Something of a ruckus kicked off last night as pictures of very ‘special’ Ferrari 458 Italia hit the web, rumoured to belong to none other than legendary singer-songwriter, Eric Clapton.

Among the more outlandish claims I’ve seen during the day, are that it’s a V12-engined 458 Italia built in homage to the 1970’s Berlinetta Boxer (BB 512) and perhaps my favourite, that if you won the lottery then you could buy one too.

We hear that it’s registered as a Ferrari SP12 EPC, where ‘SP’ stands for Special Projects and ‘EPC’ refers to the singer-songwriter’s initials (Eric Patrick Clapton). Other than that, I can confirm that it retains the 4499cc V8 engine from the standard 458 Italia and all the mechanical underpinnings that have made it one of Ferrari’s most accomplished models.

The car, which was spotted at the HR Owen Ferrari dealership in central London last night, was on show at the launch party for the new 458 Spyder.

But despite its select public appearance, the owner, presumably the aforementioned rock tifosi, has requested that Ferrari do not issue any official images or information about the car.

If you’re out and about in London, then you may see it driving around during the next few months, but Ferrari’s official word on the matter is, “we respect the privacy of our clients”, which is quite right, given how much its clients pay for the privilege.

So what is it?

The one (and only) time I purchased a Ferrari (an F430 way back in ’06), the options list was foreboding enough without considering anything ‘bespoke’, and even then it was enough of a challenge getting the Ferrari salesman to agree to my choice of specification.

“I’d like it in blue”, “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer it in red sir”, said the salesman. “No, I like my cars in blue”, “But our customers normally choose red, which retains its value far better than other colours”, insisted the salesman. To which I retorted, “Have you ever heard the saying, the customer is always right?”.

Thankfully, it’s a lot easier these days since Ferrari launched ‘Tailor-Made’, a personalisation programme designed for customers who can’t find what they want on the extensive options list.

There are three schemes available, Classica – which adds a personalised twist to the standard car, Scuderia – which takes its inspiration from Ferrari’s sporting history and Inedita – for those customers who like to experiment and use unconventional colour combinations and materials.

If you’re spending £170k on a California, then by the time you’ve added a few options its price will be nearing the better part of £220k, and given the amount of time it takes to personalise it further, Ferrari ask its customers to spend at least Euro50,000 more, when opting for their Tailor-Made service.

If that sounds a bit excessive, then bear in mind that whatever materials are chosen for your tailor-made steed, Ferrari will need to set aside a sufficient quantity for repair or replacement, should your pride-and-joy ever be damaged.

The ‘Tailor-Made’ programme has been running for less than a year, but Ferrari expect to sell around 30 cars annually to customers who’d like their Ferrari to be just a little more special than normal.

The “One Off” programme

You have probably gathered by now that SP12 EPC is a little more personalised than even Ferrari’s Tailor-Made programme can offer, in fact it belongs in a private programme, where even those with huge amounts of money are not eligible.

If you’re a lottery winner with a taste for excess, then you can put away that Black American Express card, because Ferrari will ever so politely guide you to their public entrance.

Coach-built cars such as this SP12 EPC are only for Ferrari’s closest friends – those customers who already have an extensive collection of Maranello’s finest, but are looking for something special to capture their loyalty to the brand.

The “One Off” programme is the key to working with Ferrari’s Special Projects team, where the very best comes as standard.

Some of these cars have made headlines in recent years, such as the P540 Superfast Aperta and Superamerica 45, but many are hidden away in private collections, for the eyes of just a privileged few.

You won’t find any price lists or details of what constitutes a ‘One Off’ Ferrari, but after a conversation with Ferrari this afternoon, here’s what we can tell you.

  • Which Ferrari’s can be transformed? – any of the current range of models. If you’d like a re-bodied F430, sorry all the tooling and production facilities have been dismantled and are no longer available.
  • What can be customised? – anything outside those parts which are homologated. So you cannot change parts such as the engine, gearbox, suspension, dashboard, seat belts or any of the mechanical configuration and design. You could however change ‘most’ of the bodywork, although Ferrari will advise which parts are best kept standard (such as the windscreen, for ease of finding spare parts). If the windscreen was changed, for example, Ferrari would produce 5 spare ones which would be stored by the owner then recalled by Ferrari when fitting a replacement.
  • Is it expensive? – most owners are unconcerned by the price, but it’s likely to cost them millions rather than thousands of Euros.
  • What do owners receive for such a sum? – well apart from a unique hand-built car from their favourite brand, they receive all the tooling to ensure Ferrari can never make the same car for another customer. But the real value comes from being intimately involved in the build of their own car – it’s a car enthusiast’s dream which includes signing-off a clay model of their car, regular visits to the Special Projects basement at Maranello for design and materials sign-offs, plus customers can even choose which famous Ferrari designer they’d like to be involved in their car (subject to agreement with the designer). It’s a time-consuming and highly-indulgent process, although apparently not a particularly profitable one for Ferrari.
  • How many of these ‘One-Off’ projects do Ferrari accept each year – that’s a closely guarded secret and certainly more than most people realise. Ferrari can tackle up to 2 or 3 projects within a 12-month period.
  • Are there any special conditions? – well, apart from the fact that Ferrari choose which customers they accept into the programme, each signs a contract which binds them to ‘owning’ the car, rather than trading it on, in fact if after an agreed period of time a customer decides to sell their coach-built car, they must first offer it to Ferrari who guarantee to buy it back at the same price the customer paid for it. Not bad eh?

Ultimately there are only ever a few people in the world with the ownership pedigree and money to spend on such a car, so we’re unlikely to see the market flooded with outlandish Ferraris bought by newly-moneyed Chinese billionaires.

So if you’re inspired by SP12 EPC but haven’t yet built up a track record of Ferrari ownership, you know what to do. You’ll find a list of Ferrari dealers near you on the website, who retail a range of suitable cars priced from £170,000 to £250,000.

Photo credits: L.Gilbertson, Michael P Sannwald

Written By

Steve Davies

Steve is an investor, private equity advisor and former Partner at KPMG, PwC and Bain.   Most importantly he's a life-long car enthusiast, mountain biker and active sports enthusiast. He designs and builds technology platforms and is the architect behind Transmission.

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