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A Fan or Afraid

A Fan or Afraid
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A FAN OR AFRAID

 


I’ve driven some exciting cars in my life but this was the first time that medical attention was considered to recover from the experience.

The Marconi Automotive Museum is a wonderful collection of everything from a 1930’s fire engine to exotic cars worth several millions of dollars. Dick Marconi had invited the “Vintage Vehicle Show” crew to film an episode at his facility and we jumped at the chance to tour one of America’s best automobile collections. You will never meet a more gracious man than Dick and you will rarely have the opportunity to see a collection as varied as at the Marconi. Included are go-carts, dragsters, Formula 1 cars, hot rods, customs, muscle cars, sports cars and celebrity cars surrounded by an equally impressive collection of automotive memorabilia. Dick has brought them all under one very large roof for you to enjoy.

And then there were the Ferraris.

Everyone knows that Ferraris are special. They are expensive to purchase, difficult to maintain and keep running properly, and impractical. They are also the best combination of fuel and ignition on the planet. I will need a substantially better job to afford to park one in my garage but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming of ownership. Well, on this sunny summer day in Torrance, CA, the opportunity was provided to get behind the wheel of Italy’s finest.

“Vintage Vehicle Show” episodes are frequently ended by my climbing into a car, saying goodbye to the viewers and driving towards the horizon. Dick told me to choose any car and I selected a 1997 Ferrari 550 Maranello. It is amazing what Enzo Ferrari could do with some steel, rubber, cowhide and paint. This painfully red Italian stallion was off the chart for beauty and, as was soon demonstrated, performance.

As the cameras were rolling I thanked the audience, climbed into the car with Dick and drove off. That’s when the consideration for medical attention began. This was a car worth more than the combined value of the Lambert Auto Collection (a 1958 rambler and 7 year old Taurus station wagon) and the Stately Lambert Manor (the best split level home the 1970’s had to offer). If I wrecked this car my wife would need to get a third job to pay for the damage. The plan was for the driving to be short but Dick had other ideas. “Go to the light, turn right and get on it.” I turned right and accelerated at a very modest pace. “You are driving like my grandmother; get on it!” Dick was in his 70’s at the time and, therefore, his grandmother must have been very old and a very cautious driver. I took the next turn and pushed the gas pedal a bit closer to the carpet. Dick responded with “Look, this is a Ferrari. Ferraris are to be driven like Ferraris, not like Volkswagens. At the next corner I want you to take a right and floor it!” Not only was he providing the opportunity to see what Enzo had designed, he was demanding it. I did as told and quickly learned why diapers are made in adult sizes.

Bracing myself, I slammed the gas pedal to the floor. OH-MY-GAWD! The Ferrari leapt forward so fast that my eyeballs were pushed back in my head. I’m not kidding, that was the sensation. My stomach did a roller coaster flip as the world immediately began speeding by faster and faster. Also amazing was that there was no wheel spinning, “fishtailing” or loss of control. This rocket ship felt like a giant slot car going nowhere but straight ahead. I quickly realized that, although Dick’s collection is located in a remote industrial area, the best plan was to put a stop to this fighter jet experience before we were either being chased by the local constable or imbedded in the side of a semi-truck.

Now I understand. This is a major reason why Ferrari owners pay the price of ownership. Not only is every Ferrari ever manufactured beautiful, they are faster than a bar of wet soap on an ice rink. I let my eyeballs drop back properly in their sockets, drove cautiously back to the museum and climbed out of the car much like, I imagined, a Blue Angel climbing out after a demonstration flight.

My stomach settled down, no diapers or medical attention was needed and Dick realized that he had succeeded in recruiting another member into the Ferrari Fan Club.

I wonder if my wife would be willing to put the house up for sale?