Graeme Kirk is a no-nonsense Aussie who likes getting straight to the point. When asked why a 1960s Melbourne schoolboy had posters of Ferrari road cars on his bedroom wall, he responds: “Ferrari was always known as the best sports car. And I wanted the best.”
Showing the same singularly determined approach he realised his boyhood dream – “by saving, wheeling and dealing, and working a lot” – when he was just 24 years old. It was a 308 GTB, second hand, three years old, with 5,000 kilometres on the clock. That was some forty-one years ago.
Graham at the wheel of his silver 'daily drive', the latest of many spiders that he has been collecting for over thirty years
A decade-long hiatus followed, up until his mid-thirties, during which time he dedicated himself to building his auto-parts business. And buying a house. “Then I got back into buying Ferrari and I haven’t stopped since.” His ‘re-entry’ car was a 355 GTS. “It was the current car and I’ve always liked the V8s,” he says, matter-of-factly.
Today, the Kirk collection constitutes a broad spread of modern Ferrari V8s and V12s, ranging from grand tourers to track-focussed specials, including an F8 Spider, 575M Maranello, 488 Pista Spider, Portofino, 599 GTB Fiorano, and an 812 Superfast. Current orders include an 812 Competizione A and the SF90 Spider. Graeme Kirk rarely, if ever, lets a car go. “I don’t sell cars; I buy cars,” he says, emphatically. Many are kept with a carefully calibrated low mileage.
His current daily drive is his beloved F8 Spider, “in silver, so that I don’t stand out so much”, he adds. “It’s quite funny when I pull up at work given there’s a car park full of American cars.” Like his father he has “always been in the cars business”, with his auto-parts company now market leader in supplying “V8 engines for the ‘American muscle car’ market here in Australia”.
After building his auto-parts business Graham 'got back into buying Ferrari and I haven't stopped since'
Is there an open-top bias to what he unabashedly describes as his “magnificent obsession”? “Oh Yeah!” he joyfully confesses. “Sixty per cent of my collection is convertible. The only reason I would have a hard top is if it’s not available in convertible.”
For Kirk, it isn’t even primarily a question of aesthetics. “Nah, not at all.” Instead it is something truly visceral for him. “I can hear the sound of the car so much better. If I ever get stuck in the spider with the roof up, I put the back window down so that I can still hear the engine and all that.”
He becomes more effusive as he tries to describe what it is about a Ferrari open top that attracts him so. “It’s ...” he begins, then pauses, earnestly seeking to translate into words what has been such an important part of almost his entire adult life. “It’s the open air. The feeling of ‘expanse’, I guess. It’s the feeling of not being ‘hemmed in’. That’s what I don’t like about hard top cars.”
Kirk's 575M Maranello in the background, and his F8 Spider in front
Both his 488 Pista Spider and his Portofino are graduates of the Tailor Made process. The latter “took inspiration from Australian racing history”, sporting an off-centre stripe. Instead of a leather interior he went for Kvadrat Gloss canvas. “It’s a high-quality fabric that changes colour when viewed from different angles.”
But of all his cars it is his 488 Pista Spider to which he is most attached. “Probably because I put so much effort into designing it all.” He visited the Tailor Made specialists in Italy, and opted for an Alcantara custom interior with matching highlights in its unique exterior colour tone – Kirk Orange. “It’s a kind of burnt orange,” he explains. “From the time I put the order in for the car until I got it was probably three years.” Indicating its detailed ‘specs plate’, Kirk says, “I’m really proud of this, it’s one of the most highly- specced Pista there is.” Next year he aims to customise an 812 Competizione.
His hands-on approach extends to personally handwashing his beloved models. “I do! On Sunday mornings I’ll wander down there with the dog. There’s nothing better on a nice sunny day than getting the car out and washing it, and all that.
Into its fifth decade, Graeme Kirk’s magnificent obsession lives on.