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Dèjà Vu Reprinted from March 1982 Prancing Horse 65

Jim Riff

Volume 46 Issue 5

Feb 28, 2021

Jim Riff recounts his first encounter with a Ferrari

    Nobody is born wanting a Ferrari. There is some event or experience that triggers the desire to own one. It can come from a childhood memory or adult exposure. Either way there is a sound, smell or look that creates a place in your mind to store the experience. At some point that memory comes back, and you become a true Ferraristi.


    Jim Riff shares his first experience with the Prancing Horse. Enjoy! JW 

    It was a cool, clear, late afternoon in October 1963 when Ken and I pulled onto Utah’s Highway 40 and headed the new Corvette into the setting sun. Some of the fond recollections of my college days still reverberate in my spine as I recall my first encounter with the real Italian Stallion – Ferrari!


    With the pulsating Beach Boys beat blasting from that wonder bar radio, it was the end of the first big exam of the semester and Reno was just a blast away. Salt Lake City was a nice town, but Midwesterners needed real night life to drench our inner self.


    The smell of damp hay filtered through my head with the thoughts of Jack Daniels and Channel #5 on the now dim horizon. As a modern day go-kart the Vette was potent and not to be fooled with on the open highway.


    As we passed the city of Clive the stark clear frontier of the Bonneville Salt Flats lay ahead. We entered U.S. 40, a two lane runway that stretched out in front of us. Radio station KSL in Salt Lake City began the all night tribute to Brian, Mike and Dennis, the California Surfers!


    As the lights of the “last” Conoco station faded in the rear view mirror all became tranquil. 125 m.p.h. and tranquil, but it was!


    Ken motioned with his thumb rearward, a quick glance seemed to show a dim set of lights “miles” back. I shrugged my shoulders and gave a questioned look – so what? 


    A cop, a beer truck, a Chrysler 300D, what? In any event we were driving the fastest stuff invented by man – 360 hp, fuel injected, the way it is supposed to be! 


    Not more than five minutes passed when a beam of light reflected off the glass in front of me, I turned around and now it was apparent that it was indeed a pair of lights as the parallax of distance now separated the charging lamps into a pair of orange circles. So what.


    Ken added a couple of hundred rpm and with a Winston Churchill victory sign I slid down in the red vinyl bucket to absorb the melody of “Help Me Rhonda” at 104 d.b. Those old Delco radios knew how to do it!


    A feeling of arrest suddenly grabbed both of us as the real possibility of ‘cop’ was felt. As the now large headlamps began to close too close. Damn, we were doing 135 m.p.h. What the hell could close on us at that speed?


    Ken stiffened his arms against the plastic wheel, and “Surfin U.S.A.” was the tempo. The water temperature was climbing but the air was cooling rapidly as the sun’s heat was two hours gone.


    Fear gripped us as $10 per mile over the limit was the going fine in those parts. That’s $700 at our present velocity. Ah, but the Nevada boarder was but 12 miles ahead, only five minutes.


    The Vette could do it if anything could, after all it was the fastest thing on earth. 205 degrees water temperature and still climbing, what was wrong? Bearings, water pump, or over-work?


    No time to worry now, 9 miles to the wide open speed limits of Nevada, but that guy was gaining rapidly, yes, rapidly and we were flat out at 140! The radio was all but noise as we pulled out KSL’s radio and the wind noise in the convertible was painful.


    We thought the culprit was the Dana under us, but it was coming from the car overtaking us on our left flank. Ken said, “I’ll bet it is his super charger.”


    As we crossed the Nevada border, it was apparent that it was red. They don’t make red cop cars; fire trucks yes, but not a 140 m.p.h. fire truck!


    It was squat, and right-hand drive, so we could see the drivers face. We scrammed over the invisible state line side by side, the red car “slowed” to our speed! I could tell his motor was whining at a lower pitch as he pulled along side.


    Ken was dumbfounded, 140 m.p.h. flat out, overheating, and this thing pulls up for a look see.


    What was it?


    It surely wasn’t American, not at that speed, and certainly not right-hand drive. The two drivers eyed each other and then looked straight ahead. I sat up straight to see this thing.


    Wire wheels, scoops all over, bounding like a speed boat. Wow! Then he shifted – I don’t know if it was up, down or sideways, but he shifted the thing. Our motor was drowned out by the roar as his pipes crossed our beam.


    He pulled away from our pride and joy. As the red tail crossed into our lights one word gleamed like a diamond – Ferrari! He literally disappeared into the horizon and we never saw that red bullet again. It pulled away at 140!


    I must have told everybody I knew that we were humiliated while driving the fastest car on earth. That memory remained with me as vivid as Ohm’s law.


    It reared its head later in my life as the magical attraction of Ferrari once again reincarnated itself, and I now have one of my own. I still like the Beach Boys music, and I can still smell the Castor oil on that cool fall night of my youth. Dèjà vu!  

    I seriously considered what photo I might use for this article. In the end I decided I would let your imagination decide how to fill in the blank.


    Jim Riff was instrumental in compiling information in the early days for Ferrari owners across the land with the original Ferrari Tuning Tips and Techniques. This bible often was the only information available to owners trying to keep these magnificent steeds running in top condition.


    The third edition was updated by Gerald Roush and John Apen in 1975 and sold through FAF Motorcars. I sold hundreds of these manuals during my time there. A Google search will find this manual is still available.


    Riff’s professional life as an electrical engineer provided the skill to rebuild the famous red voltage regulator. If there is one in your car, chances are Riff has touched it.


    Jim Riff has owned 250 GT/L S/N 4537 GT since 1972. A true Ferraristi.


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