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Michael Stahl on gathering a stable of prancing horses

By Michael Stahl, 26 Aug 2018 Opinion

Michael Stahl on gathering a stable of prancing horses

F Scott Fitzgerald wrote the words: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me…”

Fitzgerald got plenty of other things wrong, too, which I’ve been musing on since attending a Sydney Harbour cruise a couple of months ago for an exclusive group of luxury and supercar customers. And me.

I’ve found that when it comes to cars and most other topics besides, the very rich aren’t very different at all. Except that, as Ernest Hemingway later pointed out, “they have more money” – and they’re usually smarter than us in the way they spend it.

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One of the people I was chatting with on this cruise was Theo Onisforou, lawyer, property developer and former chief investment manager for Kerry Packer. He was telling me about how he’d not long ago decided to buy a Ferrari … but ended up buying four instead.

“I’ve had some financial success in my working life, and I decided I finally deserved a Ferrari,” Onisforou told me as the sun sank low over the harbour. He set himself a budget of around $700,000.
“I’m a shallow sort of guy; I wanted a car that was pleasing to my eye,” he said. “I like a car with plenty of ‘growl’, but I’m not a talented driver.

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“I wanted a Spider, because I like having the wind in my hair – and there’s no guarantee how long my hair will be around,” he joked. “The smaller and more kart-like the car, the better. And because I’m a control freak, I wanted a proper gearstick manual.”

So the checklist read: good-looking, Spider, stick-shift … and inevitably, an eye on the investment aspect. “My new-car options were, sadly, zero,” he said. “Ferrari doesn’t make a manual any more.”
Ahh, but they used to. He looked at the last such Spider model, the F430. And the earlier, game-changing F355 – produced in both a Spider and a GTS (with removable hardtop panel). It, of course, had replaced the 348, on which history has looked somewhat unkindly.

Onisforou faced “much anguish”, he said. He bought a yellow F355 Spider with 40,000km on the clock, for $145,000 – the very car that had been delivered new in 1995 to Sydney stockbroker (and a fellow Packer advisor), Rene Rivkin. “In my shallow opinion, [the F355 is] the most beautiful model.”

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He’d also looked at a mint-condition, silver F355 GTS, owned by a state Ferrari Club president. For another $155,000 – still less than half his original budget – Onisforou had both open-top F355 options.
So, y’know, who would then hold back on a black-over-red F430 Spider, just 30,000km old, at $248,000?

Like the other two, this car was Australian-delivered and, of course, a manual. But something still seemed to be missing… So he added a red 348 Spider, with just 19,000km, for $149,000.

For a total of $697,000, Onisforou had a quartet of gorgeous Ferraris that are, to him, more enjoyable to drive than the latest turbocharged crotch-rockets.

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“Interestingly, I can insure all four of them for less than the cost of insuring a new 488,” he said. “My three children and I can take one each when we go for drives in the country. And looking at the way Spiders are appreciating, I’m extremely confident that my four cars will add up to be worth substantially more than one 488 Spider.”

I’ve just spoken with him again, to tell him about this column. “I find myself addicted,” he said, confessing that he’s just added a 328.