A Labour of Passion

By Stuart Johnston

‘It’s not just about the money, the labour, or the cost of material. You put your heart into a car, and when you have finished as much as you can, it looks like a beautiful woman’

His real name is Ivano Sega, but if you are in the Ferrari world you’ll know him as Ivo. Fifty-something, trim, well groomed, with impeccable manners. Soulful eyes that don’t miss much in the way of nuance, but more than that, there’s a quiet warmth about him that heats up into full-blown passion if you hit the right note with him. And for as long as he can remember, that note generally revolves around cars—Italian cars, of course—and always, always Ferrari.

“There is only one secret when it comes to working on a Ferrari, and that is the passion. The passion to see how a car should be, and get it back into shape. It will take hours and hours and hours, and you may never finish. You know from the start, you will probably never finish.

“It’s not just about the money, the labour, or the cost of material. You put your heart into a car, and when you have finished as much as you can, it looks like a beautiful woman. You do what the Ferrari asks of you. And of course, you then maintain the price of that car.

“The more original the car, the more valuable the car. You need to feel confident in the way you restore a car, or repair a modern car that has been damaged. There have been cars I painted 20 years ago that are still nice today. That’s what you are after.”  

Today—some 24 years after he arrived in South Africa on what was ostensibly a short-term contract with the Ferrari importers at that time, TAK Motors—Ivo is the CEO of Edenvale-based Carrozzeria Viglietti. This is the only officially approved panel shop for Ferrari and Maserati vehicles in South Africa. The business is structured as a partnership with SA Ferrari importer Viglietti Motors, with Ivo being the majority shareholder.

“I was 11 years old when I started in this business. I went to school in the morning, in the afternoons I visited a workshop in Asti—my hometown in northern Italy—trying to understand this job. I was 19 years old when I opened my first workshop there. Of course, at first I didn’t do too many Ferraris, but I worked on Porsche, Lancia Monte Carlo. Ferraris were few, but I did work on the Dino.

“I learned from an old man how to work in aluminium. He sat me down with a hammer and a dolly, and after that I learned the painting. The old aluminium used to corrode easily. Nowadays there is 20 per cent silicone in aluminium; it doesn’t corrode as much—it’s harder, more crash-resistant.”

Some 24 people are employed at Carrozzeria Viglietti, with panel and paint staffers receiving training to the exacting Ferrari factory levels. From a Ferrari ownership point of view, the existence of the approved repair and restoration business not only brings peace of mind but also ensures the continued retention of value of their vehicles.

In fact, not only do Ferraris retain their value, but they also represent one of the world’s best financial investments. A recent study showed there was a 395 per cent return on investment in classic cars. And, as the world’s most iconic car brand, Ferrari leads the way in this epartment.

“A customer of mine paid R2-million for a Ferrari Dino from the late 1970s, which was in pieces, a 246 GTS. It was in terrible condition,” says Ivo. “When I started stripping the body I saw how bad the repairs were over the years, panel upon panel had been laid on top of one another. I don’t know how the car moved; it was so heavy.

“I returned it to its original design as much as possible. He spent about R1,5-million with me, and he was planning on keeping it, but he ended up selling it for R4,5-million. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

Ivo always advises customers to put their cars back to original spec, with regard to paint and trim. For this he uses the chassis, engine and gearbox VIN numbers, which detail the spec of the car “the way it left the factory”.

All Ferraris are good investments, but which specific models are really good investments right now? Ivo says everyone right now is looking for the Daytona, otherwise known as the 365 GTB4—built from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. There are only a few of these in South Africa. Others are the Dino, built in around the same period, the 308 mid-engined Ferrari (made famous in the TV series Magnum PI in the 1980s), and more lately the 355. As for the really exotic Ferraris, a 250 Testa Rossa from the 1950s—an out-and-out racing machine—recently fetched $16 million at an American auction.