More Stories from the Trenches
Volume 46 Issue 26
Dec 19, 2021
The year-end wrap-up along with some Jim Weed stories about towing Ferraris and a U-Haul incident that turned out OK in the end.
This is the last issue for 2021. It has been a great year for the Ferrari Market Letter. Great, mainly because we delivered another twenty-six issues to your mailbox, or inbox, as the case may be.
Cathy and I start each two-week cycle the same way. After the previous issue is mailed on Friday morning, and we turn the on-line version on Monday morning, the questions begin.
“What are we going to do for this issue?” “How many pages do I need to fill?” “Is there anything others have contributed that we need to publish?” And with that, the cycle begins anew.
During the next five days, articles will be written, ideas thrown around, and the number of available pages will change. Sometimes several times during the week.
Some articles and subjects write themselves. Some require a stack of books from our library for research. Some come from phone calls and emails you send asking about some arcane aspect of Ferrari history. Sometimes an idea comes from standing in the shower while wondering what the heck I’m going to write about this week.
I try to bring you news from events around the globe. Mark Sonnery, our correspondent in Europe brings us, and you, reports of the larger events, like Retromobile or Villa d’Este.
Bob Varsha is very connected to the Formula One scene. His insight of the teams and people involved make his reporting accurate and knowledgeable. I couldn’t even begin to give a report that would do justice to the sport. His season wrap-up can be found on page three.
We have others who contribute articles for us to publish. Rick Carey, Wallace Wyss, Carbon McCoy, Bill Orth, Tom Ferrara and others have contributed for your entertainment. Cathy has also contributed to many articles this year.
Sometimes if I’m in a slump she comes through with something fun. We are a team and while we don’t work in the same room together, we are always on the same page. It takes a lot to bring this magazine to your door twenty-six times each year.
I think she does the lion’s share of the work getting ads together and working in the database finding and logging serial numbers from around the globe. She thinks I do more in writing the articles and organizing the layout. The division of duties is just fine by me.
I would be remiss if I didn’t put a plug in here. Do you have an interesting story? Want to be seen and read by thousands of people?
Afraid you can’t write, but have a story to tell? Rest assured; I didn’t think I could either but here I am. If you write it, I can make it look like you could be a James Patterson.
I hope you are entertained with the articles I personally write. Well, at least the fun ones. Book reviews kinda write themselves. I love to read and trust me I read each book cover to cover.
Auction reports are one of the most challenging. The auction descriptions have so much detail and we have only so much space. Besides, you don’t really need to know the first owner in 1958 was the sales manager of the best widget factory in lower Slovenica and kept the car for two months before he moved onto another.
I try to pare those auction reports down to ‘just the facts, ma’am’. Colors, mileage, service and restoration history, along with significant owner history. If Elton John owned the car, I think you might want to know that tidbit of information.
Those reports are not the same as physically seeing the cars. I try to get a feel of the quality from the description and the photos on the website. I also look at the estimate range and then the sales price. This gives me a sense of where I think the market is going. I’m sure you notice I don’t offer any opinion about the car or the sale.
When Rick Carey gives us his auction reports we know he actually looked at the car. He offers his impression and opinion on whether the sale was good for the buyer or seller. I bring this up because I think his reports are superior to mine, and I wish we could afford to have him jet around the world exclusively writing auction reports, but if anyone is getting that job, I’ll be first in line (Cathy may have a different view).
Then there are my personal experiences.
Stories about cars or events. Those articles tend to be the most fun. It’s my way of reliving the forty-five years or so I have been working in this crazy world we call Ferrari.
So, for the next couple pages I’m going to relive some of those stories, climb atop my soapbox and generally have some fun with this issue.
My first job with FAF Motorcars was towing broken Ferraris all around the southeast. I worked elsewhere and in the time between getting off work and the time I had to be back meant I could cover most nearby states.
The year was 1975 and my first trip was to Richmond, Virginia, to pick up a 365 GT from a parking lot. I left work at four, drove to Richmond, arrived at midnight, loaded the car onto the trailer and was back in time to make it to work at nine.
Over the next couple years I did several trips just like that. It was good to be young.
It was the 1970s and I drove a Ford van. Yes, it had carpet on the walls and a bed built up in the back. It also had cabinets for storage and an icebox to keep drinks (beer) cold.
FAF had a trailer and a broken-down Chevy station wagon nobody trusted to go any farther than local drives. That’s how I got involved. The trailer was open with a large wind, stone and bug deflector made of steel mounted on the front. It was orange which is why it became the “Orange Blossom Special”.
With a CB radio in the dark of night, my buddy Mike, who worked for FAF, and I drove many a mile during those days of 55 mph speed limits. I would like to believe some of those turnaround times still have yet to be beaten. Smoky and the Bandit didn’t have anything on us.
I know it is hard to believe cars were ever transported on an open trailer, but that’s how it was at that time.
I picked up a 250 PF Coupe from a body shop in Mississippi. It was one of the few daytime trips I ever did. The car was apart and the body was perfect in primer. All the trim and upholstery was loaded into the van and we headed home.
About ten miles later I heard the jingle of chain and decided to stop to check the car. As I slowed down to about ten miles per hour to pull off the road suddenly the whole rig was pushed up to about thirty-five miles-per-hour! I got it all under control and moved onto the shoulder again to find the PF Coupe now nestled into the front of the trailer.
The chain we used to attach the rear axle to the trailer hung uselessly with all the hardware missing. Luck was with us that day as I walked back up the road to the point of sudden acceleration to retrieve the missing nut, bolt and washer. There was not a scratch on the car.
I had by that time towed several different Ferraris but none of them were as beautiful as that PF Coupe. If I had the money, I would have bought that car right then and there. FAF parted it out.
It now lives on as a GTO replica. When I saw the serial number, it was familiar so I looked it up. Sure enough, it was the one. There is a certain serendipity to being around Ferraris.
In 1977 I was finally hired in the parts department of FAF and really began to learn about Ferraris.
The FCA Annual Meet was at Road Atlanta in 1978. The host hotel was the PineIsle Resort and Golf Course. I had contracted with a gentleman in Miami to bring his Daytona Spyder up to the meet. He had planned on driving it back home after, so it was to be a one-way trip only.
I made arrangements for a U-Haul truck large enough to fit the Daytona inside. My other preparations were to gather the things I would need to tie the Ferrari down.
Eyebolts for the floor to strap the rear of the car down. A drill to put holes in the floor for the eyebolts. Wood blocks (2X4) to block the wheels, along with nails and a hammer to mount them to the floor. And straps to hold the car.
I had a nearby gas station lined up with a drive-on lift. The plan was to back the car on the lift, back the truck up to the lift and drive it on. It was a good plan.
I caught a flight down to Miami with a duffle bag of tools and equipment. Now, security was not the same as today, but they still looked at the bags. I had a one-way ticket with a bag containing drill and bits, blocks of wood, nails and straps, and a hammer.
Security pulled me aside. I’m sure my story was suspect. They were not going to let this kid onto an airplane who claimed he was going to pick up a Ferrari and bring it back to Atlanta. Besides, I wasn’t even wearing a suit or tie.
After much begging and explaining, security decided a drill with bits, nails, eye-bolts, etc., were OK to go on the airplane but the hammer had to stay. I dutifully dropped the hammer into a steel box that looked like it was made for dangerous weapons like hand grenades and other explosives.
The rest of the flight was uneventful. Loading the car was also uneventful. Even the drive from Miami was uneventful.
Eight hundred trouble-free miles in the back of a U-Haul truck...
I had lined up a local garage to get the car off the U-Haul. Same procedure. Back up to the lift and back out. The Daytona would need to be driven a couple miles into the PineIsle complex. I found the customer and informed him of the plan.
Since the car was cleaned and detailed already, he didn’t want to drive it the couple miles. He wanted to see the car and I opened up the door. A crowd gathered to see this beautiful spyder in the truck.
Sometimes, more help is not helpful. Ramps were produced and I reluctantly removed the straps and blocking. The customer insisted on driving his car off the truck and down the ramps.
With the ramps I wasn’t sure the car could make the transition off the end of the truck. There was also no physical attachment of the ramps to the truck. All I could see is the Spyder falling off the end of the truck in front of a very large audience. I was no longer in control of anything.
The owner, while backing the car, panicked, and hit the brakes. One of the ramps slid off the truck and crashed to the ground. It was possible to place your hand on the bottom of the rear tire as it hung off the edge of the truck. Eight hundred trouble-free miles in the back of a U-Haul truck and I was getting ready to see this Daytona fall because of the enthusiasm of the crowd and two miles of asphalt.
A jack was produced and the back jacked high enough to slide the ramp back under the tire. With everybody holding their breath the owner was able to back down without any more drama.
The good news is there was not a scratch on the car, and it went on to win its class. Who knows? Maybe I started the specialized enclosed transport industry? Probably not, but it certainly was unique to see a car transported inside a truck. Different times for sure.