Auto Italia 2017 ignites a passion for Ferrari

Champagne corks have been popping for Ferrari in 2017, and not just because the brand is gearing up to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

In February the Italian supercar maker won the prestigious Bathurst 12 Hour, backed up at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix a month later with a popular victory on the world's biggest motorsport stage.

And last weekend things were more local with the annual Auto Italia event in Canberra coaxing some 100 Ferraris out of garages for what is claimed to be the southern hemisphere's biggest collection of Italian machinery.

Beyond Ferrari

Ferrari was the centrepiece of Auto Italia. However, for the first year it wasn't the most popular brand on display in sheer numbers. "We've got nearly 200 Alfa Romeos this year," says event organiser Tony Hanrahan. "This is the first year Ferrari haven't been our biggest class of cars."

It's come a long way since the first gathering in 1984 that eventually grew into Auto Italia. That 'event' involved a barbeque with three Alfa Romeos and one Fiat.

Hanrahan says the non-profit event has grown to the point where there are now some 500 cars and more than 150 bikes.

What's the appeal of Italian machinery?

"I put it down to three esses: style, speed and sound," says Hanrahan. "They're different to any German car, they're different to any French car … they're almost artwork on wheels."

Join the queue

Part of the mystique of Ferrari is that they're not that easy to get, and we're not only talking about the price.

Ferrari has always aimed to produce at least one fewer car than the market demands. Within weeks of being unveiled earlier this year the 812 Superfast was effectively sold out for Australia.

"Already it's the most successful V12 ever from Ferrari in terms of local orders," says Ferrari Australasia president and CEO Herbert Appleroth.

"The popularity has been so much that it's whether we'll be able to actually get them a car," says Appleroth, who acknowledges wait times are now too long.

"We're doing our best to get more production to ease demand … we're doing everything we can to reduce it to one year."

Seeing red

One glance at the 86-strong Ferrari contingent at Auto Italia is enough to ram home the preferred colour: red.

There were smatterings of white and yellow, but red made up the vast majority of cars on display.

According to Appleroth, 40 per cent of Ferraris sold here are red. But he says yellow was the original colour of the brand, something that changed when the race cars – F1 is Ferrari's prime marketing tool – were emblazoned scarlet.

"Red is dominant, because that's our historic colour but we're starting to see more and more different colours," says Appleroth.

The new hues

Many of those new colours are more subtle, such as blacks, blues and greys.

"There's so many new-to-Ferrari people coming to join our family; they're usually coming from the top-end German marques, which traditionally, of course, are not reds."

As for yellow, Appleroth says it's probably less than 1 per cent of Ferraris sold in Australia, something he would like to see change.

"Yellow is a stunning colour [on a Ferrari]."

Not all rich

With 1200 members the Ferrari club of Australia estimates there are "a bit over 4000" Ferraris in the country, according to president Michael Rensch.

Not all Ferrari owners are ultra wealthy, according to Rensch, who owns four Ferraris, two German SUVs, a Subaru WRX STI, a Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo and a Peter Brock Commodore.

"A lot of our members aren't rich in the sense that they've made some sacrifices to own a Ferrari," he says. "The perception that everybody is super wealthy is not right."

But Ferrari owners tend to be passionate.

"A lot of people who buy Ferraris are enthusiasts and they want to connect with other enthusiasts," says Rensch. "It's a very active club."

Auto Italia was an indication of the passion towards the brand.

Kids pointing, parents taking pictures and people keen to take a closer look at the cars that turn so many heads and make so much noise.