Did you shift into the 5th gear ?

In 1969, a time when there were not so many Ferrari retailers around, my father drove to the biggest retailer, Auto Becker in Duesseldorf, and bought the shiniest car there was - a Ferrari 365 GT 2+2. On his way back to Munich, where we lived, he was driving the Autobahn.

Upon arriving, he was quite disappointed. He told us, well, nice car, but it is rather strange - in the shop, they told me to be careful with the engine for the first 3-4000 km or so, and that I shouldn't go over 3500 rpm, maybe 4000 max for some time. And it now took me over 8 hrs to get back to Munich, with a car, that only goes around 120 kph at 3500 rpm. A Ferrari should do more, especially when the odometer reads a maximum of 260 !

Well, he called the dealer in Duesseldorf, and the guy said: Did you shift into the 5th gear ? My father was taken a little  by surprise - at that time, the usual gearbox had 4 gears, or was automatic - and quite embarrassed.

Needless to say, he "learned" how to drive it, and a many years later - I believe it was 1993 - my father and I were driving the Autobahn from Genua, Italy, to Ventimiglia at the border to France. This is a very curvy, bumpy driveway through the mountains close to the sea, badly maintained, with lots of wells, bumps, shattered bridge segments and curves which were constructed in a time where cars were usually big slow monsters.

We drove approx. 120 kph on the left hand lane, overtaking a couple of lorries and slower cars. Suddenly, a brandnew BMW M5 appeared in the rearview mirror, left turn signal (in Europe this is a signal for "I want to overtake you"...) and flashing the headlights - really a man in a hurry.

My father's mouth turned into a slight grin. Upon the next gap, he let the BMW pass, but swung back into left lane immediately after and followed him. The BMW accelerated, went faster and faster, until he reached approx. 160, 170 kph - not a tremendous speed for good highways, but hell of a speed in these "pre-war" curves with bumps all over.

It was clear, that although the BMW at that time was considered to be one of the fastest limousines around, he approached the limit where his suspension system was overstretched with the road conditions. Our Ferrari was sitting on the street as if nothing really serious was going on.

Then, in one of the curves, my father accelerated even more, and put on the left turn signal, and flashed the headlight - once and very shortly. The BMW immediately went to the right, and my father accelerated even more and we passed the BMW.

I certainly do not have to describe the expression on the face of the driver of the BMW - the guy was a little surprised. After all, he just had bought a brandnew BMW M5, a car that was supposed to blow away most of the cars of his time, only to get overtaken by a Ferrari that was nearly 23 years older than the BMW !!!

Today, I drive that 365 GT 2+2, and each time I am surprised how stable the car sits on the road...


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