Secondhand Gems: Lottery Win Cars

By Christopher Smith

July 19, 2011

It has been a long, brutal winter. Spring thus far hasn’t been much better, with most folks still dealing with cold, or wicked storms, or record flooding, or a combination of all three. This might be a good time to look at good secondhand off-roaders, machines that can chase storms and cross swollen rivers without giving up the fight. Or perhaps we should examine bulletproof German sedans, the ones with tank-like body structures and bank vault solidity that can weather winddriven debris while massaging your backside. And with fuel at an all-time high, this might be a good time to talk the finer points of good used hybrids.

To hell with all that. There’s enough strife in our lives already. We need some wicked fun, some excitement, some crazy ill-conceived fling that leads to awkward two a.m. phone calls asking for bail money.

We need supercars. Now. To help make our scenario live, consider this hypothetical-but-possible situation. You come home from a hard day of work to discover the multi-state lottery ticket in your pocket is a winner. Not just a winner, but the winner—making you the world’s latest multimillionaire many, many times over. Even after the taxes and lump sum pay-out, you figure there’s still plenty of cash left over for a positively epic supercar spending spree. Friends are called, alcohol starts flowing, and the next thing you know everyone is packed around your PC looking at Winding Road with one browser window and eBay Motors with the other, and you’re controlling the mouse. A saner person might exercise a bit of restraint at this point to consider the pros and cons of supercar ownership, like the insane maintenance costs and rigorous service schedules that normal car shoppers wouldn’t even remotely accept from major auto manufacturers, or fuel mileage ratings that make HumVee drivers look like eco-saviors. But you just won a bajillion dollars and all the car dealerships are closed until morning, and as your equally intoxicated cohorts are vehemently reminding you between shots of mezcal, you need a supercar. Now.

It could happen to you. So in preparation for that glorious day, let Winding Road’s years of exotic motoring experience and penchant for fabulously lavish eBay daydreams be your guide for this, your first ever driven-daily supercar purchase. The only things we’ll assume are that you have enough appreciation for the classics as to not rack up the mileage on something like a vintage Lamborghini Miura, and that you seek a machine with modern technology, or at the very least something with carpeting and a stereo, which rules out the Ferrari F40. We’ll also assume flamboyance is a big factor here, and while the Germans make some pretty awesome performance machines, it’s always Italian supercars sharing the headlines with rock stars when they crash into trees. That said, with near limit-less pockets, a need for excessive attention in a daily driver, and access to a computer, here’s what our eBay watch list would look like.

Ferrari 575M Maranello
Call this our desire to roll oldschool Ferrari style without dipping back to the days of Miami Vice. The 575’s replacement—the Ferrari 599 GTB—is very much a superior car in just about every way, but there’s a character to the 575 that Ferrari’s latest grand touring machine just can’t match. The 575 feels a bit more hands-on, especially when driving it via an actual six-speed manual with the one-and-only Ferrari gated shifter. There’s also a bit less technology controlling the 575’s actions, leaving the driver tasked with the duty of actually driving the car and learning its nuances to get the most from the machine. As brilliant as modern performance machines are, there’s a real sense of accomplishment gained from tuning into a car’s nuances and learning how to press them to the limit. Granted, most computerized assist systems on modern supercars can be turned off, but then again many of these cars are engineered to work best only with the systems engaged. There’s still something to be said about tackling a race track with just an engine, three pedals, and a sack of stones, and the 575 is great at delivering that elemental driving feel.

The magic spell continues with its traditional front-engine/rear-drive layout that calls back to the days of yore with the likes of the old Ferrari Daytona, and that just makes us want to drive it even more. It’s a big car, just a couple Benjamins south of two tons in fact. But sitting beneath the 575’s hood is a big 5.7-liter Italian V-12 engine making 515 horsepower, or 530 if you can find one of the 559 Superamerica retractactable hardtop models built in 2005. With performance numbers like a top speed of around 200 miles per hour and 0-60 times in the low four-second range, the 575 certainly has the straight line cred to qualify as a supercar, but it also handles like a proper Ferrari should—tight, crisp, and poised in just about every maneuver, though its mission as a comfortable grand touring machine keeps the 575 out of the hardcore racing realm, which makes it perfect for a sizzling hot daily driver.

Buried in the 575’s leather cockpit behind the long bonnet, Italian V-12 burbling its tune up front, left foot on a slightly heavy clutch while the right hand guides a metal sliver between milled shift gates, one truly appreciates the 575 for the traditional Ferrari that it is. Even the 575’s softer, understated styling recalls the rounded Ferraris of old, yet it delivers the performance of modern supercars while also providing the amenities deserving of a late-model, six-figure automobile. Despite their age, these cars still fetch around $120,000 for an older 575 from the early 2000s, to near $200,000 for a Superamerica from 2005. Considering the cars were fetching around $200,000 when new, their strong resale is a testament to the following the 575 still holds among Ferrari connoisseurs today.

Lamborghini Murciélago LP640
Why did we go with the bigger Lambo as opposed to the awesome-in-every-way Gallardo? We’ll admit that the Gallardo and its evil insect-inspired design is a worthy candidate for any tipsy supercar shopping spree, as Tom Martin recently talked about in last month’s issue. The thing is, it’s not terribly hard to find a Gallardo if you want one, and that even goes for special models like the Superleggera or the Balboni. In essence it’s a victim of its own greatness, a mainstream supercar like the Porsche 911 Turbo, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it does lose a tiny bit of uniqueness when anybody with some disposable income decides to get one. If we were going to blow a quarter-mill on a Lambo we’d rather opt for the Gallardo’s bigger, badder brother, the Murciélago. It offers more exclusivity and a touch more lunacy, and if we’re going to recklessly spend lottery winnings on a sight-unseen supercar, those are the attributes we want.

Not just any Murciélago will do, however. Don’t be tempt- ed by the wimpy earlier models with only 571 horsepower. They barely squeak to 60 in under four seconds and you’ll be lucky to break 205 mph flat out. Nor would we recommend the roadster version, which tends to break up the continuity of the Lambo’s narrow roof into the rear scoops and thighmaster-wide rear haunches. No, the Murciélago for us is the LP640, because honestly, why settle for anything less than 640 Italian horses mounted right behind your ears? Why not fully utilize the Lambo’s launch control to hit 60 in just over three seconds? Why stop at 205 when you can hit 210? Why drink white lightning from a bottle when it can be administered intravenously?

And yet, the Murciélago LP640 isn’t impossible to drive every day like the Lambos of old. Going with the traditional gated six-speed manual, the clutch pedal is actually rather light on the touch. The steering is light, the seats are actually a bit comfortable, the standard all-wheel drive system serves up power to all four wheels in a manner that’s usable, and for the fans of paddle-operated semi-automatic gearboxes, the LP640 delivers a transmission that even your grandmother can drive. Don’t think for a moment, however, that the Murciélago isn’t everything a bonkers supercar needs to be. It’s frighteningly fast, sinfully styled, it packs a proper Italian V-12 that pretty much eliminates rearward visibility, its scissor doors are still a bit of a bother and more a novelty item than anything else, and with gently used Murciélagos still stickering north of $200,000, it’s priced like a supercar to boot. Still, it’s a small price to pay for what we can only describe as refined lunacy.

Ferrari 458 Italia
The Ferrari 458 Italia wants to eat your children then sleep with your spouse, and it’s so damn good at everything you’ll let it happen, if only for a chance to spend five minutes behind the wheel. The only thing that would make this car better would be the addition of four extra cylinders—not because the 458’s 4.5-liter, 562-horsepower V-8 is lacking in the thrill department. Winding out the high-strung Ferrari mill to its 9000-rpm redline ranks right up there with a no-holds-barred roller coaster ride, hands in the air the whole time. It’ll match the mighty Murciélago in 0-60 and quarter-mile times, it will break 200 mph, and it will do it all with a V-8 war cry that could’ve given General Custer a fighting chance. What could be better than that? An Italian V-12 wail to match the 458’s snazzy Italian suit, but now we’re just being picky.

We’re picky because the 458 simply doesn’t give us any other choice for creating some drama. Yeah, the button happy steering wheel can take some getting used to, but really, what’s so hard about pushing buttons? We can moan over the fact that the 458 Italia doesn’t offer a traditional three-pedal, stick-shift manual like both the 575 and the Murciélago, forcing us instead to interface with a dual-clutch, seven-speed, paddle-shifted manual that executes on-demand cog swaps faster than anything else in the known universe. Yeah, that’s terrible, especially when the 458 is wielding its numerous electronic controls settings for yaw, traction, roll, or launch to turn you into some mythical driving superhero. Or, turn them off and let the 458’s right now turn-in and prolific rear-wheel horsepower atomize rubber in a miles-long, hundred-dollar-per-second power slide. Remember earlier when we talked about the satisfaction of learning and mastering the nuances of a car without electronic assist? Blitzing a road course like a pro after just a few laps is fun, too, and what bona fide car nut doesn’t fancy a good smoke every now and then? Of course, when we say smoke we’re talking about the tires. And when we say terrible, we actually mean freakin’ stupendous.

Or, you could just simply park the 458 out front and admire it. With styling trends going in the direction of edges and sharp corners, the organic lines of the Italia are sensual and racy, and not the go-fast kind of racy. We’ll just come right out and sayit—this car is sexy. It’s dead sexy,
and in Rosso Corsa it’s even sexier still. Even on the inside where some supercars tend to get a little sloppy, the 458’s modern design with stitched leather and deeply sculptured buckets create a driving atmosphere that we never, ever want to give up. Like the 575 and the Lambo, the 458 will stab your Mega Millions jackpot to the tune of around $200,000, but with the Italia just entering the supercar scene for 2010, it’s also one of the newest supercars on the block.

It could happen to you, and it could happen tomorrow. Ask yourself this: should the unthinkable happen, and you find yourself with considerably more money than smarts, are you truly prepared to care for your loved ones in the event of an ill-advised, late-night supercar purchase? Let these three machines serve as your insurance policy, because we’re fairly certain that they’ll leave nothing to be desired should you click the “Buy It Now” button. This has been a public service announcement from Winding Road. Happy shopping.