Ferrari California: Generation Game

With the introduction of the new Portofino - a car we'll talk about at length next week - Ferrari has opted to retire the California name that distinguished the firm's convertible grand tourer for the past decade. The 2+2 model was something of a departure for Maranello in 2008: its rear seats, folding metal roof and front-mounted V8 were intended to deliver the versatility that might attract new customers to the brand, with a lower price point sealing the deal.

There are currently 122 for sale in the classifieds; in chronological order, we walk you through the second-hand possibilities - just in case the Β£166,180 starting price for a 2018 Portofino seems a little steep...

Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder - Β£1,260,000
Well, so much for second-hand savings. But to tell the California's story, it's necessary to tip the hat at its heritage. The model name harks back to what is (handily) one of Ferrari's most sought after cars: the 250 GT California Spyder. Of course, at the time (i.e. the late 50s) the badging was a fairly transparent marketing ploy designed to help shift the new open-top GT in America. The fact that it ended up being plastered to one of the most evocative - and rare - models that Maranello ever made has meant that history has treated it rather kindly. It's strictly a movie star and magnate car, meaning that there isn't even a factory-built version (short or long-wheelbase) on PH, but rather this spectacularly pretty 1962 example which was converted from a GT/E by a Modena coachbuilder in the 80s. Yours for Β£1.26m.

2009 Ferrari California - Β£74,950
Production of the modern California kicked off in 2008. Among many novelties was the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox which was set to become a Ferrari mainstay. The transmission was an immediate hit: despite being offered with a six-speed manual, just three cars globally were ordered with a third pedal (including one in the UK, obviously). Maranello built a new production line to manufacture the new model, although its engine was familiar, being a wet-sump, 4.3-litre derivative of the same naturally-aspirated V8 that powered the F430. The earliest versions of the car - not unexpectedly - are among the most affordable modern Ferraris: the cheapest we found, in Tour de France blue and with 37k on the clock, is available for a smidge less than Β£75k - significantly less than half the price of its eventual follow-up.

2012 Ferrari California 30 - Β£102,989
The comparatively lower price of older Californias is partly driven by the greater appeal of what immediately followed it. The facelifted car, introduced in 2012, was both 30kg lighter and 30hp more powerful - hence the name. The far-reaching updates were chiefly driven by customer feedback which identified cleaner poise and a little more outright speed as desirable upgrades even in a four-seater. The resulting dynamic improvements - particularly a reduction in body roll - helped make the California an easier car to drive, and a marginally quicker one, too. Consequently, you'll pay a little more for the privilege of ownership: the classifieds delivering this metallic Rosso Fiorano example, with contrasting tan leather and 17k, for Β£102,989.

2015 Ferrari California T - Β£129,850
The second major facelift of the California, introduced in 2014 and rolled out in 2015, swapped out the 490hp atmospheric V8 for a 560hp twin-turbocharged one. The power advantage though was less critical to Ferrari than the efficiency gains made by the switch to forced induction. CO2 was significantly reduced - and the availability of peak twist hugely increased, although Maranello instigated its now standard practice of restricting its delivery in lower gears to help preserve the high-revving character of the new 3.9-litre unit. The body was completely overhauled too and the chassis retuned; alterations which helped to make the T a more rounded car than the model it replaced. Combine that with its newer appeal, and the California's used values go up an additional Β£30k, a 2015 example with 12k and two previous owners costing Β£129,850.

2016 Ferrari Callifornia T HS Pack - Β£159,995
The most recent versions of the outgoing T - many with trifling mileage - are inevitably knocking on the door of the new Portofino's starting price. Among the available choices, it's worth seeking out those equipped with the Handling Speciale pack, a cost option which added firmer springs, retuned magnetorheological dampers, a sports exhaust and a tweaked F1-Trac stability control system. While the car produced no more power, its sharper chassis and quicker shifting gearbox (thanks to a software mod) made it seem faster - with only a mild reduction in rolling refinement. Broadly speaking, it is the HS version that the Portofino has to beat - not least because you can have one right now. The 2016 example we found, with just 3k completed and plenty of options, is typical of the breed at Β£159,995.

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Comments (47) Join the discussion on the forum

  • DegsyE39 09 Feb 2018

    Fugly for a ferrari IMHO redface

  • dunnoreally 09 Feb 2018

    They call it the California but, in 15 years, I'd expect values to be a bit more, well, Mondial.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they're absolutely lovely in their own right, as well they should be for the price, but they never seemed fire the collective imagination quite like the 458 or 599 did.

  • RamboLambo 09 Feb 2018

    Never a classic. Good all rounder 2 + 2 but hardly a SUPERcar

  • herebebeasties 09 Feb 2018

    Every time I've seen one of these in the metal my overriding impression has been one of bulk and slight dumpiness. They're just a bit lacking in class, somehow. The stacked exhaust pipes definitely did the original examples no favours. Too much chintz and bling and not enough elegance. I've always fancied a 599 but never one of these.

  • MikeGalos 10 Feb 2018

    I had the chance to test drive a California T at a Ferrari event a few years ago. Frankly, it felt, at best, ordinary. But I drive a Lotus Elise as a daily driver so I guess after that everything feels like a 20 year old minivan. (Plus, whoever thought up putting the turn signals on the steering wheel should be banned from ever being allowed to design anything more critical than a bottle opener)

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