One of my minor regrets in life was my nature of being a bit too “practical” and cautious during my youth. Particularly when it came time to pick cars. I can remember for my first car – with an open mind – looking at a 1962 Alfa Romeo Spyder in 1969.
The engine made a sound – bellissimo – some have compared it the most beautiful this side of a classic Ferrari V12 – and all I could think about was “where am I going to get it serviced? “
I wanted a new BMW 2002 and in 1969 those were going for $2800 – new – but it was about $1000 over my budget. I ended up settling for a slightly used 1967 Chevy Camaro. Not really all that bad, I know. I wish I had the car today but truthfully being in the Army – where would I have stored it?
Fast forward 3 years and I am selling that car – looking for another. A friend wanted to sell me his 1962 Porsche 356B for – get this – $1200. It was 10 years old, a faded red and had a spot of nickel sized surface rust on the rear right fender – all turnoffs for me.
Instead I had the great idea of getting a new ….1972 Ford Pinto. It was the only car I ever had where one could push in the fender while washing it. My only redeeming defense was that it had the optional German 2 liter OHC engine and a 4 speed.
But no matter – 6 months later I was in the Army.
The reason I mention all this was because of a late friend I knew. Bob Saniger was this crusty old ex-Londoner who was in my car club. He also was what I considered to be a master mechanic. He was the first employee of what became one of the top Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the country.
I used to “help” him evenings while he worked on club member’s cars. “an engine is an engine“, he’d tell me. “Doesn’t matter whether it is a Ferrari or a VW“.
He would have known. He worked on them all.
Anyway he used to regale me with tales of racing as a pit crewman and meeting people like Jimmy Clark, Stirling Moss, and Dan Gurney.
I thought this was BS, but of course didn’t tell him. Although if a friend is telling you this it is not BS but hyperbole.
Over time, I learned that he, with a small circle of friends, had indeed gone racing at tracks like Riverside and rubbed shoulders with some of the greats. The man who would become the Mercedes dealer was in the early 60s ranked – I think – #7 against greats like Augie Papst, Roger Penske and Dan Gurney.
You could do this from the late 50s to early 60s, if you were willing to make some small sacrifices in your life. People like Steve McQueen and James Dean did exactly that.
Last summer I was invited up to the mountain home of another friend in this small circle, where he showed us a privately made video of Lance Reventlow and his mighty Scarabs. BTW for some arcane trivia when Lance was finished with the Scarab Carroll Shelby used his small factory in Venice CA to build his mighty Cobra.
My host didn’t do too shabby either during that era. During this time he and his young wife sold their apartment furniture and bought a used 1957 Ferrari Testarossa. He did rather well too, at courses such as Riverside and Laguna Seca. With a value today of about $40 million, he wishes he had kept that car!