My Ferrari Story (a reminiscence)
Volume 47 Issue 20
Oct 1, 2022
A while back I asked to hear about your Ferrari story. Bob Raymond recounts his journey to become a Ferrari owner. ENJOY!
I became interested in Ferraris in 1964 when I was in high school. A friend of mine worked at Rich Motors Sports Cars in Glendale, California, where they had a beautiful yellow 250 Testa Rossa they raced mostly at Riverside Raceway.
At this time, I quite often saw a Ferrari convertible there and around town I was crazy about.
Drafted into the Army in 1966, I served until August, 1968. While in the military, I sometimes read Road & Track magazine and watched the occasional Formula 1 race on TV. This kept me up to date on what Ferrari was doing.
After the Army, I went home to Southern California, where I often drove by Hollywood Sport Cars to see what Ferrari models were available for the lucky people who could afford one of their beautiful cars.
In 1976, I had the brilliant idea to purchase a used Ferrari. Thinking that I couldn’t afford a new model, I could surely buy an old one. Everybody knows the older the car, the cheaper it is.
This is when my education on Ferraris really started. There were quite a few older Ferraris for sale in the local paper’s classified ads; however, things just didn’t make sense to me.
The older models weren’t as cheap as I expected. Open cars were even more expensive than the coupes, and quite often, the engines had been switched to a Chevy or Ford.
I knew what the car I wanted looked like, but I didn’t know the model. I was still young and soon realized I was out of my depth.
I can’t recall how I got his name, but somebody told me I ought to contact a fellow named Ed Niles; he might be able to help me out.
I worked evenings, so I spent many of my days at the beach. When I called Niles, he said to come over, and we could talk a little bit about those Italian cars I was nuts about.
We figured we’d stop by on the way to the beach, not a big deal. When we located Niles, it turned out to be at his office building.
We went up and entered the office of a very successful attorney; we were dressed for the beach, barefoot and in shorts.
When the secretary asked what we wanted, I told her Ed Niles wanted to talk to us about a Ferrari. She said, “oh, great,” and ushered us into his office, all wood-paneled, leather upholstered, and plush.
Niles stood up from behind the desk, introduced himself, asked us to sit down, and said, “So you like Ferraris, do you?”.
After talking about Ferraris for a while, I finally understood why older Ferraris were different and how some models were more desirable than others. Remember, this was years before Ferraris became the collector items they are today.
Anyway, we finally concluded that the car I was after was a 250 GT PF Cabriolet Series II. He knew of one currently for sale but it wasn’t in very good condition. We took the address, thanked him, and headed off to the beach.
Unfortunately, that car didn’t pan out; no engine or drive train, no seats, and a stripped instrument panel. But at least I now knew what I was looking for, which was a big help.
Over the next year, I checked out a lot of Ferraris. I remember one 275 GTB/4 parked on an island in the center of Pacific Coast Highway, for sale … $15,000. The car was in the middle of nowhere, the nearest home blocks away.
It took until halfway through 1977 to find a PF Cabriolet; Ferrari of San Diego (the old Ferrari of San Diego) had two cars come in on a Ferrari swap. So I drove down to take a look.
Of course, they had a beautiful 250 GT Spyder California for sale for $30,000. Too rich for my blood; the 250 Cabriolets were what I was looking for.
I liked the red one, but it wasn’t available until after some work was completed (engine rebuild, etc.) and it was $10,000, something I could just about afford.
In the meantime, I transferred my job to the Pacific Northwest to satisfy my two other passions, skiing and alpine climbing. Of course, I kept checking on the Cabriolet down in San Diego.
Finally, they said the engine was done and to come back and get it.
On arrival from the airport (I don’t remember how I got to Ferrari of San Diego, taxi, I guess), I went in and there it was, shiny red paint with brilliant Borrani wire wheels.
It was just what I wanted. I hardly remember the salesperson telling me the brakes weren’t too good and I would have to pump them if I wanted to stop. I didn’t care; it was a straight shot north from San Diego to Vancouver, Washington.
I have to admit, to this day, the drive all the way up the west coast is the best drive I have ever taken.
As an afterthought, here are a few things I wish I had known and wish I had done.
First off, I wish I had known about the Ferrari Market Letter; I would have had cars to compare with, and I would have known what was missing and what was changed.
In those days, it took years to locate missing parts or find somebody who knew how to fabricate a correct body part. I spent the winter rebuilding the brakes; thank God for FAF (FAF was a business devoted to Ferraris and parts. They were a wealth of knowledge and help for early Ferrari owners.).
I received a letter from Ferrari of San Diego several months after I purchased S/N 2131 GT. In it they told me how lucky I was to own a Ferrari at my age and that I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff that came with owning an old Ferrari.
I guess they were right, as I still have my 250 GT PF Cabriolet. I’m like a dinosaur who can go out into the garage, look at my old set of wheels and remember the sound of that V-12 engine and feel the wind in my hair.