Once every decade or so, Ferrari comes out with a world-beating, benchmark-setting supercar that demonstrates the Italian company’s latest technology
Squashed into the seats like wet towels on spin cycle, we rocketed up the main straight of Ferrari's Fiorano test track in Maranello, Italy, in the new Enzo wondercar, the tach needle spinning like a propeller, our blinking test gear converting the g-forces into numbers that could splash across our cover big enough to read from across the street. We pulled into the pits, and the Ferrari engineers swooned. Swooned! Our acceleration times were the fastest ever recorded with an Enzo, just a few blinks off those of Schumacher's F1 car. Journalists from other magazines stood around gaping!
Actually, it didn't happen.
Our day at Fiorano last April went about as smoothly as election day in Haiti. Ferrari slashed the promised test time because the F1 team needed the track, and the only person allowed behind the Enzo's wheel was Ferrari's own test driver who, though fast, was unfamiliar with our procedures and our test gear, which, anyway, was periodically fritzing out. The test gear spit out a jumbled mess of numbers that had to be sorted back home.
The Ferrari brass felt so bad about it they tossed us the key to one to drive from Modena over the Alps to Germany, where we could collect performance numbers on the wide-open autobahn. For a week we compiled impressions of the Enzo in every sort of driving situation. We raped and pillaged Europe's fastest roads. We lived like rock stars!
Okay, that didn't happen, either.
See, Ferrari doesn't lend out Enzos for magazine tests. As with the F40 and F50, we had to track down an owner in the U.S., someone who would let us drive an Enzo around without putting it through the pricey punishment of actual testing. That's when something good really did happen. We met Bob Rapp.
Rapp is construction magnate William J. Pulte, southern gentleman Atticus Finch, and Santa Claus rolled into a firm handshake, a soft-spoken voice, silver hair, and a smiling, apple-cheeked face under an Augusta Masters cap. Rapp has a supersize heart, and it palpitates particularly for Ferraris. He's owned 23, including the flowing 512S in which Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, and Arturo Merzario finished third at the 1970 Daytona 24 Hours. Rapp vintage-raced it for 18 years. When Ferrari announced the Enzo, "the hype interested me," he confesses. "My ego is mainly in cars, and I wanted the first one-the one everyone wants to see."
So do a lot of other people with the cash to afford an Enzo, so Rapp submitted the requisite application to Ferrari and promptly sold his entire car collection. After some haggling and a few stressful cell-phone calls, his Enzo landed at Foreign Cars Italia in Greensboro, North Carolina, in March, painted in Ferrari "fly yellow" with caramel-colored seats and a set of fitted Ferrari luggage. Sure enough, everyone wanted to see it.
The Enzo's hype interested us, too, but getting our twitching mitts on one of the 399 copies Ferrari plans to sell worldwide, or the 80 coming to the U.S., seemed a daunting challenge. Recall that with the last Ferrari supersled, the 1995-97 F50, the factory, for reasons unknown, forbade owners from allowing journalists to test one. Ferrari could do that: The F50 was leased for two years to customers rather than sold outright. Also, the threat of denied perks, such as factory tours and first crack at future cars, was enough to elicit whimpers from even the most steel-spined business titans. We did manage to test an F50, but that's another story.
This time, Ferrari is exchanging greenbacks for the Enzo with no apparent strings attached. Ferrari would not actively help us find a car, but officials did promise not to interfere (and they did apologize graciously and profusely for that April day at Fiorano). Chicago-area Ferrari dealer Rick Mancuso made some calls and discovered a willing Rapp. "I like making people happy," Rapp explains with a shrug.
Also, Rapp, 77, and his son, Robert, actually drive the car. Hard. Within a month of delivery Rapp's Enzo showed 1200 miles on the odo, about half of which were accumulated on tracks. Rapp likes to believe his is the first customer-delivered Enzo in the world to burn through a set of $6000 carbon-ceramic brake pads and a $24,000 set of similarly constructed brake rotors. You just gotta love this guy.
Once in Greensboro, we giddily crooked a finger under the Enzo's hidden door latch and lifted the forward-hinged, upward-swinging panel. Inside, the charcoal-hued cave of bare carbon fiber is all business. Sparse rubber floormats are the only covering over the glistening cured-resin skin of the carbon-fiber tub. The taut, French-seamed leather upholsters only the front of the bare carbon-fiber buckets, and the dashboard, also carbon fiber, has the look of being only half-finished with fist-size gaps. You can see air-vent ducts snaking in the shadows and the various joints and splines of the steering column. With the Enzo, the engineering is purposefully laid bare for all to ogle.
The steering wheel is daunting to look at but a quick study. An LED strip on the upper rim counts the revs from 6000 to 8000 while buttons flanking the airbag control the turn signals, the antislip-system modes, and the digital display. The most vital buttons drop the transmission into reverse and activate the electric front-suspension lift, which raises the long nose by a critical 1.4 inches to clear curbs. Without it, the Enzo's 3.9-inch-high chin will bury itself in any object taller than a toadstool.