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2009 Ferrari California - So Swell, California

One of the worst-kept secrets in the auto industry - Ferrari's new baby grand tourer - has been the subject of intense speculation throughout its gestation, even as Maranello steadfastly denied its existence. Now, the birth announcement has been made. The car is named California, and the proud parent's pictures show a front-engine, two-plus-two convertible GT. The public will be able to get a look at the latest addition to the Ferrari family in October, at the Paris auto show.

The California is powered by a 4.3-liter V-8, making it the first front-engine Ferrari road car to use a V-8 rather than a V-12. The engine breaks new ground for Ferrari by using direct injection. It boasts 454 hp at an appropriately exotic 7500 rpm and is mated exclusively with Ferrari's first dual-clutch automatic, a seven-speed. Ferrari claims that the combo will zip the California from 0 to 62 mph in less than 4.0 seconds. Backing up that performance are carbon-ceramic disc brakes (which are now standard on all Ferraris) and a chassis that features a new multilink rear suspension.

Fittingly, given its name, the California will be offered only in open-topped form, with a retractable metal hard top. Although pricing hasn't yet been announced, we can provide some insight as to the California's place within the Ferrari family. The company repeatedly denied that the new car would be an "entry-level" Ferrari, and in fact, when it arrives at dealers early next year, the California is expected to cost more than the F430 - today's least expensive Ferrari at $191,775 - and will supplant the 612 Scaglietti. But, when the F430's replacement arrives in 2010, that car will slot above the California in price, so at that point, the California effectively will become the entry-level model. Of course, that level of entry will be higher than it is today.

Ferrari's Previous Trips to the Golden State

250GT California Spider, 1957-1962These Pininfarina-styled and Scaglietti-bodied roadsters were designed specifically for the American market at the behest of Ferrari's U.S. importer, Luigi Chinetti. The cars used a 3.0-liter 60-degree V-12 with output ranging from 240 hp to 280 hp. Minor design changes were introduced over the model's lifetime; one major change was the introduction of a 7.9-inch-shorter wheelbase in 1960. The 250GT California is one of the most desirable Ferraris of all time, with a 1961 250GT SWB California Spider recently selling at auction for €7.0 million ($11.0 million), a new record.

365 California Spider, 1966-1967One of the rarest of the rare, only fourteen of these big, twelve-cylinder convertibles were produced, handbuilt by Pininfarina beginning in 1966. Their long, low bodies were placed atop the 104.3-inch-wheelbase chassis of the 330GT two-plus-two coupe. The 4.4-liter SOHC V-12, which was fitted with three Weber carburetors and dry-sump lubrication, made 320 hp and gave the car a top speed of 152 mph.