James May

James May on: Ferrari pencils

My Ferrari pencil is currently my favourite possession. I’m lucky enough to own several pencils, including some coloured ones, but this is the pencil I love best.

Anyone who visits the Ferrari factory will probably come away with a pencil. I was given mine when I went there recently to drive the hybrid LaFerrari. But never mind that. This is one hell of a pencil.

It’s bright red (also available in yellow) and has ‘Ferrari’ embossed along the blunt end of its circular cross section, in gold. Apart from that, it’s just like any other pencil, and shares the shortcomings of them. It’s too thin for my sturdy peasant-bred fingers, and the rubber on the end is far too short for the number of mistakes I make in my exquisitely tooled, Morocco leather-bound notebook, with marbled frontispiece and backispiece*.

There is a full 130mm of lead, but only 8mm of eraser. A calculation suggests that I can only afford to be wrong with my Ferrari pencil for six per cent of its use, otherwise I’ll have worn its rubber out.

These figures are now wrong, however, because I worked them out with the pencil without making any mistakes, so the experiment has slightly skewed the results. This is exactly why science is difficult.

“Yes, but…” I hear you cry, from the collective lavatory of the nation, and I know. This pencil was certainly not made by Ferrari, because Ferrari do not have any woodworking facilities. It was made by a pencil-making company and branded by them too. It is no more a Ferrari Pencil than the tissue in Amedeo Felisa’s executive khazi is Ferrari Bogroll.

But it is a Ferrari pencil, the one officially sanctioned by them, and of which pale 4B imitations will not be tolerated. If you have a 
ballpoint pen as well, you can write ‘Ferrari’ on 
one end of your pencil. But you will not have a Ferrari pencil. You will have a pencil with ‘Ferrari’ written on it. See?

You might think I’m going on about this a bit, but be honest. Do you have a Ferrari pencil? No? Bet you wish you did, in the same way I wish I had a 400 Superamerica in the garage. It’s only a pencil, but it’s a start, and 100 per cent more Ferrari than your pencil that isn’t a Ferrari pencil. Ha!

What this pencil has – and it’s very important 
in the world of posh cars – is provenance. It was placed in my hand by the hand of someone at Ferrari, with the words, “Here, have a Ferrari pencil.” And this is just the start of what will probably turn out to be 
a long and fascinating history involving theft, disappearance, rediscovery in a desk drawer, resharpening 
and eventual sale at a Bonhams auction for 
an enormous sum 
when I’m dead.

The catalogue entry, with photos, will point 
all this out to entice wealthy pencil collectors. 
The adventures that my Ferrari pencil have 
might easily befall another pencil, but the difference is, this one started life at Ferrari as a Ferrari pencil. It makes a difference.

If you doubt this, have a look at what’s happened to Steve McQueen’s 275 GTB/4, soon to be auctioned at an estimated price of many millions of pounds.

I’ll say it again: it is merely a pencil, made by someone else, for Ferrari. Where is La Passione in that? It’s there, because there are many millions 
of pencils that could have been elevated to this mystical role of being the official Ferrari pencil, but this is the one that was. Ferrari chose this one, just as it chooses its paint and leather suppliers. Ferrari choose things carefully.

To be honest, I have some other carmakers’ officially endorsed pencil products. I have a Porsche pencil, and a propelling pencil from Mazda, I think. Haven’t seen that one for a bit.

The Porsche pencil is pretty good, and nicely balanced, but I find the lead slightly on the hard side compared with the Ferrari’s. Something 
about the Ferrari 
pencil (its colour, maybe; the perfect weight distribution established by the rubber and its securing ferrule; perhaps simply the knowledge of its origins) makes it more dashing between my fingers. It’s full of 
crude drawings as yet undrawn, but I know 
they will be better, and will thrill me more, for coming from this pencil.

How to explain it? It’s the fizz, I suppose. When 
I pluck the Ferrari pencil from my tragic plastic desk tidy, I feel as I might if I presented myself at the Hertz car-hire desk to be told I’ve been upgraded from an Up to a 458 Speciale. It’s going to be a more memorable journey. Oh yes, I almost forgot. The LaFerrari. It’s fantastic.

James May, Column, LaFerrari

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