My first day of Ferrari ownership, in the mid-1980's just before the boom, was a little more eventful than I had planned. I had been looking for a 246 GT for some time, and finally came across a promising ad in the Ferrari Market Letter. It turns out the car was a 246 GTS, with chairs and flairs, and was probably priced higher than I could afford. But there's no harm in taking a look, right? My future wife and I drove a couple of hundred miles to southern California to see the Dino.
It was a beautiful little car, repainted sky blue metallic over the original red. It had not been pampered, but drove well and everything worked. The seller wanted more money than I had available to spend. However, he had not received many phone calls, and I had been the only one to actually come and see the car. After I drove the it around the block a few times, he took me for a high speed drive on the freeway. I had asked my wife to follow in my truck to watch for smoke, crabbing, and anything else she could think of. After a few miles at 100+ mph, we left her far back in the dust, and my concern changed from the car's health to my wife's whereabouts!
Back at the seller's house, I noticed that he didn't look particularly healthy. He said he thought that maybe he had the flu. We then talked a bit about money, and without quite coming to an agreement, I drove back home.
Afetr a few days, I gave him a call to see if he'd become more flexible. I really wanted that car. Yow! He'd said he'd take my offer. Oh, and by the way, it turns out that he has hepatitis and that I might want to get a gamma globulin shot.
I took the Greyhound bus back to southern California the next weekend. It turns out that he had received quite a few few calls from other interested people in the days after our negotation. But he was an honorable guy and sold it to me for what we'd agreed on.
Time to drive it home! I took the keys and hit the freeway, just about buzzing and numb with excitement. It was a blast. I had never driven such a lithe and exciting car.
After an hour or so, time to fill up the gas tank. Which side was that filler on? Oh yeah, I can see it pop out in the driver's mirror when I pull the release handle. I glide in next to the gas pumps, trying to look as cool as my new car.
Of course, I failed.
After filling the tank, I tried to start the car. Nothing happened, nothing at all. I turned the key again and again. Still nothing. This is how you're supposed to do it, right? Was there some secret Ferrari starting thing I had forgotten to do?
A walk around the car, a wiggle of the battery cable. Everything looks ok. I get in, turn the key, and it starts right up like nothing had ever gone wrong. Hmm.... let's get the rest of the way home without stopping the engine!
A couple of more hour driving and I was home. I parked my shiny new beast in the driveway so I could (let the neighbors see it) figure out where to park it in my garage. I'm still buzzing from driving the thing.
A bit of lunch, and back to the car to put it away. My wife also comes out to look at our beautiful new toy. A twist of the key, and nothing happens. It's dead again. My future wife is very impressed with my car-buying skills by now.
It turns out that I had two identical keys on the Dino's keychain. Or nearly identical. Both keys were worn from use, but one was slightly more worn than the other. One of them would engage the ignition. The other would turn the lock just as well but would do nothing else. Eventually, replacing the Bosch ignition switch element behind the lock restored both keys to proper function.
That was the one that got away: two years later, when it was time to
get married, the right thing to do was to sell the car and get started
on a house with my new wife. I placed an ad in the Market Letter,
and was besiged by dealers willing to send me a check without even seeing
the car. This was right at the start of the big bubble in Ferrari
prices in 1987, and as a result, I managed to sell the car for a small
but happy-for-me profit. Imagine, drive a Ferrari for two years,
and get paid! This was great. Six months later, a Dino sold
for more than $200,000 over what I had received for mine! Oh well, it was
a lot of fun, and I'd look forward for the next decade to owning another
Submit a story
Ferrari Home Page