By Dean Micalizio
It all started with my normal ‘browsing’ through the want ads in the usual places: Autoweek, Autotrader, etc. I had dreamed of owning a Testarossa, but the prices a few years ago were still in the stratosphere. But over the last year or so, prices have been tumbling. Whether it is the economy or not, didn’t matter. The time seemed right for some serious shopping.
There it was: 1987 TR, Black/Tan, 620 miles… perfect! I called and met the owners Greg and Jenny, two very nice and meticulous Ferrari owners. The car sounded great, but there were two problems. 1) They were ‘firm’ at a price that was a bit too rich for me. And 2) I had a full garage with a 1985 308 GTS, a 1989 348ts, and a 1992 F40. Something had to go, and the 308 was the one for the block, but Greg didn’t want to trade; he just wanted out of his car. Well, it was worth a try.
I kept in touch with Greg and Jenny over the next several months. I was also in touch with several brokers, who were showing me cars that were more at my price point. The prices were right, but I still had the problem of the full garage.
Finally, four months after my initial contact with my perfect black/tan TR, things were beginning to come together. Greg and Jenny dropped their price and I had a buyer for my 308 at a great price! SOLD! Here I am, exactly where I want to be; life is good. But as fate would have it, my buyer, for whom I even arranged financing, was having trouble qualifying. All this two days before I’m supposed to travel from Arizona to Michigan to pick up the TR. Well, I have a choice, let this car go-no way. Or find a friend (with garage space) to store the 308-yes way!!
A side note on low mileage cars and their owners: people who own exotic cars and don’t drive them. Greg and I consummated our deal over the phone, and he asked me if I wanted to buy his trailer. I told him no. He asked which carrier I was going to be shipping with. I told him I would be flying out and drive the car back to Arizona… approximately 2000 miles. It seemed like the makings of a great adventure to me! I felt Greg’s throat tighten and his voice rise. “You are going to drive the car?” “It’s a car isn’t it? Won’t it make the trip?” I asked. He said the car was perfect, but he couldn’t believe that I was going to drive a Ferrari across the country. He was afraid of all the attention it might attract. Oh well!
The day finally came. Six and a half hours and three planes later, I was in this little town on the Michigan-Wisconsin border. I wondered how we would recognize each other. No problem, as I was the only passenger to get off the plane, and they were the only people waiting at the airport. Also, he wore a Ferrari sweatshirt; it had to be him.
Greg and Jenny were as nice in person as over the phone. They brought the TR with them, along with a Chevy pickup as a support vehicle. The car looked perfect. Now it was time to see if it ran as well. To Greg’s surprise I just hopped into the TR’s pilot seat and prepared us for take off. We trundled behind the Chevy on the way back to their home. The TR wanted to go allot faster, but that would have to wait…
We consummated the deal and took pictures of each other with the TR. I could tell that they were sad to let their baby go. It came time to leave, the sky grew black and it started to rain. Greg offered to have me stay a little longer as his car had never seen rain! This may have been an excuse to spend a little more time with the car. I would have done the same thing. I had a long drive ahead, and I had to get going. We said our goodbyes and they led me out of town. Greg rode with me, as he wanted one last drive with the TR. I think Greg wanted to go with the car, but I gave him back to Jenny, waved goodbye and off I went.
It rained just enough to turn my TR a lovely shade of grey-brown. The first night was rather uneventful, other than a group of Wisconsinites staring at the car wash. With the TR once again spotless, I could sleep.
The next day was one of those perfect Midwestern fall days. Clear blue skies, crisp temperatures and empty lightly patrolled roads are the perfect formula for a ‘car guy’ day. For the first 200 miles the car didn’t seem as quick as other TR’s I had driven. This was disappointing. But as the miles unfolded, the black giant began to wake up. The poor thing was probably in shock as it was only driven 20 miles in the past year.
I have owned many cars, plenty of exotics and a number of Ferrari’s, but never has a car made me more friends and attracted more attention that this black TR. I thought that being black it would be subtler than the sea of red Ferrari’s, but this was not the case. Everyone from farmers in pickup trucks to yuppies in BMW’s wanted to get a look, giving me everything from ‘thumbs up’ to their addresses and phone numbers! What a great country.
The car doesn’t just have the power to go fast, but it also has the power to entice perfect strangers to buy you lunch just for letting them smell the interior! I had stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for lunch. I took my usual mall parking spot, which was as far away from the entrance as possible. I came out of the mall after a brief walk in order to shake off my road fatigue, only to find a crowd around the TR. This was a surprise as it was pretty dirty after 500 miles of bugs and road dirt. But it didn’t seem to make any difference to these enthusiasts. The questions were the usual: how fast? How much? What do you do to afford it? The last two twenty something’s were so intrigued that they wanted to hear the engine, and smell the interior. Who was I to deny them! We ended up having lunch together, and they insisted on paying! I was really starting to enjoy TR ownership.
On the stretch between Sioux Falls and Rapid City the trip high of 175 mph was hit and sustained. I believe that the car is good for another 5-10 mph, but fear of seeing the inside of a South Dakota jail got me to back off. The expression, “It’s not how fast you go, but how you go fast,” is very true of this car. It was so relaxed and composed at these upper speeds. Pininfarina has truly done their work in the wind tunnel to create this very safe and stable wing of a car.
Once I was checked into the Rapid City Holiday Inn, I was off to the car wash again. No less than 20 cars stopped, including a bachelor party and several families out on the town. All of the people were great fun and helped pass the time of cleaning, but it was the limo with the bachelor party that left the biggest mark. Not only did they stop, chat, and help with some of the cleaning, but they sent the limo driver (who was affiliated with the local ‘gentleman’s club’), down to the club and wrangle up a few of the girls who were into cars.
Apparently, the girls of Rapid City are into Italian exotic cars, as a limo full showed up. With the limo driver blasting Motley Crew’s, “Girls. Girls, Girls” on the stereo, there was quite the impromptu party at the car wash. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed myself as much cleaning a car, before or since.
The next day, a tad groggy from last night’s party, I made a tourist stop at Mount Rushmore. I returned to the remote parking spot I had selected and found a crowd around the TR again. Lots of people taking pictures of the car, looking at it and smiling said that they came to see Mt. Rushmore, but the mountain wasn’t going anywhere, but the TR was… so they had better get a look. Lots of, “How much? How fast?” questions. Those questions lead, to few rides for the tourists, and a lead and follow on the way to Colorado and a couple of meals, shaking of hands and smiles all around.
I stopped for the night in Trinidad, Colorado, and found the local car wash. Most of the friends I met this night were kids. These kids were kind of scary, very gang-like in appearance, and obviously poor. They were surprisingly friendly though, and once they got over gawking at the car, what they really wanted to know was how I had earned it. That was refreshing. Here were some kids, with their lives in front of them, not from affluent backgrounds, trying to figure out how to earn a great prize…legally. Perhaps there is hope for the youth of this country after all.
It’s Sunday, the last day of the trip. Twenty minutes into New Mexico, at 6am, I passed a highway patrol car busy giving an econobox a ticket for probably 5 over. He saw me go buy (at the speed limit of course), and he must have torn all the ligaments in his neck as his head shot around to get a look. I didn’t think much of the event until a half hour later when I could make out in my rear view mirror about five miles back some red and blue flashing lights. I had a choice, back out of my 85 mph pace and risked being harassed… or go. I punched it to 140 mph and ten minutes later I dove into a rest area. I was so far ahead, I had enough time to take a pit stop, grab a snack, talk to more people about the TR and watch him fly buy. I waited several minutes before leaving, not knowing if he was really after me. About 10 minutes down the road my Valentine began yelling at me. I slowed down to find my friendly NM patrolman along with a second patrol car in the median. Both firing X and K bands at me, flashing their lights and waving as I went by! I wasn’t bothered the rest of the day in New Mexico. I like to think that it was the power of the TR that made them leave me alone.
My impression of the TR is this: what an absolutely wonderful car. Supremely comfortable. Extremely quick, fast and safe. If you own a TR, or anything that’s fun to drive, get it out, dust it off, drive it and make some memories of your own, because it is the best way to see this country and get to know the people of this great country I call home.