discounters like Groupon seem to always have autocross packages, and you can find NASCAR racetrack experiences, too. You can opt to drive with a professional driver seated next to you, or you can ride along and let the pro take the wheel. Costs range from $99 to $350. The fine print asks you to buy insurance, in case you ding the car, and this can run $100 or more. And if you want to buy a picture of yourself taken as you zip around, or have a GoPro camera hooked to your helmet to film what you’re seeing, it also costs about an extra $75. You pick the location, day and time when you sign up. We went in June.
Before heading to the track, we read reviews online and learned that if you show up early, you can avoid lines that build throughout the day. We went early, with my 18-year-old son, another car enthusiast. Though you have to be 21 to drive, he could do a ride-along.
The line to drive the Ferrari was 20 deep. But at the sign-in desk, we were told the one for Lamborghinis, or “Lambos” for short, was quick. On impulse, I signed up for a ride-along, too.
Hugging The Curves
Within 10 minutes, I had on a big helmet and was seated next to a driver who assured me he’d been a pro for years. As he revved the engine, I looked for places to brace, grabbing the door handle. Once we sprinted off, my knees flailed out and I couldn’t really talk. “You OK?” my driver shouted as he slowed for our first curve. I nodded. I wasn’t scared. More like a little stunned.
The drive went like this: fast acceleration, slight slowdown, curve. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I felt very short in the low seat. And around the middle of lap two, I realized I also felt carsick. From that point on, all I could think was: “Don’t get sick in the Lambo….” I did not. But it took quite awhile after the ride for the queasiness to wear off.
My son was up next. He had opted to wear the GoPro to film his ride. After his three laps, he was elated. He said he looked at the speedometer when it hit 80 on a straightaway — autocross isn’t so much about hitting 100 mph or more, but the quick acceleration rate. Perfect for a kid who has always loved thrill rides. It turned out the operators had forgotten to turn on the GoPro, however. So they told my son to go around again for three more laps. He was thrilled to do so.
Waiting For Ferrari
All this time, Steve was still in the Ferrari line. He waited nearly two hours. Then there he was, at the wheel. It wasn’t quite his fantasy car. This was an F-430 Spider (a convertible). But no matter. He said later he wished he had had more time to check out the interior and sink into the experience. Instead, once he strapped in, the pro who rode along told him to start.
There was no squealing of tires the first lap around. In fact, it didn’t look all that fast. But by lap two, confidence building, Steve went faster, and by lap three, we heard the classic sound of rubber meeting road. When he got out of the car, Steve was beaming.
I could be wrong, but I think he liked driving the car better than he likes his annual sweater gift.
The experience, though, has not seemed to satisfy his yearning. In fact, he may want a high-end car more now than he did before. He’s got a piggy bank going, and I caught him online checking out cars the other day.
“How much is that one?” I asked.
“It’s used, for $89,000,” he said.
With what he’s got in his Ferrari fund right now, he’ll only have to save for 80 more years.
Hmmm…. Maybe this year for Christmas I could send him to Ferrari camp in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Expensive, but still less than owning.