Coincidence or Destiny?
Chris Des Marais
Volume 47 Issue 14
Jul 9, 2022
Sometimes the route to Ferrari ownership takes interesting twists and turns. Coincidence or destiny? Enjoy Chris Des Marais' journey to Ferrari ownership.
This is the story of how I bought my first Ferrari. My aim is to capture this story while it’s still fresh in my mind. However, I want to inform the reader that by sharing this story, in no way do I wish to be disrespectful or seem unappreciative to all the people involved. As you read on, it will become more apparent why I make this statement.
I grew up in Massachusetts in a solidly middle-class family, in a very working-class town. So to begin with, the idea of Ferrari ownership was always a dream at best.
How I became such a fan of automobiles remains a mystery even to myself. No one in my family had any special interest in cars or motor sports.
During my early years I began reading Road & Track magazine. It was in these pages where I first read about Formula 1 racing from Europe.
I was immediately drawn to the bright red cars offered by Ferrari. It felt so amazingly exotic and far away.
After a short time, I was hooked on two drivers for Ferrari: Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi. I gravitated to Pironi. Maybe it was his French heritage, like mine. These racing recap articles became the first place I would turn when the new issue arrived.
Fast forward a few years to me as a young teenager. While I was sitting one day with my grandfather, he told me about a family in town and that he was familiar with the patriarch. But he did not know the family well.
However, what I learned was, this family had a Ferrari! “Really”, I thought, “a Ferrari in my little town?”
I insisted my Dad drive past the house as often as possible. On nice weather days, the reward of that drive was to pass by their home when the garage door was up.
Inside? Not only one Ferrari, but TWO! By this time, I was able to identify models somewhat easily. Parked on the right side was a red 308 GTS and on the left side was a Dino 246 in yellow. Seeing those brightly-painted cars in that garage was magic. Those cars seemed to be from a different universe.
At about the same time, my teeth were badly in need of braces, so my parents set up an appointment with an orthodontist.
Coincidences are funny things. Here I share the first of several. The young man who was just beginning his career as an orthodontist happened to be the son of the man who owned the two Ferraris.
Photoshop of Cardarelli home
Dr. Joseph Cardarelli has become one of the most respected orthodontists in the New England area, but at the time he was MY orthodontist! There was no intent on my parents’ parts to make this connection, it just happened this way.
Finally, on one appointment day, I wore my Ferrari t-shirt under a warm flannel shirt. As I sat in the chair, Dr. Cardarelli happened to notice a belt buckle I was wearing, which was a replica of the Porsche logo.
He knocked on it, in protest, like knocking on a door, and said, “What’s this?” I did not say a word--I simply opened my flannel shirt the same way Superman would rip open his day clothes, exposing my Ferrari t-shirt, as proud of it as the “S” on Superman’s chest.
The conversation flowed. The doctor told me how his family was “offered a chance to order this new Ferrari. We had no idea what it would look like, but we thought, Ferrari does not make ugly cars. So, we ordered it.
Dr. Cardarelli's 308, the dream begins
We waited 3 years for delivery.” This car was his red 308 GTS. Then he offered me a ride in the car! He would pick me up in front of my high school.
Sure enough, the red 308 rolled up just as planned. I opened the door and sat down. Dr. Cardarelli was surprised that I knew how to open the door, as the handle often confused people.
I gave him a look as if to say, “I know what I’m doing, I’m a Ferrari man” but admittedly I was simply in awe and stayed very quiet the whole ride.
We left the school and were shortly on the local highway. He punched it up a bit. At a certain point he turned to me to say, “It doesn’t feel like we are doing 100 mph does it?” and I peeked over at the speedometer, and it was ticked just above the 100 mph mark.
We jumped off the highway and eventually arrived at my house. On my exit, I easily reached for the hidden door handle inside the passenger door and again the doctor was surprised that I knew where to find the handle.
Understand, I was already a complete fan of the 308 series by this point of my life, but now my loyalty was etched in granite. I was a Ferrari 308 fan.
This time we push forward about 36 years. It is now 2020 and I had been hunting for a used 308 for about two years.
My intent was to buy a car, care for it for a few years, and sell it one day and break even, or maybe turn a small profit. It was indeed a bit of a gamble.
I carefully explained to my wife the strategy of this plan. To her credit, she understood, and agreed. But after a couple of different trips across the country to see two different cars, I was fully disappointed, as all I was finding were run-of-the-mill cars that were uncared for, and either rusty or mechanically in tough shape.
Now is a great time to introduce James “Otis” Ostertag. He has become a true friend, even though I met him on Twitter.
I did not know what Otis did for a living at the time I met him. It turns out Otis is the metal fabricator at a super exclusive auto restoration business in New Hampshire very close to where I grew up. During my search, Otis became a confidant and sounding board.
In July of 2020, I was lamenting to Otis that I simply needed a lucky break. I needed to find a car close to me in Florida, or I was not going to be able to pull off buying my first Ferrari.
A few days later, in early August, I found a (nice-in-photos) 1979 308 GTS. But it was in Los Angeles. Though I was hot for the car, logistically it was just too much. I let that one slip away. I could not help feeling like I had missed an opportunity. It was hard. But when one door closes another door opens.
On the morning of August 14th, I happened to be browsing eBay.com. It was not my go-to site for car shopping, but nearly every day I spent a small amount of time searching one site or another for new available cars for sale.
eBay is where I found chassis number 21151 for sale in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The ad was literally just a couple of hours old.
What caught my eye first was the reasonable price. The wheels were atrocious aftermarket wheels, but I decided to look more closely. I finally saw images of the engine compartment.
Immediately, I noticed the oil reservoir in the driver’s side rear corner of the car’s engine compartment. The engine was a dry sump engine.
My heart began to pound. What have I just stumbled upon? I searched the photos more closely. This was a European specification dry sump car, rare in the U.S. and advertised HIGHLY under its value.
I thought, “What could be wrong with this car that it’s priced so low?” Normally, I would not interrupt my friend Otis while at work, but this was different.
“Otis, sorry to bother you at work. But if you get a second, can you look at a car I just found on eBay? It’s a dry sump, Euro spec GTB and it’s priced way too low…am I crazy?”
When the phone rang back about 20 minutes later, Otis said he agreed it was a Euro spec dry sump car, and his co-workers all agreed.
This was about lunchtime on August 14th, a Friday, and I sat considering what to do next.
By about 6:30 pm I finally mustered the courage to send the salesperson a text message. His response was nearly immediate. He said the car was a good running car and was being sold on consignment.
I said I’d like to arrange for a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) at Tim Stanford Foreign Cars, but I would not be able to contact Tim’s shop until Monday morning. I asked if he would allow me that time, and not sell the car. He said he was good with that plan. Game on!
On Monday morning, I called Tim Stanford Foreign Cars in Fort Lauderdale. For those who do not know, Tim Stanford is known to be one of the finest independent Ferrari mechanics in America.
Ferrari expert Tom Shaughnessy describes Tim Stanford as the best 8-cylinder mechanic in America.
Remember that theme of coincidences? Well Tim’s shop is located exactly 1.1 miles from where the car was housed.
Tim answered the phone on my first call! I asked if he had time in his schedule to perform a PPI on a car close to his shop. He said he did and asked what he would be looking at.
This was the first time I had to figure out what strategy to take. I was concerned about revealing that I had found a diamond in the rough at a very low price.
I was afraid my discovery would be stolen out from under me by people more powerful in the Ferrari community. But I needed Tim’s help. So, I just leveled with him, thinking if I was going to pull off the crazy purchase of an underpriced car, I needed Tim to be on my side.
I explained to him this car was a 1977 308 GTB, it was Euro spec, and a dry sump car. I also explained that I believed the seller did not know what he had, and that the car was severely underpriced. I asked him for his discretion because I believed I had found a very, very rare opportunity.
I explained I had arranged with the selling dealer to drop the car off at his shop at 1 pm if he said it was ok to do so, but I asked Tim not to discuss anything about the price with the selling dealer.
Tim agreed he would be careful about how he discussed the arriving car but would not lie on my behalf.
Shortly after 1 pm, I received a text message with a photo from the selling dealer: the car was now sitting in front of Tim’s shop.
I am intentionally not sharing the dealer’s name. I want to say at this point that this gentleman was 100% honorable to his word and I hold him in very high esteem.
He is good man. But this story could be taken as a way of demeaning him and his work. I hope it does not. I want to remind the reader: he is a true gentleman who – unlike many others in the auto sales business – was honorable to the end and a man of his word.
Now I waited for word from Tim. A couple of hours passed. At about 3 pm on Monday the 17th Tim called me.
When I answered the phone, Tim did not say hello, he simply said, “How did you do that?” I replied that I just happened to be the first person who called on this car and I knew it was a rare car as soon as I saw it. Tim was also surprised because he thought he knew of every Ferrari that lived locally and was equally surprised he had no idea this car existed, especially so close to him.
I was now in head-over-heels and I had to make this purchase happen…depending on Tim’s inspection results. Tim’s news kept coming back positive. He did far more work on that inspection than either of us had planned. But I sure was grateful for the extent of his work.
He performed a compression test at my request and waiting for the results was excruciating. When he called, I could nearly feel his excitement through the phone.
The results were excellent, and each cylinder averaged about 170 lbs/sq. in. At that point, Tim said to me, “If you do not want to buy this car I will go down to the bank and borrow the money to buy the car.” That was all I needed to convince me… if the best mechanic in America wanted the car, I better make my deal fast or I was going to lose it.
I called the dealer the following day. I told him I’d like to make a deal on the car. He responded by saying – what would you like to offer me for the car? I told him I wanted to offer full price on the car. I said I did not want to mess around and lose the opportunity.
I asked would he please draw up a bill of sale for me to sign and would he give me a few days to move some money? We agreed, I signed the document and returned it as quickly as I could.
It was a week before the money was ready to be transferred. All that time I was worrying someone else in the world would tell the selling dealer his car was underpriced, and they would offer to pay above the asking price, and I would lose the deal.
On the afternoon of August 26th, I proceeded with having my bank wire a little more than fifty thousand dollars to a stranger, whom I have never met in person. At this point we had only text messaged, talked, and emailed.
For history’s sake, I wish remind all of you of a huge factor that was affecting how all this happened. The year is 2020.
We were at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Florida and Fort Lauderdale, where the car was, was being reported as deeply in trouble with Covid infections.
At this point, I STILL had not seen the car in person. I had not driven the car. I had not heard the car run. I had only seen some photos on the internet and taken the word of Tim Stanford. But the money was now gone.
It was time to wait for final delivery of my title and registration, and for Tim to do the work needed to make the car safe and reliable.
All of this was being done while Covid raged and everyone was doing their best to work from home. In other words, I was paying a mechanic thousands of dollars to work on a car that I officially did not own, because I had not yet received any paperwork or the new title in my name.
About one week later a letter arrived. It was my title! For the first time in my life, I held the title to a Ferrari with my name in the owner’s box!
I absolutely felt like I was walking on a cloud. A tremendous accomplishment. I did it! I had bought a vintage, 43-year-old Ferrari, at what I believed to be HALF of what it was currently worth.
Next, I had to guide the repair process to conclusion. We were making good progress and Tim called me every day to give me updates on the car and generally share his knowledge and good cheer. I am eternally grateful for Tim’s stewardship during this process.
On October 8th, 2020, I picked up my Ferrari from Tim Stanford Foreign Cars. I got a peek at the back end of the car sitting inside his shop when I pulled up in front of his building.
It took my breath away for a moment. It reminded me of seeing the back of Dr. Cardarelli’s car in his father’s garage some thirty-plus years ago when I was a young man.
Walking up to the car in his shop was utterly overwhelming. What a journey I had gone through, and it was just the beginning.
My family came with me to experience the day. It was a bit surreal. It has been a tremendous experience and I encourage anyone with a dream to put everything they have into making that dream come true.
New Ferrari owner Chris and family
The rewards are worth the effort. Coincidence or destiny? I will let you be the judge.
As a follow up, I recently got a chance to reconnect with Dr. Cardarelli, via phone, to ask him for his permission to include his information as part of this story.
It was amazing to reconnect with someone after 37 years. Dr. Cardarelli is still a die-hard Tifosi. And yes, he still owns the yellow 246 Dino and the red 308 GTS.
He has had other Ferraris along the way, but he swears his allegiance to the models that started it all for him as well.
In fact, to further demonstrate how small the world is, Dr. Cardarelli and Tim Stanford have been long-time friends who keep in touch regularly.
Tim has helped the doctor with several things related to his cars over the years. The doctor and I plan to have lunch the next time I visit New England.
Home at last! Adventures to follow