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Guest Editorial

Ferraris as Everyday People

by Keith Martin
Sports Car Market Magazine

I remember the first time I saw a Ferrari being used to haul lumber. It was in the late ’80s and I was in the midst of rebuilding my front porch. I’d driven my 1983 Jeep Grand Wagoneer to the local lumberyard for a couple of sheets of plywood. In the parking lot, a fellow in blue jeans and a plaid Pendleton shirt was loading a half-dozen eight-foot 2x4s into his red 308 GTS. One end went down into the footwell, the other rested on the panel behind the built-in rollbar. It worked just fine.

A couple of years later, at my first Mille Miglia, a 250 TdF caught my eye. It was bright red with a yellow and blue stripe, parked after the event at the Master’s Hotel in Brescia. Covered with mud, bugs and road grime, it sat with its windows down. When I peeked inside I saw it was littered with food wrappers, empty pop cans, coffee cups, and—this being Europe—cigarette butts. It had done its job, transporting its pilot and co-pilot through the 1,000-mile rally, and looked the part.

DRIVE ME, PLEASE

I liked these Ferraris that were being used as cars, and I’ve always treated our Ferraris in similar fashion. Take my first V12, a 1962 330 America that we pulled from a barn in Montana. It ran well enough, so we only had to spend $20,000 on simple things like a brake job, valve adjustment and some interior work. (“How did you get so much done for so little?” Ferrari owners usually ask.)

Ferrari 2+2s of any flavor are surprisingly large cars, especially for those used to the tight-fitting 308 series. Real people can actually fit into the rear seats, and the trunks do what trunks are supposed to do: hold stuff. Making runs to Costco for supersized packs of barbecue supplies was one of the 330’s regular assignments, and we discovered that a used push lawn mower picked up at a garage sale fit too, once we tied the trunk lid down. On more than one occasion we went with another couple to the opera, and our friends—actual, fully grown humans with normal-sized legs—could ride in the back without needing chiropractic treatment afterwards.


A 330 Ferrari that really hauls.
What I miss most about the 330, which has since gone on to a subscriber in the Midwest, is the way it commanded the road. No, it wasn’t the fastest car out there, and certainly not the best braking or handling. But it made a nerve-tingling sound through its four-tipped exhaust, and could cruise effortlessly at 100 mph, moving through a crowded freeway like a cutter through a regatta of sailboats. It was a regal, high-performance machine in 1962, and more than 40 years later, it still carried itself like one.

KERMIT AND THE CHEESE WEDGE

Our 308 GT4, burgundy with boxer black, offered a lesson in rapid acceleration, excellent seating position, and forgettable cheese wedge styling. At the same time, the rear seats (read that as “extended luggage area”) were a perfect place to stash a couple of sleeping bags, a camping tent and a Coleman cooler. The little Dino was an arresting site in National Park campgrounds surrounded by Class A motorhomes and Suburbans with rooftop carriers.

Then there was our red/black 308 GTSi that taught me about the ambient 100-degree temperature in the trunk of all 308s. Trying to bring home an ice-cream birthday cake by storing it there was a bad idea.

Our most recent Ferrari was a light metallic green 308 Mondial QV. While it didn’t have the visual or physical presence of the 330, it was still a Ferrari, with the whir of the cambelts making exactly the right noise as you ran through the gears.

From behind the wheel, you didn’t see the odd color of the car (which gave it its nickname, “Kermit”) or its butt-heavy appearance. Instead, through the windshield and over the sharply raked nose, you saw the asphalt being devoured by a sports car pushed by an all-aluminum, four-cam V8.

One of my favorite memories revolves around our beach house in Neskowin, OR, and using the Mondial to get a morning coffee and paper. The nearest place for both was about ten miles away, in Cloverdale.

We would fire up the Ferrari, and while its engine warmed, wipe the film from the salt air off the windshield. Using only first gear, we crawled at the official 15-mph speed through the village, headed towards Highway 101. As we covered the two miles to the highway, the car’s idle went from lumpy to smooth, and as the gearbox oil began to circulate, thoughts of shifting from first to second changed from a hopeless fantasy to a stiff but possible reality.

By the time we hit the highway, the water temperature would be (80 degrees), and we would quickly run to redline in first, second and third on the gently curving, uphill, right-hand turn that takes you north.

Like a racehorse being let out for exercise, the Mondial knew it had ten miles of interesting road ahead, and that it would be asked to stretch its muscles just a bit. If you take a slight detour through Pacific City, you come across a rarely used two-lane road that’s a slightly longer but vastly more interesting route. It’s all third and fourth gear, between 90 and 110 mph, with car and driver both grinning widely.

The drive home was more relaxed. There are no cupholders in the Mondial, and when you’re shifting, steering and braking with a 20-ounce container of piping hot liquid between your legs, you tend to exercise a little caution.

Half an hour later, we would be back at the beach house, happy after our little jaunt. While the rest of the world thought we had just gone out for coffee, the Ferrari and I knew we had just had another adventure.

DRIVE FIRST, COLLECT SECOND

This issue is dedicated to Ferraris, and includes commentary about cars from inexpensive 328s to million-dollar Formula One racers. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses, and each has its group of supporters and detractors.

But regardless of value, what all Ferraris have in common is that they like to be driven. The farther you push them, the happier they—and you—will be. If you’re lucky enough to be a Ferrari owner, my charge to you is to find ways to use your car, as often as possible and in as many different ways as you can.

While the Monterey weekend will be full of Ferraris being celebrated as collectibles, recall that they all started out as just cars of one sort of another, each serving a different segment of the enthusiast community.

Treat your Ferrari like a car, and it will treat you like Nuvolari. That’s not a bad exchange.

This article courtesy of Keith Martin and Sports Car Market.


Keith Martin

 


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