Ferrari: The Pinnacle Of Italian Style

The story was originally broadcast on May 20, 2007.
Since the first one was built 60 years ago, Ferrari has defined Italian style, reports CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey. Ferraris have also been called the ultimate status symbol, a rich man's toy, an answer to a mid-life crisis, a proof of more money than brains — and the finest cars in the world.

Depending on whether one is speaking out of envy, disdain or admiration, a Ferrari is all of those and more, according to product development manager Massimo Fumarola.

"You don't have actually any need to buy a Ferrari," Fumarola says. "It's not a product that brings you from A to B. You can do it more efficiently with any other car. It's much more about a self-realization — a dream.

And like all dreams, a Ferrari takes a while to come true. The assembly line produces a mere 27 cars a day — a little over five thousand a year. Every one is unique with the exception of the engine.

They are handcrafted under hospital-like hygienic conditions, but no matter how rich you are, there are no optional extras available.

"If a customer is looking for more horsepower, we always say no," Fumarola says. "Apart from that, we can really match any kind of expectation from our customers."

One of those expectations is color. From Formula One racecars to sleek street models, Ferrari is a synonym for red. But in fact there are three shades of "Ferrari Red": the brilliant racing one, a slightly less bright more common to street models, and a deeper hue for the luxury end of the spectrum.

But you can order almost any color imaginable. One customer wanted a paint job to match his wife's eyes — obviously a man who knew how to have an expensive toy and a peaceful life.

Most style choices center around interior trim, including any color leather and stitching combination, up to a point.

"We have a certain degree of freedom in saying we cannot do that because we believe it is not respecting the pure Ferrari values," Fumarola says. "We try to talk to the customer and we always try to offer them something different."

Another Ferrari cachet is the tie-in with Formula One racing. The museum includes cars driven by world champions. In fact, Ferrari's founder built his first car for the track. The commercial business was just a way to get money for racing.

Enzo Ferrari famously lamented that people bought his cars as much for prestige as performance. There's no doubt that vanity plays its part, but get behind the wheel of one, and you'll understand that Ferrari also means passion — and never mind the color.

Knut Markmann chose silver so that his car would stand out from the others.

"Ferrari: it's life," Markmann says. "It's not only a car."

Ricardo Salinas from Miami owns a 2002 Ferrari Modena.

"Why did I buy it? It's the most outrageous car in the world," Markmann says.

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.