I’ve been obsessed with Italian sports cars, and Ferraris in particular, since my early childhood. The obsession started with a book called ‘Supercars of the Seventies’. This was the first book I remember buying with my own money. I was 8 years old. It had a red Lamborghini Countach on the cover and cost me £2.50 – which was A LOT of pocket money back then.
While other children were playing with their toys I was in the garage, sitting in the driving seat of my father’s car, practicing my gear changes and heel and toeing… All with the engine off of course. The car may have been a family hatchback in a UK surburban garage but in my mind, I was sideways on a dusty mountain stage of the Monte Carlo rally.
As an adult I searched out Ferraris whenever I could. However, sightings were few and far between. I remember a black testarossa occassionally spotted in Bath, England while I was at University. It looked out of this world – absurdly low and wide. While living in the Midlands, there was a 246 Dino in the village which looked achingly beautiful but never seemed to get driven.
Working in Brussels in the 00s meant I started seeing Ferraris regularly on the street for the first time – something that had never happened in provincial England. A drinking acquaintance had a grey Mondial. I saw a silver 275 GTB, even then a $1m dollar car, driven almost daily in my neighbourhood of Uccle. Garage Francorchamps was close by and one of the world’s pre-eminant Ferrari dealers. A local florist owned a rosso corsa 348 TS. Two pilgrimages to Maranello purely to visit Ferrari represented the zenith of my European Ferrari obsession. During this time I flirted with ownership and while I could afford such a car, the maintenance frankly scared the hell out of me. One week before I moved permanently to the US, I was offered a restored yellow 308 GTB for a ridiculously low price by the London mechanic that maintained my Fiat barchetta. I foolishly turned it down, not really knowing how to get it to the US with me.
The move to the New York area meant Ferraris became commonplace. A co-worker had owned several Ferraris over the years as his father had been a friend of Luigi Chinetti – Enzo Ferrari’s close friend and US importer. Not only would I see a Ferrari every day or two around town, there would be numerous models at the many car shows and meetups around New York City. Some events would have 50, 60 or 100 production Ferraris and the stand-out cars then became the rare race machinery… The P3s, the 250 LMs, the 250 GTOs and TDFs. Ralph Lauren’s collection was stored locally and I saw it when it was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in Boston. One village on Long Island contained 3 250 GTOs from the 39 made. I slowly realized that this small part of the NJ, NY, CT tri-state area was second only to Modena in Ferrari folk-lore and history.
In 2008 I started looking for my first Ferrari in earnest. My budget meant no older than a 308 and no newer than a 355. The stories of huge maintanance bills on the 355 meant I was realistically looking at 308s and 348s. I knew I would need to do some of my own maintenance which meant a 348 which felt too modern for this mechanic. An early 308 felt right – it was straight out of the ‘Supercars of the 70s’ book I bought so many years earlier. It definitely felt like closing the circle. An irrational prejudice against Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection meant I was looking for a Ferrari 308 GTB built between 1976 and 1980.
In 2010, with the support and encouragement of my wife, I purchased a s/n 26359 – A 308 GTB built in Maranello on 14th November 1978 with 53,000 miles driven since. Everything worked great for 24 hours until the engine cover cable snapped. I had expected to go sometime longer before something needed fixing but instead I was thrown into the world of Ferrari restoration far sooner than I expected. I was glad my first project was an easy one. A $4 cable and a couple of hours had it working again. I am guessing it will prove to be the cheapest fix the car will ever need.
Now 7 years later there is very little on the car that I have not disassembled, cleaned, examined and otherwise peered into. My aim was to thoroughly understand the car through by working on it has been achieved. Many years after buying that book, I have my Ferrari and when I’m not working on it I want to be driving it and when I’m not driving it I want to be working on it. I started this website to document the work I have done and continue to do on the car but also as a way to motivate me to get back to it when the garage is too cold or I’m too lazy to pick up the wrench.
I now have many books in my automotive library but pride of place goes to that dog-eared copy of Jeremy Sinek’s ‘Supercars of the Seventies’ published by Hamlyn in 1979 and bought early one Saturday morning by a small child outside of London and thereby starting a life long passion.
April 2017, Wesley Hills, NY.