Ever believed in love at first sight? I do.

It all started on my 12th birthday, when I saw a yellow Ferrari and a burly police car side by side on the Hot Wheels stall in the toys section. As I made a search, I did not find the same model in red, but incredibly, I wasn’t disappointed, not like when I lucked out of a red FXX and got a yellow one instead. Since my dad had enough money and I wanted some competition, I bought the police car, which was a Dodge Charger SRT8.

[Full disclosure: this feature is two months (!!!)overdue, what with college and the holiday rush getting in the way, but I’ve been itching to tell the story of my oldest surviving example of my idol car—now beat-up and in desperate need of a restoration and FTE wheels as you can see—for a long time. All photos are taken by an iPhone 4S, so now I apologize.]

There’s good reason why I didn’t have beef with the yellow 458. The yellow, for one, wasn’t just striking, it was smashing, and complemented the svelte lines of the car.

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The wheels were perfectly-designed, and the bigger rear wheels actually made the model look sportier. I intentionally rubbed the chrome off the wheels to complete the look.

The tint isn’t too dark, so I can see the engine at the back even in low light (even today, and that’s with scratched glass!).

It rolls as fast as a Ferrari should.

And the best part? It’s a Ferrari. I’ve been a fan since I first saw Michael Schumacher win a race in 2004, so pretty much any Ferrari that becomes a toy car becomes the first one on my wishlist.

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I’ve opened both models while in the foodcourt, as most kids would do, then chucked the card and went home with the two castings in both pockets. Play continued on, and I enjoyed every second of it.

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The highest point of the time I had with the car was when Top Gear’s review of the car came up. Sure, I had a twinge of sadness about the fact that my toy car was yellow while Jeremy’s was red, but the review was excellent, and I play-hooned my toy the entire way, trying to emulate the film and making whooping noises as Clarkson lauded the car over and over, and kept at it for a good two weeks after.

In fact, it was right after the 458 made it to the top tier on the TG Power Lap leaderboard, that convinced me that I was in possession of a toy version of a legendary car... and that the toy car itself is a legend. At that point, I made a silent pact with my toy 458, as I ogled and gawked and twirled it around to any and every angle, that I will take care of it, never lose it, keep it in my pocket wherever my life takes me, even on my gravestone.

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Before I got a Tomica R35 GT-R (which I sacrificed during New Year revelries) and Speed Machines Gallardo Superleggera (which I traded to my best friend for some chibi race cars that I lost in a Bermuda Triangle), it was my everyday carry, and I took it every time the family goes on an out-of-town trip to our home province of Quezon, whose roads, while pimpled, are magnificent, with corners that a 458—my 458—can take on with grace and poise and gusto.

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As time went by, the car was put through its paces, getting scratches and paint chips over time. Amazingly, the rate of decay is long, as the paint held well to the bumps and crashes the car went through.

But as time went by, life and school caught up, and I didn’t have time to hoon the car. I forgot about it when the 458 fell on a once-unreachable nook in the bedroom, and eventually other cars took over.

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But somehow, I keep remembering about the car, and kept wishing that every visit to the mall there was a Ferrari I can take home so the 458 has some to play with. Somehow, during my entire 4 years in high school, I never quite got a Ferrari I can take home, play, watch Top Gear with, and imagine I drive through Bitukang Manok and the Quezon Edge Diversion Road.

It’s why I comment that I weep whenever I see a LaFerrari or F12 on this site. It’s in jest, for the most part, but there is good weight to it.

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And then I found it while I was in 2nd year high, during the monthly general cleaning. It was nothing less than love at second sight. Sure, the paint has since disfigured the car (and even the spots that , the headlight tampos are gone, the glass is dim and scratched, the axles have gotten negative camber, and the A-pillars have bent and gotten dents, but the silhouette is unmistakable and still sensual as ever. Multiple supercars have come and passed, and I have bought some to be its competition, but in my play-dates, I still make the 458 win. The 458 always wins.

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Today it resides with my newest exotic, a green Huracan, and the Lancia Stratos, along with other cars I got as time went by, in a shoebox lid that serves as a garage, along with cars that have, in one way or another, has seen paint come right off them. They can learn a lot from this veteran, which I imagine has been gutted of its innards and replaced with 458 Speciale parts that has been stretched to as far as the plant can go, with the result being a 639 hp, 575 lb-ft (and no more, said those who worked on it) screamer, capable of 0-60 in 2.7 seconds and a top speed of 208 mph. Yes, the entire chassis and body is carbon now, but that, combined with other race-optimized weight savings, have made my model 180 kilograms lighter than the Speciale.

Maybe, after some time, I can arrange something that will help restore this car to its former glory, but until then, I will keep it as it is.