Not every one-off creation from Maranello makes a public appearance. Sometimes one-offs don’t appear in public at all and are instead destined to lead cloaked lives within private collections.
However, although the owner of the SP48 Unica understandably wishes to remain anonymous, he is very keen to share its story with the wider world. “I don’t want it to be a car that people don’t see – that’s wrong,” he says. “I want to share my passion for the brand. Maybe it will inspire a kid, or a multi-millionaire.”
The car that he wants people to see is based on the mid-engined V8, the F8 Tributo. “I wanted a mid-engine car. It’s for track work,” explains our man, someone who typically attends around 100 track day events each year. “When the project started, the 488 was current,” he explains, “but the new model on the horizon (the F8 Tributo) was implied to me two weeks after our first meeting.”
From the beginning there was an the insistence that any aerodynamic features be functional and not simply visually appealing. Then there was the client’s subjective dislike of the shape of the air intakes that dominate the haunches of the Ferrari 488, even though, as he freely admits, “I am no designer, not even good at art.”
However, this is a Ferrari customer who has also owned over 60 of the breed and “knows the Ferrari produced in the last two decades very well, in particular the mid-engined cars since the 360.”
So at the very first meeting he was able to talk with some authority on these models, and of what he wanted from his own. “While I may have provided guidance on what I did and did not care for, in the very first meeting I expressly said to the team something like: ‘You guys are the experts. You work for the finest design team in the world and for the greatest car company in the world. I know each of you have a sketch in your desk drawer of the car you would build if you could. Those are the sketches I want to see! I want your creativity, not mine.’”
This plea led to the eventual unveiling of a series of sketches, labelled from ‘A’ to ‘K’, with the customer sitting alongside Ferrari design director Flavio Manzoni for the viewing. It was not until design ‘H’ had been reached that he saw what he was looking for. From that point on, the process was one of development and evolution toward the final goal, much of it carried out during the Covid pandemic, which meant personal feedback sessions via iPads.
Lemercier explains: “The process is very similar to production cars. It’s very linear. Idea creation begins in 2D. The design team works on visuals from the brief, and then in 3D. Next comes a full-size physical model, painted and detailed.” This is a reference model, for validation rather than as a tool for form definition in the design process. “But it’s also a chance to show the client what they are buying,” he adds, with a chuckle.
It was the whole experience as much as the physical car that the client enjoyed so much. “It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. I’m so lucky to be able to do it. I now know so many people in the factory. There were huge smiles and hugs when I came back after Covid. It was like spring had come.
“Of course, it makes no financial sense,” he says. “It’s the peripheral experiences that are really a part of it. All the people involved... it’s been an experience over the last four years that I’ll never forget. I haven’t thanked them enough.” To which end, he asked especially that the SP48 Unica be shown to the entire Ferrari workforce. “Otherwise, the employees will only see it in a magazine. And that’s not right.”