Tell me about the old days!

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tyang
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Tell me about the old days!

Post by tyang » Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:41 am

Hi Guys,

I recently blogged about my visit to Steve's house, a fellow forum member, to see his Ferraris. http://tomyang.net/?p=17374
The post got me thinking about the direction of the Vintage Ferrari Hobby and the business that supports it. Steve is a rarity, where he actually works on his cars, but if you're reading this post, you're also part of this small subset of owners that work on their own cars. My business repairs, restores, and maintains Vintage Ferraris, but I also spend a lot of time advising owners on investing and valuation. This website was created before it was a business, and supported all the other enthusiasts that owned their own Ferraris and wanted to work on them on their own. I champion that ideal, and have kept this website eager to help anyone who needed advice and guidance.

My question is for those that have been involved with the Ferrari Hobby well before my arrival in 1999? Were more owners working on their own cars in the 70s and 80s before the prices sky rocketed? I feel there are a smaller percentage of people turning their own wenches today than what may have been 30-40 years ago, but I'm asking those that were doing it back then. When you went to a Ferrari meet in the 70s, how many people worked on their own cars? Was it more than what we see with these same Vintage cars?

I think part of the problem is age. Many of the owners that had these cars back in the 70s and 80s don't have the physicality to work on their cars anymore. Even in my 50s, I can feel the effects of age when working on cars! As these cars get sold, the new owners never worked on cars before and are not comfortable working on their Ferrari.

If I can understand what's happening, then I can figure out how I fit in this Vintage Ferrari World!

Thanks for all of your thoughts!

Tom
'63 330 America #5053

NOTRED
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by NOTRED » Sun Feb 17, 2019 5:05 pm

I recall even by 1980 not many owners working on their cars. In FCA Northeast Region Bob Zambelli and Frank Grimaldi come to mind as the exception. While rebuilding our 250 around this time (on our billiard table) I remember once my dad sending me to the kitchen to check the wrinkle finish on the newly painted cam covers ... following this for weeks, Sunday roasts always had a peculiar taste with Dad giving me that knowing look and grin. Cheers.

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John Vardanian
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by John Vardanian » Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:29 am

There are few fortunate enough to start out the car hobby with a Ferrari. For most of us it starts out with much more mundane cars. My dream car at 23, when I got my first “professional” job, would’ve been a Berlinetta Boxer. But the best thing I could afford to fulfill the supercar fantasy was a beat-up old MG. My neighbor had a for sale sign in the window of his MGB. I borrowed $1500 from my credit union at Regan era interest rates and bought the MG. It became our second car and my commuter. It was my first experience with a manual shifter and I remember coming up to lights and thinking please stay green, please stay green. About two months into ownership the car died, the fix was a new fuel pump at a whopping $90 hit to the wallet. It was a big pill to swallow when my annual pay was not even $20k. A few months later it wouldn’t start again and there was gasoline gushing from one of the two carburetors. I had to take the Chevy to work and that didn’t sit to well with my wife, nor did the anticipation of another whopping expense to fix whatever was broken. She was starting to make noises about the car having to go. Then I remembered having seen a moldy Hanes manual in the trunk of the MG. I dragged it out and studied the carburetor section--it was intimidating. But then I realized I needed tools. It was nearing Christmas and Sears had all sorts of tools on sale. I got me a basic tool kit, rushed home and went out to the car. I snapped the right socket onto the nut that held in the carburetor and that is when I realized I didn’t know if I had to turn it clockwise or anti-clockwise to loosen. That is when I got the first piece of auto-mechanics advice from my wife: you dummy, even I know that, it’s always righty-tighty and lefty-loosey. Anyway, I replace a busted jet for $10 in parts and for days after I couldn’t come down from the incredible high I felt from having done what I had done. And that is how I contracted the disease.
PF Coupe

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330GT
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by 330GT » Mon Feb 18, 2019 11:55 am

When I bought the 330, I was in my mid 30s. It was a restoration that the owner found out was more than what he wanted to finish. So it came home on a trailer and many boxes. A couple of days later, we picked up the engine and transmission from a shop that hadn't started on their rebuild.

Within a day, I had the engine torn down. With the help of a machine shop experienced in high end engines, I had the engine rebuilt, back in the car and had it on the road in 2 months. Then it was 2 years in the community college's autobody shop 2 nights a week. Of course, most other nights and weekends were spent working on the car. But the car was done and on the road in a couple of years, all while I was working full-time.

Then about 5 years ago, I decided to paint the car in the original silver. However, then in my late 60s, I decided to have it done. I did remove the bumpers, trim, etc., partly to reduce the cost and secondarily to not have any parts lost. Once the car was done, I spent 2 months putting everything back on the car and procrastinated enough that it wasn't ready for its first concourse. I just couldn't physically and mentally get myself into putting the hours necessary. And this was with having a lift, so a lot less time on my back, hands and knees than when I first restored the car.

A few years before that, I bought the PF coupe. It was also a failed restoration that had been painted in lacquer, with crazing and body rash. So it also needed a complete restoration, including the interior. The engine was apart with most of the machining done. I played around, gathering parts, working on the suspension, etc., but never getting serious about working on it. Finally, now that I'm in my 70s, I realized that I no longer have the gumption, energy and mind set to complete the project, so I sent the car with all of the parts to a Ferrari restorer. It'll still take about 2 years and lots more money, but at least it'll be done and I'll be able to drive it for the first time in 30 years.

Oh for the good old days when I could work full-time, come home and spend 3-4 hours each evening working on a car. Now I'm happy to wake up each morning and manage to get to the bathroom without too many aches and pains.
Regards, Kerry
http://www.330gt.com 330 GT Registry
http://www.parrotbyte.com/kbc/ferrari 250 PF Coupe 1643GT, 330 GT 2+2 8755GT, 308 GTS 23605

Steve Meltzer
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by Steve Meltzer » Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:15 pm

Tom, thanx again for visiting us here in beautiful, downtown Houston (not!). Tho' depressed with recurrent leaks, the two biggies I set out to fix (chain case, rear main) are dry thus far. I worked on the left distributor housing leak and the tach drive leak, as well at the coolant leak at the heater control valve neck. Undaunted, or, more likely just too stupid to know better, I also fixed the #1 carb's needle/seat, so that is done (for now!).

Your point, driven home by Kerry, about our physical (and mental) abilities is never far from my mind. My experience so mirrors John V's...minimal experience until about 20 years ago, then addicted ad infinitum. thanx again to you and all who have been, and continue to support, the fantasy that I too, can repair some of these problems. I both love and hate the challenge, but remain grateful for the high quality help and friendship i get here. steve
steve
meltzer, "“With a Ferrari, whatever it is, it’s a $1000. If that’s what it is.”"
'66 330 GTC, '72 Daytona-red, did they make any other colors?

chris
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by chris » Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:00 am

Dear Tom,

I am 50 so will not be able to speak about the time you mention as good old days. I do all my restoration work on my own. For me things started out somehow as with John.
I started working on old stuff when I was 15. My first object of desire was a Honda Dax St70 which I got in exchange for a case of beer! I did restore it and still own it after all those years. Next were tons of cheap Minis which I just fixed and sold on. My first full resto was a TR4A at 18 which again is still with me. During all this years doing things on my own was the highest priority as it gives me a lot of pride and positive feelings. Beside this I would not be able to afford my Gte and 400 if I would have to pay for resto and repairs. I agree that at least here in Germany people working on old cars themselves get less. I believe there are several reasons for this. First todays cars need less fixing and if they need it it is more complicated, so young people have less chance to involve themselves in this kind of work and work up the ladder as described by John and myself. In addition it is harder to come by old ,Stuff‘ to learn and teach yourself. Last but not least looking back some years there were still some affordable Ferraris so investment for those working on cars themselves was still managable. This has changed drastically. But then sometimes there is someone still interested - the 11 year old son of my neighbors is every free minute in my shop and eager to learn. Lets see ....

Cheers
Chris

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tyang
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by tyang » Thu Feb 21, 2019 9:47 pm

Thanks everyone for your thorough and thoughtful responses. As I suspected, we are like minded enthusiasts that share the path that led us to Vintage Ferraris!

I think I will have to dig deeper and personally ask the few old timers around to tell me about what it was like 30-40 years ago. Did Ferrari Club gatherings talk about how to keep their new Daytonas tuned, or how to bleed the brakes on their 275GTBs? I know today that kind of conversation is NOT happening with a 599, or FF. It's true these cars are getting more sophisticated and can sometimes require specialized tools and equipment, but I also don't think people are as "hands on" as the old days.

Tom
'63 330 America #5053

afwrench
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by afwrench » Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:21 pm

While I cant comment on the Ferrari world of the 60's etc, Tom's take on today is spot on as to folks fixing stuff.As I sneak up on 68yrs I note that I have been pulling wrenches both as pro and for "fun" for more than 50 yrs.At first it was to learn and also to be able to afford a car.It was just what we all seemed to do and as a group.At any gathering always at least a few hoods were up and guys heads buried deep.A bit of an overstatement but we lived it.If something broke you fixed it.Recent complexity had made that more difficult but there is also less interest in cars and fixing stuff.Case in point; a number of years ago my son pulled a VCR tape out of the player after a rewind.The tape stuck and pulled out of the cassette prior to letting go from the player.He sighed and went to throw the tape away. I stopped him and asked "why not try to fix it".He did not think it could be done or was even worth it.I said " some person put it together so we should be able to figure it out".A couple of screws and cutting the tape along with winding it properly fixed it.Certainly not rocket science.The point being he had not desire to delve into it ,to see what made it tick.Many if not most young people today see a car as nothing more than a toaster.An appliance to accomplish a task .The hand held electronic world has taken over.Me and my buds from long ago and far away saw the crappy cars we could afford as our own starship Enterprise. A freedom machine and the entry fee to another world.I still try and do all my own work but is getting harder.What used to be a 2 hr job is now an all day affair. BTW in addition to my old cars , A 1971 gtc4 among them I have 599 that I have done some stuff on.The old dog is trying to learn some new tricks.
72,365gtc4,14681,2007 599 GTB

DWR46
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by DWR46 » Sat Feb 23, 2019 1:18 pm

OK, since I am apparently an OLD Ferrari person, I will try to answer Tom’s question. I went back and looked at past issues of the Prancing Horse from 1972, when we first started attending Club events. Amazingly, I remembered almost all the names at the events. From this list, I would say that the ratio was about 50/50 between those who worked on their own cars, and those who would have hired one of the very few qualified Ferrari mechanics around in that era. Maybe about 10% of the attendees owned “new” Ferraris. Most of the club at that time was made up of people who owned the older cars, and were not wealthy. Knowledge was VERY SCARACE, and almost everybody was “flying blind” as to how to fix the cars. Many of us had a background in Alfas and this was the basis from which we built our technical knowledge. Chinetti’s organization was not particularly helpful in furnishing technical knowledge (I am sure some East Coast people may feel otherwise). However, Al Darlington at Modern Classis Motors in Reno (Harrah) was just wonderful. He would spend all the time on the phone (expensive long distance calls) you needed and sold parts are very good prices compared to Chinetti.

Jim Riff should get the most credit for making knowledge available to the “hands on” Ferrari owner. He really started it. Jim was and is a very intelligent engineer who worked for Motorola in Chicago at that time. Like most of the rest of us, he had family obligations and a steady job, yet we all found the time somewhere to buy old, worn out Ferraris and revive them as best we could. Jim started to compile anything he found of a technical nature about the cars and eventually sold it in a Technical binder. I came along shortly thereafter, and we became friends and shared information and discoveries. Hilary Raab also became a part of the trio, and his numerous trips to the factory helped in parts acquisition and accumulation of technical paperwork and records (Build Sheets). My wife Sue also gets a lion’s share of the credit for constantly helping and supporting all the “boys” in these projects. Her contribution was invaluable.

By the late 1970’s, Jim and I were working together to publish “Tech Tips” in the Ferrari Market Letter, as there were still a large number of owners who were working on and restoring their cars themselves. In the 1980’s I worked with Gerald Roush and we assembled all the FML Tech Tips into a binder and sold them quite successfully.

Interestingly, the introduction of the 308 series of cars seemed to change everything. Before this car, Ferrari’s were quite rare, and it was a small community. With the 308, the number of cars exploded, and a different group of owners acquired the cars. Also, the economy was creating more wealth and more Ferrari owners could afford to pay for work, and also were not as interested in the technical aspects of the cars. To me, all this became obvious during the late 1980’s and 1990’s. All this led to where we are today, with Tom’s little group being, in my mind, the last bastion of enthusiasts who still work on their Ferraris.

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tyang
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by tyang » Sat Feb 23, 2019 8:03 pm

Thanks Mike and Dyke for your response and thoughts.

I am honored to know all the players Dyke mentioned in his post, and am trying my best to keep the tradition of community alive with this website. Our ranks may be smaller, but our enthusiasm makes up for it!

The 50/50 statistic of hands-on vs paying customers is interesting back in the "old days." I think that ratio is much less today and probably getting smaller every year! I guess there's no stopping the decline of hands-on owners as skill sets fall, and prices rise. I will still continue to support anyone who wants to turn their own wrenches, and hope for the best!

Tom
'63 330 America #5053

Menlodon
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by Menlodon » Sun Feb 24, 2019 6:23 pm

Good old days?
In my case, my Ferrari adventures started in 1971.
I wanted to buy a 240Z because my old ’59 Ford had given up the ghost, but no Z’s were available because of a dock strike. I needed a car.
A friend (?) suggested that since I am Italian, why don’t I buy an old Ferrari. He knew of a 1962 250GTE for sale. I looked at it, test drove it and bought it. It was much cheaper than the 240Z.
It needed some TLC. It had been through several owners who could afford it but (like a mistress) couldn’t keep it.
I had done total restorations of a couple of old American cars and I had always done all my own work on my regular cars, so I thought the Ferrari would be fun.
The Ferrari was my only car and I had a 25-mile commute to work. The Ferrari had to run – and it did. Kind of an “on the road rebuilding”. Little at a time all the bugs were worked out and it became totally reliable.
Through the 70’s I met several other Ferrari owners who were in the same boat as me. We all did own work.
Later I moved closer to work and I didn’t want to use the Ferrari for just a couple of miles commute, so I bought another car The Ferrari needed an overhaul anyway. My first Ferrari total overhaul.
I also helped others with mechanical work. Some of the local repair places were not very good nor honest.
In ’75 I found and bought a 1965 275GTB. Also, a runner needing lots of TLC. Now I was a 2 Ferrari owner. My total investment was much less than $1OK. Good old days!
Back then no one wanted a 10-year-old Ferrari.
I became very good friends with the guys at Bill Harrah’s Modern Classic Motors in Reno. They were a great supplier of parts and the parts were actually affordable at not outrageous prices. (250 head gasket = $19)
Through the years I did lots of repairs and engine rebuilds on my Ferraris and others too.
I sold the 275 and still have the GTE (48 years now).
I recently finished my second engine rebuild on the GTE. It is original for the most part. It had been repainted before I bought it and I’d say it is a 50-footer now.
I always enjoy working on the Ferrari machinery – it is so beautiful inside. When I finish an engine and it is on the stand, I kind of hate to put it back in the car where most of it is hidden.
The only problem now is that I am slower at things than I used to be. (Not so good old days)

afwrench
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by afwrench » Mon Feb 25, 2019 3:47 pm

Great story ! Thanks M . Mike
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Jimmyr
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by Jimmyr » Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:24 pm

We had quite the tech gang with Dyke, Hill, and Roush. We all chatted and helped each other and the FCA members with the details on Ferrari mysteries. The long distant company phone lines were buzzing daily with our chatter. Back "then" not many shops were available to support this new Italian hoppy, and those that did also supplied knowledge when asked. It was with this network that these old Ferrari cars did not die and the hobby forgotten. Today this home repair theme is largely forgotten, and the computer era has taken the average repair to new levels. I am pleased that my son has gotten the bug and has taken up the support of these "old" Ferrari cars. Keeping the next generation involved as Tom is doing may be the only hope for these great vehicles! Jim Riff

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tyang
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by tyang » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:14 pm

Great stories guys! Keep them coming. It inspires me to keep doing what I'm doing!

Hey, Jim. With the Ferrari Club National Meet coming up in the fall in AZ, will you be there? We should try to get together for dinner or something outside of the FCA. Who else is game? As much as this is a website that brings us together, nothing beats a face to face. For those that can't make it to Monterey, maybe AZ could be a good opportunity.

Tom
'63 330 America #5053

Jimmyr
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Re: Tell me about the old days!

Post by Jimmyr » Wed Feb 27, 2019 11:47 pm

Sure Tom, always great to get together, as the snow is now gone here. I am looking forward to the FCA meet - great programs are planned! Jim

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