Few motoring experiences can compare to the exhilaration of driving a convertible sports car. The open road before you, the wind invigorating you from all angles as the engine roars to peak revs and you dive into the apex, full grin blazing, hair flying, bugs spattering the windshield, as crisp autumn leaves dance behind you in the setting sun. The lore of the open road dates back to tribal times when mankind first tamed horses, daring to ride on their backs. With command over such power, sitting upright, overlooking the massive shoulders and neck of these majestic animals, we fell forever in love with speed, power, and control.
The earliest automobiles were constructed as open vehicles. Much like wagons drawn by horses, even more expensive automobiles offered open air touring with little regard for the elements. Over time, as body and carriage construction improved, the enclosed car became the preferred mode of transport. But the open roadster, convertible, skiff, or barchetta continued to be a highly desirable mode of transport.
Today, the convertible has evolved into a remarkably refined version of the closed coupe form. Many cars feature retractable hardtop designs which allow for open air motoring without compromising rigid roof construction. And while modern cars have employed this feature, none is more successful, and dare I say affordable, than the Ferrari California; the most powerful convertible Ferrari, available at a fraction of the cost of just about any other Ferrari convertible on the market today. It’s so good, it may even be the best Ferrari convertible ever made.
Introduced at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, the Ferrari California was a huge risk for Ferrari. Although the sports car market was strong, Ferrari needed a fresh, affordable package that would lure in new customers. The all-new, front-mounted V8 powered platform was compact, reliable, and capable of delivering nearly 450-hp, which resulted in jaw-dropping 0-60 times of 4.0 seconds and a 193 mph top speed. The Pininfarina design, executed by Ferrari Enzo designer Ken Okuyama, combined F1 derived aerodynamic design with handsome heritage architecture beautifully formed into a superbly constructed sports car. The most dramatic design element was the disappearing metal roof. With the touch of a button, the folding top transformed from a fixed roof design to a fully open road car. When first released, the California received rave reviews from many automotive journalists, but caused a stir with a large group of Ferrari owners who dismissed it as bloated, boorish, and a bit of a sellout to the larger market. Over the years, as production ceded to the new and more costly Portofino, the California has become one of the best values for anyone seeking a refined convertible Ferrari they can drive and enjoy almost as a daily driver.
Unless you are a multi-millionaire, there are really no 1950s or 1960s Ferrari convertibles that you can possibly enjoy for a reasonable portion of your hard-earned money. A vast majority of open vintage Ferraris are deep six figures with some of the most desirable V12 models seven figures. The namesake to the Ferrari California is the 250GT, having been launched into cult status in the memorable film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, these rare cars can approach eight figures. So, none of these iconic Ferraris really fit the budgets of most people. Ferraris from the 1970s includes both the 246 Dino GTS and later 308 GTS, but these are not truly convertibles despite their open-air, targa-roof charm.