Once upon a time in a faraway land when the preservation of human life was far, far less important than it is today because Governments didn’t have to rely on each and every taxpayer to try and payback (the banksters), or at least keep in check the national debt …. When the deficit numbers were within the realms of realism…. And cell phones had only just hit the markets and people were just figuring out how to use them….
Which made it ‘round mid-1987, a few months or so before the October stock market crash (not that I was interested in such things back then), the opportunity to buy a 308GT4 Dino came my way, out of the blue. I hadn’t even considered such a possibility. Hmm, a Ferrari…. I certainly liked driving and had just left behind an Alfa 1750 in Aussie that I loved. Whilst my standard 1300 cc Ford Escort that I had bought as a first car couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding, it was certainly well balanced and had stood me in good stead as a training vehicle for learning what happens when the friction co-efficient between tar seal and rubber is exceeded. The Alfa had been a step up from that. Hmm what’s a Ferrari going to be like?
A guy I worked with had a friend who had just returned from England with a Ferrari that he subsequently decided to sell, to help fund a house purchase. I had a bit of money in the bank, and rationalized, only as a foolish young man can, that I could buy a house at any time in the future but buying a Ferrari would be an unlikely approved purchase down the track when there was a woman to ask. In short after a brief drive I was sold. Or to be more accurate, well and truly “oversold”. To this day I can still remember being told by the owner to keep things “seemly” until the oil temperature made it to “temperature”, and then to feel free to “take it to the redline.” Even on that first drive, with the owner in the passenger seat, I was entering corners at a fair bit more than double the recommended speed. It was an overwhelming experience: the intoxicating smell of the Agip motor oil filling the cabin with its thick pungent odour; the howling quad cammed, quad carbed alloy V8 screaming to the 7700 rpm redline; the “are my hands on the tie rod ends” steering; the flat, squat cornering. It was a heady experience to say the least, and as already mentioned, I was a “gonner”.
So it was off to the bank to get a loan for the balance of the funds needed to make the purchase. That completed it. A time was made for the purchase to be made. It was agreed that the owner would pick me up from my office and that we would go down to the local bank in the Red Car, I would pick up the bank cheque and we would then go around the corner to the Post Office to complete the change of ownership papers.
Well, we drove down the small one way alley to access the customer parking under the bank, and had to wait momentarily while another vehicle exited. Whilst waiting there a large truck, towering above us, tried to edge its way past us, and unbelievably misjudged the space between his bumper and the side of the 308, and before the owner could hit the horn the truckie had put a decent sized gouge down the passenger front guard. The owner couldn’t believe it. He was beside himself. After having shipped the car safely all the way from England to N.Z, approximately 4 minutes from being handed the cheque, a dozy truckie put a decent dent in the front guard. It didn’t really phase me at the time. I just wanted that snarling red beast and from what I remember ( it was 25 odd years ago), I gave him the cheque on the proviso the car would be repaired by a body-shop of my choosing, as he had organized to settle on his house purchase later that day.
The first couple of months were a “getting to know each other” exercise and I was initially astonished at the difference between the Red Car and anything else I had driven. The weight of the clutch was beyond anything I thought saleable, and the steering outrageous by modern day standards, also heavy but feed back to die for. The gearbox when cold was like dragging a 2x4 through mud, the click clack of the gates industrial in certainty. But boy, what a machine, FEEL in spades and a soul like no other made of steel, leather and rubber. I’d had an Alfa 1750 Berlina before and that was pretty earthy but this, this was in another galaxy. Every time I reached for the keys to take it for a drive, my heart would start beating like a big African war drum inside my chest being pounded by a warring warrior. What would happen on this drive? It was like an open ended thriller....
This “getting to know each other” phase was interrupted by a fairly interesting event. A week or two after buying the car, I was driving onto the motorway on my way to visit a friend. I had a couple of mates in the car with me; Rob a student Air Force pilot, in the front, and Dave, one of my flat mates who was a builder, crammed in the back. Now Dave was a fairly phlegmatic sort of a guy, one who didn’t get his feathers ruffled too easily under trying circumstances. He surfed, he smoked and he worked building high rises. A good guy, not the sharpest, nor a worry wart. Anyway, I was accelerating in a fairly spirited fashion onto the motorway and was approaching the speed limit when Dave piped up from the back seat, “Err, Ayrton I think your car’s on fire”. At that point I was concentrating on merging the red machine into the flow of traffic and was not too concerned about Dave’s speculations. Everything from where I was seemed fine. So I continued stepping on the go pedal. Then another- “Err, Ayrton, I think you’d better pull over ‘cos your car’s really on fire”. At which point, having made it into the stream of traffic, I turned around to see what Dave was talking about. All I could see was a wall of black smoke so thick and dense that I could not see Dave’s face two feet away. “Fuuu^&K , what the hell?” Needless to say I pulled over and stopped as fast as any human could, jumped out of the car and scrambled around the rear of the car to be confronted by a wall of flames three feet high licking through the engine cover grille. My mind was racing and not having any idea what was causing the inferno, I decided to scarpa down the motorway with TV images of the car blowing up and me flying through the air like MacGyver. Strangely enough my two passengers followed my lead and were right behind me. I guess three foot flames pouring out of the engine bay would have most people responding similarly. Non?
Anyway after making it 100 yards or so down the on ramp I stopped and turned to see the flames abating and after waiting another minute or so, we three cautiously returned to the red beast to lift the engine compartment cover to see what could have possibly caused such an event. Shortly afterwards a cop stopped and asked what had happened. I told him. He then knowingly looked into the engine bay and said most convincingly, “oh, you have definitely blown your engine up, that’s why it caught on fire”.
Now, at the age of 24 I didn’t have the greatest mechanical knowledge of cars but knew that what he said to me didn’t ring true. As most of us know, 99% of cops aren’t the sharpest of cookies out there, (which is why they are cops), and in spite of knowing this I was still worried about a big repair bill. Anyway, I had just had the car serviced and so rang the mechanic who had done the work, and told him what happened. He gave me the phone number of a tow guy that knew how to move a Red Car without destroying the front end, and told me that the engine hadn’t ”blown up” but he would check it out and let me know what he discovered. On Monday afternoon I got a call from him telling me that an oil hose had burst and dumped oil onto the hot exhaust, which had immediately caught fire and the rest is history. He said he had a hose guy make a new braided stainless line and after steam cleaning the engine bay all was perfect. Even the grill on the cover was completely fine. I think back then the whole repair including cleaning up the mess was $300, which for me was a significant relief given the alternatives.
Of all the “moments” I had in the red machine there were three that stood out. One pretty silly really but it was the intimacy with all those involved that made it stand out, and the other two because they were well over the top as far as life experiences go.
It was Friday lunchtime, at the central intersection in the heart of Auckland city, Queen and Victoria Streets, downtown. There were perhaps 50 people standing at each of the four corners waiting to cross. I was heading up Queen in third and was indicating to turn left into Victoria. According to the N.Z. road code I was supposed to give way to the oncoming car also turning into Victoria St. Whilst downtown Auckland doesn’t have what one might call skyscrapers, the buildings are certainly tall enough to amplify and echo the howl and cackle of a Ferrari exhaust note. I couldn’t help but step on the throttle to hear the exhaust song light up the street.
Perhaps it was the exhaust note or maybe the shark nosed profile of the GT4 that made the other driver wave me through but that’s what he did. At that point, my blood had been warmed by the reverberating exhaust song so I couldn’t help but heel toe into second, giving the throttle a decent blip and then burying my right foot. The back end catapulted straight out and I caught it, and stayed on the gas. What I couldn’t see before I entered the corner but became immediately apparent mid-way through, was that there standing in the middle of Victoria St were ten or so people “dotted” along the centre-line, waiting to get to the other side. They had no doubt paused mid-way to see what machine was howling its way in their general direction. They all stood like deer in the headlights, unable to move, it was all too fast. One second the way was clear, albeit with the symphony of a Ferrari exhaust note echoing amongst the tall buildings, and the next was I power-sliding around the corner eyeballing each and every one of them as I continued to bury the boot. I made it a point of drilling each one of the pedestrians to the back of their eyeballs, in a Zulu-like “I see you” acknowledgement. Through the driver's side window. And not one of them moved a muscle, in-spite of the fact that the rear of my car was four feet from them, or in a split second would be.
I was sideways up Victoria for about 60 or so yards (meters) about the same distance as where the line of jaywalkers finished. I lit up with a big, big smile and thought to myself, “None of them will forget that for a week or two.” Thankfully this was before cell phones had consumed society so I didn’t get *555'd, the NZ traffic squeal line. That would be a definite loss of license of 6 months minimum in today’s more careful and correct society.
I can continue with part two if I don’t get banned for these recollections. I haven’t read the rules to see if I have transgressed the acceptable limits of Ferrari confessions….
Last edited by sirrocco; 01-05-2012 at 04:27 PM.
Reason: needed a few more adjectives..