You know those days when you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus? That’s how this one started out. The day started with a tip off: a premier classic Ferrari, a 1967 330 GTC, was for sale. I wanted to make sure I was the first to see it. I called the seller and was given an address to see the vehicle. However, as soon as I got in my own car to drive over, I noticed something was wrong.
A flat tire. Just what I needed.
Fortunately, my Mercedes has run-flat tires that give me about 20 miles before I have to change a flat, though I would have to drive slower than the passing traffic to avoid exacerbating the damage. I went to the gas station to get enough air to make it to the seller’s house, then set off once more towards the other side of Los Angeles.
A third of the way there I got a call from the seller’s daughter. Her father was no longer sure he wanted to sell the Ferrari. Immediately, I made him an offer and kept driving. I was almost to their home when I received another call from the daughter, rejecting my offer.
“I’m only five minutes away from you,” I said, then upped the initial figure. When I finally reached the property it was as though I had found the fabled, mythical El Dorado.
The white Ferrari 330 GTC was stored in the garage of this relatively modest home. It had been under the tarp for years, waiting to be restored. Waiting for the door to open to see the car for the first time is always the most exciting moment of finding and buying classic cars. I was so eager to see the car that I ducked under the garage door before it was fully opened.
When the garage door was open I saw a Ferrari shaped vehicle, hidden by car cover, which only increased my enthusiasm. Finally, the car was revealed. Even if it wasn’t for sale, I would still be satisfied to just spend time with this unicorn.
The seller didn’t appear at first. When I asked his daughter about him, she told me her father had been a physicist, building satellites at NASA. “Top secret stuff,” she told me.
Now I was not only fascinated by the car itself, but by its owner and the vehicle’s provenance. His daughter filled me in.
Her father had purchased the Ferrari in 1970, three years after it had been manufactured. He loved the model, and it was exactly what he had been looking for. Moreover, it already had a bit of a past.
Enzo Ferrari, the inspirational genius behind the Ferrari marque, would famously take one example of each model off the Ferrari line. In Warren Fitzgerald and Richard Merritt’s book, Ferrari: The Sports and Gran Turismo Cars, Ferrari declared the GTC “one of the finest machines ever from the Ferrari line.” For a time, this very car I had come to see had been the vehicle he personally drove. While it was in his possession, Enzo loaned this vehicle to his Grand Prix racing drivers, including the legends Chris Amon, Andrea de Adamich, and Jacky Ickx. The Grand Prix racer Niki Lauda, three-time F1 World Drivers Champion, also had driven this very car.
Ferrari eventually sold the car to his close friend, the mayor of nearby Modena, only a short distance from Marinello, where Ferrari’s motors were manufactured. When the mayor sold the 330 GTCT in 1970 the present owner had bought it his personal use. Over the years he also loaned the car to his daughter.
“I was driving the car when I was in school,” she said. “I got a lot of attention from men. People would say, ‘It’s because you’re so beautiful.’ I said that it was because it was such a beautiful machine. I had people literally following me home. You know how fanatical people can be about Ferraris.”
A Grand Prix driver gave her a driving lesson. “We were on the German autobahn and he said, ‘I’d better teach you how to do this properly’,” she recalled.
“The co-founder of Robinson May, the department store chain, had also driven the car and been in it a lot with me.,‘ she said.“He would say to me ‘Do it. Put your pedal to the metal.’ I had it up to 120 mph going through the Mojave desert once. It airfoiled on me: I was shocked. My brother, who was with me, said, ‘Lift your foot off the pedal, please’.”
Eventually, the ’67 Ferrari 330 GTC was in need of some care and attention. It was put in for a full restoration, but for complicated reasons the restoration was never completed. When I viewed the vehicle some of the parts were still locked away upstairs, but I could still see that everything was shipshape and in order.