She who dies with the most serial numbers wins!
Volume 47 Issue 10
May 14, 2022
Cathy is on the hunt for serial numbers. The largest database in North America is continuously being refined and expanded. Cathy describes her quest to identify every Ferrari made.
We’ve mentioned in these pages that it does not take all our time in the two-week cycle to actually produce the issue, compile editorial content, sort the classified ad changes, manage future Coming Events, calculate the Asking Price Index, let alone print, collate, stuff envelopes and put it in the local post office.
Jim has previously made a plea for your information. Not just identifying what cars you own, but the pertinent details specific to your Ferrari: colors, mileage, condition, as well as ownership history.
We often get a request out of the blue from a new owner who has learned that we may have that Holy Grail … a trail of ownership or at least enough to help him or her fill in the blanks.
My standard response is, you tell me what you know, and I’ll gladly reply with what we know. It was Dad’s policy to work on an exchange of information.
After all, you don’t just build a database in one weekend. This database has been constructed over decades! And its origins were on 5 x 7 index cards.
I can remember one of my first tasks being to take the membership roster from either the FCA or FOC (back when those books were printed and distributed to the members and included valuable information like address, spouse, models owned) and go to the card file.
I would pull the card, tuck it in the roster. Dad would type … yes, type … the current information onto the card and then I would file the card back.
Fast forward to the advent of the computer revolution. He could see the time would come when information would have to be transcribed into a program, and he wisely chose Microsoft Access. I can’t remember not knowing Access. I love a double negative, Chris Roush.
There is a lot of repetitive data entry involved in this job, and fortunately we have been lucky to have employed a handful of people who performed the task to computerize.
We still had the index cards when Dad died, and the FML became my new full-time job. For a while I would check not only Access, but also the card file; sometimes I wish we still had those cards, but perhaps I’m just being nostalgic.
Surely, you’ve seen me, clipboard in hand, jotting down serial numbers at the Annual Meet, or Cavallino, Amelia Island, even Italian Car Day. I’ve joked that the clipboard subjects me to answering all kinds of random questions (Where’s the restroom? Are you ready to judge my car? Can I leave now? Even, what are you doing?).
I may be one of the last spotters who still uses pen and paper. It’s a system I’ve gotten used to and it works for me. In 2013 this method was sorely tested at Elkhart Lake when the goal was to break the record for the most Ferraris on the racetrack.
As I recall, the concours was set up on the track. After lunch, an announcement was made for any cars not in the concours to please drive onto the track. Cars were lined up maybe as many as eight abreast.
My spotting sheet has columns for the VIN, exterior color, interior color, transmission (when it should be noted), mileage (for the analog odometers), license plates and of course, notes.
That day I developed a system to not write down ZFF (remember, all Ferrari 17-digit VINs will start with ZFF). While taking notes I meandered through in a kind of serpentine fashion. At the front of this car, get the VIN … note the colors and move to the back of the car for the license plate.
Next car, I’m at the back, so I write down the information in reverse; license plate, then colors, then VIN. I don’t need to note the model because I have the complete VIN. It’s important to note the VIN because the car may not have been previously identified in our database.
I tweaked my procedure at Ferrari Mondiali in Daytona Beach a few years ago when the goal was to have 1000 Ferraris present and break a world record.
There were Ferraris as far as the eye could see and a set time when the cars would leave the parking areas and make it onto the track. I needed to create more shortcuts for my notetaking. BL was my abbreviation for blue, BK for black. A single R for … red. I didn’t put pressure on myself to note whether that red was Rosso corsa, Rosso Rubino, or any other variation. It was red. Y = yellow. The column for transmission only needed a 6 or a 1, and so on.
Official reports have the number of Ferraris on the track at 809 – let me assure you, between the various spotters present, we gathered well over 1,000 distinct serial numbers at the event.
I visit dealer websites to collect a photo and/or gather the URL to accompany the classified ad on our own website. There are 41 authorized Ferrari dealers just in the United States. Just visiting their websites alone to collect data on cars in their showroom would be a full-time job. I might make it to each of their websites once a year. My glass is half-full, it’s still numbers I probably wouldn’t get otherwise.
Authorized dealers can present a variety of detail on any car, and again, it only takes time to gather. I might be enticed to open the complimentary Carfax and make note of the original selling store, then the date the car was sold to each successive owner – not to mention location and mileage upon sale.
Or I might just get current colors and miles and move on to the next car. Something is better than nothing. Reference Finali Mondiali. Once the cars get moving my data gathering is over.
And that doesn’t include brokers’ websites. There are a few I troll more than once a year. Like BringATrailer … I’ve subscribed to receive alerts when a Ferrari is posted for auction.
I’m a member of a group on Facebook named Il Gruppo ZFF. Many of the other members are Europeans, which is helpful for filling in the blanks of our database because most of their spots are European cars!
Not surprisingly, because production is heavily weighted for European models, cars will often be spotted in random places like on the side of some tony street. A few gentlemen visit European dealers, or even the factory. I make it a point to check Facebook regularly or the numbers overwhelm me. Because those spotters have spotters who have spotters. I have a FOMO – a fear of missing one (serial number).
There are two members of that group who have access to public databases where a license plate can be entered and the VIN output. Very, very helpful, because sometimes your only spot of a car is as it’s driving away.
There is also a sub-page for identifying VINs of cars that have been crashed. We’ll keep track of anything.
Certain other folks only track one model, and thankfully are glad to share and I always reciprocate. Access is a very handy program, and it is quite easy to generate model-specific queries.
I receive several magazines that will occasionally be the source of identifying a car. Or a list of cars shown at an event in another part of the country or even internationally. Generally, the information presented is pretty sparse, but a note goes into the database that the car was seen. It’s gratifying when the last spot was years ago.
And then there’s this box in the office … chock full of scraps of paper, or sheets of paper stapled together; the random photo with (hopefully) a serial number written on the back. Collected over time and to be added to the database when you get around to it. I swear that box has no bottom.
Lately I have spent more and more of my spare time on F-Register.com. It reopened during the pandemic, and I have taken advantage of that reopening to complete our quantities for models.
I didn’t ‘start’ with any road map of models in mind – probably picked something relatively modern with a supposed finite and well-known list of numbers, like Enzo or LaFerrari. There have been many lists of those numbers shared, and I wanted to be sure our information agreed or was at least comparable. Then I may have moved on to Superamerica (the 575, not the 400). Later 512 Boxers and 456.
Recently I’ve been working my way through 360 Spider. Unfortunately (for me), this model boasts 76 pages of 100 numbers. As I’ve said before, I like to eat my elephant one bite at a time (or in this case, 3-4 pages per day).
Another wrinkle in searching F-Register.com is the frequency with which it is updated. I may have gone through the site for a specific model; at some point in the future, I will probably need to go back through a newer model’s registry to capture any additions. Talk about a hamster on a wheel.
Perhaps you recall the 70th Anniversary project I wrote about in 2019. I am pleased to announce that with the help of fellow spotters, there are only two of those cars not identified. Livery 30 for the California T; and livery 65 for the 488 GTB.
I abandoned the Pista Piloti project mentioned at that time.
It has been replaced by another, the ‘Ispirazioni 2020’, a collection of 36 unique configurations inspired by classic models and legendary Ferrari race cars, with an addition of pure creativity. Twelve different liveries for each of three models: the Ferrari Roma, the SF90 Stradale and the 812 GTS. Five cars for each livery. 180 desired serial numbers and I have 83.
As per Tailor Made tradition, the liveries are divided into three collections: Scuderia, which takes its lead from the rich Ferrari racing history; Classica, which gives a new, modern twist to the style cues provided by Maranello’s most iconic road cars; and Inedita, which takes a more experimental and innovative tack in both colors and materials.
With titles such as Inspired by Transitional Colors in Giallo Sirius, or Inspired by Blue Denim, which – ironically, is painted in Rosso TRS, but does have denim interior – for the SF90 Stradale; Inspired by Vintage Rose for the Roma – not pink, but perhaps the slightest tinge in a silvery-gray base; Inspired by Sartorial Elegance (not to be confused with sardonic elegance) in Bianco Italia, for the 812 GTS.
This article isn’t about my ‘next’ project.
This editorial was the result of an exchange with a subscriber. He had recently taken delivery of a new F8 Tributo and inquired about production numbers. He received a disappointing reply from Ferrari that the number of cars manufactured by model is not disclosed with the reason being it is sensitive information. And he asked me ‘why’.
I don’t suppose he ever met my father, but there is a peculiar gene flowing through our veins. If you don’t want the answer to a question, don’t ask it. Or rather I should say, if you don’t want an opinion, don’t ask.
Production information for certain models is well known. Certainly for the early models. And published. In magazines as well as with this one. Or in model-specific registers and books compiled by some very reliable sources with prominent names.
Sometimes I’ll stumble on a little tidbit that a distinct color combination might be 1 of X supplied in a single year. Naturally I wonder about the source of the information, and until it’s disproved, it gets placed for reference.
In the real early days (I’m talking late 1970s) the front-page article was quite often about one model, and in addition to pondering about the market for that model, Dad would publish serial number lists, and in the absence of that, just straight up production numbers.
Later that information was included on our website only to be replaced by the phrase “S/N ranges have become nearly impossible to track”.
Rarely, but it has happened, someone will question us on those published numbers, and I’ll have to pull a query from the database to prove that yes, we have 342 serial numbers for 275 GTB/4 (just an example).
You may reply – that’s when production was completely hand-built and only numbered in the hundreds. True, but in 2022, production is highly automated, and thousands of Ferraris are made.
We still are trying to fill in each and every blank in Access.
Those blanks will include not only a column for S/N (serial number), but Type (name, if you will – California T 2+2, for example), Body (convertible, to continue with the example), Long VIN (the 11 digits before the S/N), Chassis and Motor Tipo (although we don’t trace this as diligently as we used to), Assembly Number, Model/Model Year, Month of Production, Year of Production, and Comments.
In 2020 I came across a supposedly complete list of 812 Superfast VINs when a recall was effected for a defective rear window. Not the first time a recall list provided serial numbers to this office. This recall list provided 5,041 VINs … and this accountant-by-education numbers-geek broke down those numbers by market. What fun. I probably had the information entered in the database within the week.
While that list did not provide any information beyond identifying the VIN as an 812 Superfast, at least I knew that number was not any other model. The opposite of knowledge is mystery.
Back to the subscriber and his desire to quantify production numbers. In his words: The reluctance to release information is a double-edged sword; yes, exclusivity is insured, but credibility becomes questioned.
This gentleman is aware that we work diligently to identify cars. He has acted as a spotter when he’s been on vacation or visiting his daughter and he has sent me photos, VINs, and even requested information from our database when contemplating an addition to his stable.
That time, our conversation wound around to sending him screenshots of a section in our database near the 2010 California he was considering. The first two photos showed that most of the 29 rows on the page were identified. The third photo I sent him only had two of the records identified!
I believe that the goal of trainspotters is not to prove or disprove any statements about production. But to feel the accomplishment when another blank field is identified.
It is possible to gather production information. One has to keep an open mind, be patient, and utilize a little creativity. Production numbers for the 812 Superfast was defined by the recall list published after the model ceased production.
I stated in the first article on 70th Anniversary liveries, I may never get all the numbers, but that doesn’t curb my enthusiasm for the project. Even if I spent 24 hours a day, only in the database, it will never be complete.
The highest serial number identified as I write this is 278634. But by the time you read this, I will have probably gotten a higher number.