10 October 2011

The Andorra Ferrari Convention

At one time - before I could actually drive a car - I could have told you the exact horsepower output, zero-to-sixty times, top speed and general desirability of every Ferrari in production. Nowadays, I don't even know the names of the different models. It was thus only mildly exciting when the 5th annual "concentración Ferrari" arrived in Andorra, and the streets and valleys began to vibrate and thrum under the onslaught of pistons and tailpipes.
There's a nostalgic charm about the way people worship the cult of the supercar. It's reminiscent, in some ways, of antique modes of aristocracy - a car is deemed superior by birth rite, mumbled approval is given as it passes, heads are turned. They are given free reign and police escorts as they rumble along closed roads, speeding expected, laws not applicable. We stood at a bus stop with our cameras one morning, watching as a long procession screamed along the main Andorran road, dozens of (mostly) red, sleek things traveling at high speed and full clamor. It seems impossible, but we could actually feel the heat of the engines as they whizzed past. Mystifying and slightly gross.
Really, this is the culture of car longing. Ferrari has retail stores all across the globe, selling branded polo shirts and sneakers, pens and luggage, watches and cufflinks. The allure of the car is the marketing ploy; the red glow extends eventually to knickknacks. Although the concentración probably boosted sales, the Ferrari store in Andorra is almost always busy. The owners of the cars wore special red and yellow fleeces, given to them by the event organizers, unavailable to the public, the distinguishing marks of the elite.
It must be a strange convention to attend, a kind of fellowship of the envied and the gas-guzzlers. One wonders if there is jealousy within their ranks, if the older owners look down on the recent-purchasers, if they talk about their Ferraris or about Andorra or about something less mythical.
The convention ended on Sunday, but a few stragglers have still been growling around the mountains. Parked, they draw perhaps even more attention than they do when driven. Maybe that's because empty seats are easier to imagine sitting in, or because they are suddenly, curiously inanimate. Admittedly - even now that my lust for them has dissipated with age - a revving, moving, exhaust-scented Ferrari is still captivating in a way that few other vehicles are. At rest, though, there's something hair-raising about their stillness, as though they might suddenly awaken of their own accord and pounce.
A less publicized and more romantic (for us) convention of Volkswagen bugs and vans was held in Andorra on the same weekend. We joked that it was organized to protest the Ferraris - a populist uprising, maybe - and that Andorra was much too small for all of this driving. It doesn't take long to traverse the main road and suddenly come up against a border. Why hold a car "concentración" in such a small, congested place? Possibly - and this is especially pertinent for Ferrari drivers - because gas is about €1.50 per gallon cheaper in Andorra than it is in France.

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