Magazine article Management Today

Motor Mouth Untamable Beast

Magazine article Management Today

Motor Mouth Untamable Beast

Article excerpt

This is possibly the first time in the history of journalism that Robert Maxwell has been mentioned in the same sentence as Ferrari. The Ruthenian swindler, one of industrialised capitalism's nastiest products, may sit uneasily with the Emiglian sports car, one of its finest, but after a few days with the latest Ferrari 360 Modena I was irresistibly reminded of what Mrs Maxwell said of her late husband after he went facedown in the sea. She quoted Henry de Montherlant: Tu m'as rendue fades touts les hommes et mediocres touts les destins' ('You have made all other men insipid and all other destinies shabby').

The Ferrari is much the same, except with cars. Even for the experienced, it has a sort of oh-my-God quality lacking in, say, a Peugeot. I have driven a McLaren Fl with my foot against the floorboards and once destroyed a Dodge Viper on the way to lunch in Sloane Square but, before driving the 360, I felt I needed to walk around it a few times, kicking the tyres and looking for leaks and anomalies, getting the feel of it, the way airline captains are said to do. This primitive familiarisation process complete, I satin the driver's seat for 10 minutes just looking and checking and boggling before I dared start the engine.

In all fundamental respects the Ferrari 360 is straightforward. It has a steering wheel, a brake pedal, a clutch and an accelerator. A wand operates the indicators. Just like a normal car, to start the engine you need only to turn a key, but that's when the ordinariness ends.

At first there's a subdued mechanical clatter, as though someone is carefully, but quickly, emptying a tool-bag into a mountain of insulation and then, really rather suddenly, all the isolated components of valves, pistons, springs, con-rods, bearings, gears and cams, which were hitherto acoustically separate, get their act together and rise up in a ferocious, penetrating, synchronised, feral, exhilarating and almost painful choral howl. If you have ever doubted that machines have life, blip the throttle on a Ferrari 360 and become a true believer.

Truth be told, the Ferrari 360 is a nightmare to drive. It is uncomfortably wide, rear vision so compromised you might as well be wearing blinkers, and the ride, even on the adjustable 'comfort' setting, is like being dragged across ribbed concrete in a wheely bin. …

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