It was 1966, and I was a delivery boy for my father's photography business in Manhattan. On any given day I would pass Don Allen, the Chevrolet dealer on Fifty-Ninth Street and Broadway. In the window was a maroon Corvette convertible with side pipes and knockoff aluminum wheels. On the fender was a small emblem with the words 427 Turbo Jet on it. This Corvette was enough to make an eighteen-year-old gearhead sweat. Now, just down the street was Gotham Ford. In its window was a British Racing Green Cobra. Once again, to an eighteen-year-old gearhead, who had given up Hot Rod Magazine to meticulously study Road & Track, it was a very hard choice between which window to spend a few minutes gawking, before I'd be late for my next delivery.
Every once in a while my deliveries would take me to the east side past a Ferrari dealer. In his window, time stood still because in there was the most beautiful car I'd ever seen. It didn't matter if it was raining or snowing; I'd take a moment and press my face to the glass till my drool froze. On one memorable rainy day, I'd had my face to the glass when a salesman invited me in. I couldn't believe he was talking to me, and then I couldn't believe I was actually in the showroom. A Russo Chanti 275 GTB stood before me. At that moment I knew some day, some way, I'd take her home. It took twenty years to fulfill my dream. I cleared out every bank account I had and emptied every change jar I could find to finally purchase that red 275 GTB. As I sat in my garage listening to Enzo's magic, I wondered how long it would take me to get insurance money so I could actually drive it.
Every night after work, it was just the two of us in that garage. I'd put lotion on her and gently rub it off again. I'd let the motor run just to hear that mechanical wizardry. Any day now my paperwork would be in order, and then we'd get that tach to redline—we'd bury the speedo on the NYS Thruway. I was filled with anticipation. About a month after buying her, my insurance card came and I waited outside the DMV for it to open. I'd read and reread my paperwork to make sure it was correct. There would be no coming back tomorrow. And there was no going back. I had my stickers on. I thought I'd take her for a few laps around some local roads just to get acquainted, but it was getting dark so I decided tomorrow would be better.
The next morning a friend came over and we decided it would be prudent to go easy on her for a while. After about an hour of driving on the back roads, I wanted to see what my baby could really do—what the guys at Road & Track have been talking about all these years. No sooner had I decided to test her, I spun out and slid backward into an embankment. The scent of raw gas wafted through the air. I didn't want to see what I had done, but I had to. The incredibly beautiful wood wheel was splintered. The bumper was dented, and one of the bolts had gone through the fuel tank. Not as bad as I had originally imagined, but still disappointing.
Once she was on the flatbed, we went home quietly. After a few months of soul searching, I decided the car had to be repaired at a Ferrari dealership, so it was trucked out to Long Island. As everyone knows, you can't paint half a Ferrari so I decided I had to, as penance for my sins, strip the car, pull the glass, and return it to its original beauty. My off-road expedition was very costly, but I deserved to pay for what I did to her.
After some time the shop called me in so I could see that the hole from the bumper bolt had been repaired perfectly. I was confident she was in good hands. Another few weeks had gone by and my car was finally ready. I thought it appropriate to have my friend who had been in the accident with me give me a ride.
I'd like you to picture the service manager in a white lab coat and his two assistants in coveralls that had never seen grease. I should have known something was up, but I was so excited to see her, I ignored this. We were led into the shop where my car was covered. With a flourish any magician would be proud of, the cover was pulled off. The paint looked good, but something was wrong. The windshield and the back glass were not flush. I opened the driver's door to find that some animal had put sheet metal screws around the door frame. I lost my mind and cursed the service manger and his offspring, and their offspring for generations to come. What was I going to do?
This could only be fixed in Italy so I had my friend drop me at JFK. The next morning I was in Italy. Now you would think any Italian would know where Maranello, Modena, is—not so. After a false start, I finally arrived at the factory. After some explanation I was led to a conference room. Keep in mind I'm still in two-day-old jeans and a pretty rough leather jacket, having left New York with no luggage. Hey, I was on a mission from God. In a few minutes a man came in who was impeccably dressed, his suit and shoes cost more than the GNP of a small country. He listened to me intently as I told my tale of woe. He then explained Ferrari North America and Ferrari SPA to me.
He must have seen the crazy look in my eyes when I told him about my twenty-year dream. He offered me a seat and left the room for about forty-five minutes. When he returned, he told me to go home and my car would be perfect in two weeks. He then had someone give me a tour of the factory before I left.
Back in New York time dragged on. I finally got the call. This time when the cover was pulled off, she was perfect. As I got ready to take my baby home, the owner of the dealership approached me. He was very cordial, but he wanted to know who I knew to get this done.