Milton Chu was driving to the grocery store when his passenger asked him, “Doesn’t that noise bother you?” “What noise?” he said, listening for a rattle or knock he hadn’t noticed before.
“The engine. It’s so loud.”
Chu was accustomed to the stirring V-8 aria because the Ferrari California was his daily driver. By the time he traded it in, he’d accumulated 77,000 miles over four years. His new—and only—car is another Ferrari, this one a menacing black-on-black 458 Italia Spider that he uses for everything from his weekday work commute to weekend trips to the hardware store.
Milton Chu loads groceries into his Ferrari’s frunk before heading to In-N-Out Burger for a Double-Double.
“I understand why some people don’t drive their Ferraris—because they feel that they’re preserving something that’s almost perfect,” he says. “But for me, that’s not as much of a priority as driving the car. I want to experience the engine, the acceleration, the handling. I don’t believe in reincarnation. I’m only going to live once. I paid for the car, so I might as well use it.”
Chu, a 53-year-old ophthalmologist, is one of the rare and enlightened enthusiasts who drive their exotic cars on a daily basis rather than sequestering them in climate-controlled garages like museum-quality treasures that can be exposed to the elements on only the most exceptional occasions. Ferrari owners are a case in point. The company’s most recent survey found that American owners of the FF—the four-seater that comes closest to being a family car—averaged about 3,000 miles a year, while sportier Ferraris were driven even less frequently.
It’s true that Ferraris from the early days of the electronics era are ticking time bombs. But the factory now offers a competitive warranty—three years bumper to bumper with unlimited mileage—and seven years of free maintenance on new cars. These days, frankly, just about any car from any manufacturer can be ridden hard and put away wet.
“I don’t believe in reincarnation. I’m only going to live once. I paid for the car, so I might as well use it.”
Ray McKewon, for example, has put nearly 100,000 miles on his Maserati GranTurismo. A 66-year-old guitarist and music producer, he treats the car like a garage band’s Ford Econoline. “It can hold two electric guitars, a guitar amp, a music stand, a guitar stand, and all my foot pedals,” he says. “I don’t regret a single penny I’ve spent on it. If you’re going to buy a Maserati, drive it. If you want something to stare at, buy a painting.”
Malcolm Barksdale shares McKewon’s attitude. “Contemporary cars aren’t going to go up in value,” he explains. “So why buy a car and not drive it?” The 72-year-old architect owns a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. He bought it with 507 miles on the clock, leading him to believe that the original owner bought it in San Diego, drove it to San Francisco, and dumped it in a hangar. Barksdale, by contrast, drives it to work every morning and is happy to park it on the street. As he says, “It’s just a car.”
Man’s best friend:
With the last name “Barksdale,” Malcolm Barksdale is sort of required to own a dog. What did the Ferrari owner name his furry friend? Dino, of course.
Barksdale cycled through a series of quirky sports cars before spending half a year’s salary to buy his first Ferrari—a used 308 GT4 2+2—and using it as his everyday ride. (He also did his own service and changed the clutch in the garage of his condo.) “I put 40,000 miles on it and sold it for what I paid for it,” he says. Over the years, he’s logged thousands of miles in Ferraris, including a 365 GTC, a pair of 456s, a Daytona, and even a 275 GTB, often taking his big dogs along for the ride. His collection also includes several lovely non-Ferraris. “I didn’t buy any of them to be collectible,” he says. “I bought them because I loved them.”
David Lee, on the other hand, is a car collector par excellence. The 45-year-old owner of high-end watch and jewelry stores worked his way through a long roster of exotic cars before settling on an impeccably curated squadron of Ferraris—a 1967 330 GTS, a 1968 275 GTB, a 1985 288 GTO, a 1986 288 GTO Evoluzione race car, an 1990 F40, a 1995 F50, a 2003 Enzo, a 2014 FF, and his most recent purchase, a 1964 250 GT Lusso bought for $2.31 million.
But the sweetest thing about Lee’s stable is that he exercises his prancing horses on a regular basis. Each night, he looks at his schedule and chooses a Ferrari to fit his mood and upcoming agenda. “Yesterday,” he says, “I drove the 330 GTS because it wasn’t too hot. The other day, I chose the 275 GTB because I was driving around a neighborhood with a lot of old houses, and it fit right in.”
In his younger days, Lee owned several lesser Ferraris and a trio of supercars he hardly used. “I was so afraid of putting miles on them and taking a big hit when I resold them,” he says. “But when I look back, I regret not driving them more. Yeah, I would have lost a little money, but I would have enjoyed the cars a lot more.”
David Lee has this dilemma: Which Ferrari should I drive? Answer: A homologation- special 288 GTO.
Nobody’s gotten more of his money’s worth out of his car than Jack Riddell. In 1972, while he was in the middle of a 22-year stint in the Navy, he scraped together $6,250 to buy a used 1967 Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2. For the next three decades, he drove the Lambo from his home to various naval bases and, after leaving the Navy, to his job as a senior lead technical writer. “It’s a great car to drive,” he explains. “It’s a GT, a Grand Tourer. When you get it up to cruising speed, it’s fast, it’s comfortable, and you can’t beat the V-12 sound.”
Who needs AAA?
Jack Riddell’s 400 GT is going strong but has had its moments, like when it started spitting oil and coolant on a California highway.
Riddell is 76 and retired now, but his 400 GT is still going strong. The odometer in his bright red car—which he painted himself, in his garage—shows nearly 270,000 miles, with a bunch of them added this past summer on a foray to Pebble Beach. Unfortunately, the car was sidelined near Santa Barbara by an oil leak through the front pulley seal. But he managed a DIY fix and drove it home to suburban San Diego.
“At this point,” Riddell says, “the car is like an appendage, an extension of my body. There’s not a piece on it that I haven’t touched except for the differential. I know every nook and cranny, so I’m comfortable with everything that could go wrong.”