FCA 2021 Annual Experience
Volume 46 Issue 24
Nov 21, 2021
The 2021 FCA Annual Experience is over. Jim Weed relives four days of Ferrari fun.
The event that almost never was.
Last year the FCA Annual International Ferrari Meet was supposed to be in Canada but Covid put a stop to that. This year it was planned to be in Portland, Oregon.
Unfortunately, Portland had its share of lockdowns and unrest and it was still touch and go as the date grew near. I’m sure it was a difficult decision to cancel the event for the second year in a row.
The possibility of not having a meeting two years in a row was unthinkable. The team that put on the 2017 meet in Daytona was still around and Tom O’Riordan pulled them together.
Normally it takes two years of planning and organization to make an event this large happen. O’Riordan and team did it in six months.
Sebring, Florida, was the place. With a historic racetrack and the sixty-year anniversary of Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien’s victory in a 250 TR61, what could be better?
There were two host hotels, the Seven Sebring Hotel and the Inn on the Lakes. We were able to get a room at the Seven Sebring which was located at corner seven of the track.
Taking the time off for an event always makes our schedule crazy. Time away from the office means doubling up when we get home. As I write this on Friday, normally I would be finalizing the layout for the issue and preparing to print on Tuesday. With three days at the meet and the nine-hour drive home on Thursday I have decided to give my impressions and thoughts about the meet in random order.
Saturday I drove to Sarasota, Florida, to see my parents. I trailered the car he gave me four years ago and surprised him with it. When I got to Sebring, I couldn’t just leave it in the trailer; besides, what would I use to get around?
A 1958 Edsel is not a Ferrari, but it still is a cool piece of automotive history. I used it as a taxi both on Sunday evening and on Monday to run people back and forth to the track. It was a great conversation starter and let’s face it, cars guys are car guys, regardless if it is a Ferrari or not.
The concours was at the track. The pit lane had Ferraris lined along the outer pit lane wall. While the car count was small, seventy-five or so, the quality of the cars presented was extremely good. I prefer seeing the cars out on a nice green manicured lawn but the logistics of using the track made sense.
One of the things I really liked was the progression of cars along the row. Stephen Bruno’s 212 Inter Cabriolet anchored one end of the row. The cars that followed progressively got newer.
Early Ferrari: The beginning of the concours row. 212 Inter of Stephen Bruno
While there was not one of each model represented there was enough to hold the interest of someone experienced and enough for the new Ferrari owner to see the lineage. Isn’t that what a large meet is to do? Teach and explore history?
Interesting cars abounded. David Nelson brought a 275 GTB in right hand drive. Fresh from England this one also was alloy body and six carburetors. In the bright sunshine the Celeste Chiaro paint just sparkled.
Thinking of 275s, this class was one of the few that had multiple entries. Each one just as spectacular as the next. David MacNeil had a white long nose 6/C, Charles Scardina brought a beautiful silver 4-cam and Duke Steinemann had his lovely dark blue 4-cam.
Farther down the row I came across Eric Apen and his 365 GT4/BB. Restored by FAF many years ago by his father, John Apen, it was fun to flip through the picture book with all the restoration photos. It was hard to believe I looked so young back then. This was a car I had driven many times and it was neat to see her still looking good.
In addition to the concours there were other sights to see. Since we are at Sebring airport, around the corner and under the bridge was a WWII fighter and a Honda Jet displayed. The P51 Mustang was as clean and shiny as any of our Ferraris. Restoration takes on a whole new meaning when it come to something as complicated as one of the fastest propeller-driven airplanes in the world.
The Honda Jet was open for tours. Small jets are meant to be fast and efficient, and this was all those things: fast, efficient and small. Very cool design and like most things Honda, cutting edge, just like our modern Ferraris.
I must make some comments on the food and atmosphere. The hotel did a great job bending over backwards to make sure every need was taken care of. The start of each day began with complimentary breakfast. No warm roll and a glass of juice, but a full eggs, sausage, bacon and potatoes kind of breakfast.
Lunch at the track was catered and was not the usual racetrack burger and fries, but delicious salmon and pork tenderloin, salads, and desserts. Each day there was something new to try.
At night the evening reception and dinner served wonderful food. I think the bacon-wrapped scallops were the best but all of it was great. Every region that puts on the next annual meet should use the Florida region playbook. If there were problems behind the scenes it never showed.
Every meal was an opportunity to sit with folks I didn’t know, and that is what meets should be all about. Expanding Ferrari friendships across the country. Conversations are easy when we have Ferraris in common.
At one table is a couple alone and I sit down. After introductions, Ginger Bamford and Jay Rosas quickly become new friends. It is only after twenty minutes of conversation do we get around to cars we own. They came from California, and I discover Ginger is the Pacific Regional Director. I sit with royalty! No, just very nice people who share the same passion.
Tuesday was the competitive rally and Cathy will have to share her story in a later article. I attempted to go on the pleasure drive with the Edsel. The top was down with three willing passengers ready to enjoy a vintage ride when it would not start! Wouldn’t you know it, the 60-year-old starter decided to stop working in front of everyone. That put an end to the taxi service.
I did enjoy the Wednesday pleasure drive with Alan Castro from North Carolina. It was a nice drive through the Florida countryside. Lots of orange and lemon groves but also an interesting drive into Highlands Hammock State Park. The park road meandered through an old-growth bald cypress swamp. There were so many plants and different trees that it looked like a jungle. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to traverse this area 400 years ago.
The track was busy both days with many taking their cars out to enjoy the thrill of driving the historic track. All in all, I believe it was a relatively safe time without incidents. I did see one 458 on the flatbed with some minor tire wall damage. Then there was a GTC4Lusso that came into the pits on fire. The fire was quickly extinguished but the rush of people running over to gawk and record the incident looked like a historic site stop with a bus load of tourists. Thank goodness the driver was safe.
Futuro Classico: The far end of the concours row. 488 Pista of Steve Weyreter
Wednesday’s awards banquet was filled with good food and great people. I sat at a table with David Varwig and Duke Steinemann along with Ruggero Santilli. As you can see from the awards page our table did a nice job bringing trophies home.
I know this is a short report, but it cannot be said enough, this FCA 2021 Annual Experience was one of the best. Next year in July will be in Canada. Mont Tremblant will be the place to see old friends and Ferraris, and also make some new ones. Add it to your calendar and make your plans now.
See you there!