In the Spring of ’80 we moved to Pound Ridge, NY, which was about an hour north of Manhattan. I still had the Merc and the Bronco. One evening, the doorbell rang and a guy who said he was also a broker at E.F.Hutton stood there with a bottle of nice wine to welcome us to the neighborhood. His name was Gary Schaevitz and he was also a car nut. He was about to become my new best friend. We spent a lot of time talking about cars. We both commuted to Manhattan for work, so we decided to open an office together in nearby New Canaan, CT, so we didn’t waste 3 hours a day stuck in traffic. Our new commute became 15 minutes. We would joke that we had to drive around the neighborhood before going to the office just to give the engine time to warm up!
One Sunday I was reading the car section of the NY Times, when I spotted an ad for a Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet Ser. II for $25,000. The car was in Pittsburg. I took a plane the next day and went to the garage where the car was stored. The owner took me back to a dark corner and showed me a vehicle under a car cover. He turned on the overhead lights and with a flair threw back the cover.
There, sparkling like a jewel was this incredible red Ferrari waiting for me. Time froze. I could not move. I needed to absorb every inch of that magnificent body. My mouth went dry. I didn’t want this moment to ever end.
“What do you think?” Asked the owner.
“Can I take it for a drive?” I asked.
A few minutes later we were cruising around Pittsburg.
“I’ll take it, where can I drop you off?”
I had the foresight to have brought a certified check for $25k, so I dropped the old owner off at his office and I began the drive back to Pound Ridge.
The drive back was incredible. Not knowing the real condition of the car, I took it easy and stayed around the speed limit all the way back. Top down, listening the gurgle of the six carburetors while they fed the monster V-12.
At one point on the Thruway, I passed a school bus as we approached a toll booth. About 30 kids were standing, with their noses plastered against the windows staring at my new car. When I noticed them and smiled, they all started waving and screaming their approval.
Further down the Thruway, we entered into a tunnel, and it was there that I discovered the real magic of these cars. It was the SOUND.
If you were a physicist you probably think that the world is only composed of different types of wavelengths. Believe it, there is no question that sound waves (music) affects every aspect our very being. The sound of the 3 litre Colombo V-12 engine, sucking fuel and air through six Webbers, and converting it into a symphony of perfectly tuned instruments, that if truth be told, will melt the marrow off your bones, make a strong man weak, and dissolve any resistance a woman could offer.
I was in love again. I had discovered the 60’s Ferraris. The perfect combination of technology and beauty of the period.
I enjoyed the car every day the sun was out. I never had a problem with it. Granted, there wasn’t too much that could go wrong. Today electric systems and technology can get buggy. Those days were simpler days.
I wanted to show my new Ferrari to my friend David Weir, who in a former life raced a Ferrari at Le Mans and came in 4th in ’71. I let him sit in the car, but would not let him drive. He couldn’t understand why, but that was probably because he didn’t remember driving my E-Type in Manhattan a few years ago.
I wanted to drive the Ferrari on the track to see how she handled, so I called Skip Barber again. This time I was going to practice another type of driving, and see about driving my Ferrari to the track. I took the 2 day Formula Ford course and loved it. The danger came when I drove to Manhattan to have dinner with my girlfriend and I found myself driving like a lunatic, looking for the apex, late braking, etc, all after a full day at the track. After a few weekends I decided to give up the weekend racing. I was concerned I was going to get arrested for reckless driving, or worse yet, get killed by a blue-haired lady who had to look through the steering wheel. I tried the excuse one day when a cop stopped me for speeding, saying that I was a race car driver and I knew what I was doing, but it didn’t fly.
My friend Gary had just bought a Boxer and I went by to check it out. It was faster than my 250, but I preferred mine.
One Sunday on the eve of a big snowstorm I took my girlfriend to brunch at a restaurant in Banksville, NY, called La Crémaillère, I used to frequent. On the way home, I pulled out of the parking lot and as I was accelerating away, I saw a huge cloud of white smoke exiting from my exhaust. I immediately pulled over and cried. Well almost.
I ordered a car to take my date home and set out to find somebody to fix the Ferrari before the snow started coming down. My quest led me, and my trailer, to Jean Louis Lebreton, the owner of a small garage in Cos Cob, CT called Le Mans 24 Texaco Garage. Jean Louis was waiting for me, and when we started the car he saw the smoke, he said, “Oh Oh. I don’t like that.”
“What? White smoke means water, right?” I asked.
“Oh boy, this is going to be really expensive to fix. You may have to replace the entire piston, or maybe all of them. And they have to match. Very very expensive.” He countered.
Now is good time to give you a bit of background. I was recently divorced, had no cash, and I barely managed to keep the Ferrari. I also had moved into a small carriage house on the Silvermine River, and I had one very small garage available for whatever car I had. The other cars had to be parked on the street.
Now was the time I made the worst decision in my life up to that moment, perhaps even till now.
I was very stressed. I had recently lost my biggest client and didn’t know where the next one was going to come from. Then it started to snow heavily. Jean Louis didn’t know when he could deal with the car, but he asked me if I wanted to sell it.
I wavered, and finally said. “Do you know somebody who would buy it”.
“Yes, I know a guy here in Greenwich. His name is Peter Livanos, let me call him see if he’s interested.”
A few minutes later Peter drove up and looked at the Ferrari and said. “I’ll give you $16,000 for it right now.”
The snow started blowing harder and visibility was close to zero. I felt lost. I thought, this is like a bad trade. Take your losses soon, don’t let them accumulate. Sadly I said, “Done.”
Many years later Peter bought the company, Aston Martin, and I met him at some fundraiser in New York. I asked him if he remembered me and he laughed, “Of course I do, I made the best deal with you. Remember the car I bought from you? I sold it a few years ago to my brother for $1.1 million.”
I have hated Peter Livanos since then, and if I ever see that asshole who scared me into selling the car to Peter…