Hunt for a Ferrari 250 “Testa Rossa” in the Novel Found
Even though Ferrari is likely the world’s most loved marque among enthusiasts, if you’re interested in cars for their social impact, a Ferrari just won’t do. Ingenuity and innovation are rare things, and for some enthusiasts only truly groundbreaking designs can win their affections.
For one author, the search and capture of these sorts of interesting cars kind of runs in the family, and after a number of years, there were so many stories to tell that only a novel would do. Here are three engaging excerpts from “Found” by Greg Long.
Photography By Greg Long
1. The Red Head
“Hey, aren’t you the guy that was asking about that old Ferrari racecar at our filling station a few years back?”
“What filling station? And what Ferrari,” Geoff asked a little caught off guard.
“Don’t you remember an old beat up Ferrari sitting at a Gulf Station on Beardslee Boulevard in Bothell? Remember, you came in and asked about whether it was for sale?”
“Oh yes, you told me it wasn’t; and wouldn’t tell me anything else about it either—especially who the owner was—or why it was there. And how did you remember it was me?”
“I’m good with faces; and, well, you’re looking at fast cars at a car show. It’s now for sale, if you’re still interested,” Ken said.
Geoff moved away from gazing at the new Cheetah at the ‘65 Seattle International Auto Show and told the gas station owner, “I am. Still at your shop? I haven’t seen it parked outside for a long time.”
“Nope, it’s in a garage in Lake Forest Park.”
“When can I see it?”
“How about next weekend?”
“How about right now?” remembering the time he’d lost out on a very early OSCA when someone scooped in and bought it from under him: the lucky buyer hadn’t listened to the seller and just went right over with a fist full of cash. He wouldn’t make that mistake twice.
“How about we get Spud Fish & Chips on the way over. I’ll buy. I’m much more interested in an old Ferrari than anything new here anyway.”
“Cod or halibut?”
“OK, follow me,” Ken said.
Geoff, his wife Gloria, and Ken pulled up to a very nondescript line of garage doors behind an old thirties apartment building. Geoff was tingling. Of course he knew it wasn’t ‘just’ an old Ferrari racecar, it was a Testa Rossa: A 1957 250 Testa Rossa Scaglietti Spyder.
Ken fumbled with the key ring for what felt like an eternity until the large dirt brown padlock clicked and opened. The big door came forward, its springs complaining the entire way.
And there it was.
Lots of old crumbling cardboard and wooden boxes. And, in the back of the garage, what looked to be the frame, wheels, and body panels. Upon closer examination Geoff noticed the left front side was caved in.
But it was still heaven on earth. Gloria just shook her head, “Well, this is a disappointment, let’s go, we’re late for Connie’s birthday party anyway.”
“Are you kidding? I can put this thing back together far better than all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. Don’t you remember what the JX2 looked like when I got her?”
Ken could just feel a sale coming on: He had a livewire.
“Well, Geoff, it’s all there but, as you can clearly see, it was hit at Laguna Seca in 1960 and the crank was broken on impact. We tried to get a replacement but Ferrari wanted close to $5,000 for a new one, close to what the owner paid for the entire car when new. He was done with racing—or, more truthfully, his wife told him he was done with racing—so he traded it to me for an old Aston Martin DB2, storage costs, and a bit of cash. That was around five years ago now.”
Geoff’s internal calculator was working and quickly figured out he wasn’t going to get it cheap. And how would he fix, or find, a crank for a V12?
“OK, I’ll bite, how much?
“I’ll give you $400 as it’s all in boxes and obviously needs tons of work.
“Five thousand, and not a penny less.”
“It’s not worth anywhere near that much and you know it. It’s an almost 10-year-old racecar whose days are long gone. That Cheetah we saw at the show today would outperform it.”
“Agreed. But it ain’t no 250 Ferrari Testa Rossa Scaglietti Spyder either.”
Geoff was a newly married young doctor but he didn’t have $5,000 unless they put off buying a house for a few more years.
“Let’s go Geoff, I bet Connie’s waiting to blow out the candles.”
“OK, OK, Ken, what’s your bottom dollar. I can’t do $5,000 especially in this condition. There’s a thousand hours of work here and the crank still needs to be dealt with.”
“You’re the first one to even know I have it for sale. I’m going to put it in the Seattle Post Intelligencer next weekend. Maybe I’ll be in the mood to dicker a tiny bit if the ad doesn’t find a buyer. But I have a sneaking suspicion there are others, like you, who would snap up a 250 Testa Rossa, no matter what the condition. They only ever made 34 of them.”
Geoff knew he was right. He grabbed Ken’s number and told him he’d call next week and see if it was still available.
Connie’s birthday party came and went. They ended up being late but the six year old couldn’t care less as they’d brought her a new Easy-Bake Oven.
Geoff slept little that night. And daydreamed throughout the entire sermon. How could he let that Ferrari slip through his fingers like that OSCA?
After church they went out to lunch and Geoff made a new proposal.
“Gloria, I need that car. I know we can’t afford it but a chance like this will never come again.”
“Didn’t you say that about the Allard?”
“Yes, I might well have. So how about I sell it, we take our down payment savings and offer him $3,500.”
“You’re really going to sell the Allard? I just don’t believe you.”
“OK, you’re probably right.
“So, how about we put off buying a house a bit longer.”
“Are you off your rocker? You want us to live in an apartment for who knows how many more years so you can buy another old junky car?”
“It’s not just any old junky car.”
“I know, it’s a Fer-rar-i-Test-a-Rossa.”
“Do you know what Testa Rossa means, my love?”
“No, but I think you’re going to enlighten me.”
Gloria looked down at her long, ginger hair. Geoff smiled a puppy dog smile. “Seems like it’s just meant to be, doesn’t it?”
“What do I get out of this other than no new house.”
“How about you can buy anything you want for the rest of our lives. I can’t say anything, or even raise an eyebrow.”
Connie immediately said, “OK, deal.” And they shook on it.
Geoff couldn’t get to the phone fast enough. Ring, no answer. An hour later, same thing. Monday, same thing. Tuesday, same thing. Geoff was worried, very worried. After his night shift in the ER he blasted over to Ken’s filling station and there he was, closing up.
“Hey I’ve been trying to call you but haven’t caught you.”
“Oh, I’m not home much, should have left you the station’s number, I’m always here,” Ken lied. He’d purposely let the phone ring, guessing it was probably the young doctor.
“Could I look at the Ferrari one more time?”
“Sure, how about tomorrow, I’m coaching Little League tonight.”
Geoff couldn’t argue with that.
He arrived in the morning to the parts all laid out around the frame and body panels. And there, in the corner, was another guy bent down picking up one of the 12 pistons.
“My dad raced one of these beasts brand new at Watkins Glen. I remember as a teenager watching him. He loved that thing. It was so loud. And so fast. He smartly never let me drive it but I went in it a few times off the racetrack around our neighborhood. Mom hated that thing. Mom and Dad are gone now and I have an inheritance burning a hole in my pocket. I think part of it should go into this car. It would be a great tribute to my dad.”
Geoff panicked. He’d got Gloria’s approval, even had cold hard cash in his pockets. Damn!
Ken could sense Geoff’s concern and sauntered over, “I told a couple of guys at the station about it and this guy just showed up, I haven’t even put it in the PI yet.”
“OK, I’ll give you $3,500. I have cash in my pocket. You have the title, in your name, right?”
“Yes I do but like I said, $5,000, not a penny less.”
“But I don’t have $5,000.”
“Then it looks like I’ll be keeping the title. Like I said, I’m in no hurry, I can wait till the cows come home.”
Geoff blurted out, “$3,600.”
“Hey, Ron, what do you think of those red heads? You know Testa Rossa means red head in Italian, don’t you?” Ken bellowed.
“I had no idea, nifty,” Ron replied.
Geoff rolled his eyes, “Come on, he doesn’t know crap. He’ll never get it back together. $3,700 and that’s all I’ve got.”
“Ron, those are Borrani 72-spoke wheels. And those tires still have some nice tread left on them, don’t you think?”
“Four grand, and that’s my final offer,” Geoff blurted.
“I thought you just said you didn’t have anymore?” Ken said with a smirk.
With that Geoff took the 35 Benjamin’s out of his right pocket, and 5 more from his left; and placed them, one by one, in Ken’s hand.
“Come on Ken, I’ll even let you drive it when it’s all back together.” Geoff promptly grabbed Ken’s right hand and said, “Deal?”
“OK, OK, you win. Let me find a pen and that pink slip.”
Geoff quickly backed his dad’s Cameo pickup against the garage and started loading the parts. Ron looked up, “What’s goin’ on?”
“I just bought it. Snooze you lose.”
Ron’s face turned to disbelief.
Geoff wanted to get out of there before anyone changed their mind; and get home and try to explain to Gloria why they were even $500 lighter than she thought.
Ken closed the garage door and he and Ron jumped in their Studebaker and off home they went. Ken smiled and said, ‘thanks’, as he handed his son a crisp $100 bill.
“Snooze you lose.”
2. Mum’s cars…
“But Mum’s car history is truly amazing—so phenomenal in fact I’ve committed it to memory. At 16 her dad bought her a new Skoda Felicia convertible in Caribbean Blue with Saddle interior. That was in 1960. Next up was a Lagoon Blue ‘63 Amphicar 770—7 knots and 70 mph—but it only lasted until her drunk friend Chappy forgot to latch the extra door lock and opened it in the middle of Elk Lake. It was replaced by a ‘65 DKW F11 in Jade Green over Shell White, but traded for a Eucalyptus Green with Vellum Print upholstery ‘67 Humber Super Snipe IV in 1969. I have no idea why she wanted that car at 25 but she loved it.
“In 1972 she bought a brand new Citroën D Special in Bleu Camargue with a Noir Targa interior. On the way home from the factory dealership on Burrard Street in Vancouver she tried her fancy new AM/FM radio just as the CBC announced Citroën was curtailing importation of the DS. Sadly it was T-boned and written off just a few years later. She then bought a 1975 Austin America in Burnt Braken Orange from Plimley’s. It boggles the mind to think what that transition was like. The Austin lasted just a year as mum had her eye on the Bricklin SV-1. This was 1976 and I was seven. That was clearly an awesome time in my life, to say the least. It was in Safety Orange with a Phoenix Brown interior. Incidentally, one of my favourite car colour names of all time is Bricklin’s Safety Suntan, a sort of flesh colour—and you wonder why they didn’t last. Mum loved that they were built in Canada: ‘We’re driving a real Canadian car from New Brunswick’, she’d say, even as the doors kept malfunctioning. She certainly did love that thing.
“In 1980 she bought a new Rover 3500. I kid you not. Avocado with Nutmeg leather. It was, obviously, the worst car she ever owned. Such a beautiful innovative design but you couldn’t get it down the driveway without something going wrong, or falling off. That lasted only two years and I can’t imagine what we lost in depreciation on that baby.
“Then an ‘82 DeLorean DMC 12. She was taken with the stainless steel body and, of course, the doors. But it didn’t have enough room so she traded it for an ‘85 Merkur XR4Ti in Strato Silver Metallic with Spice Brown leather. Are you finding this comical, Mr. Brant?”
“Beyond comical, this is truly amazing. Your memorization of car colors is also truly scary. I’m assuming there was a Sterling in her future?”
“No way, I was joking!”
“Yes, a 1990 Sterling 827SLi, in Flame Red. But it came after her first foray into Eastern Bloc cars. Remember, Canada got some wonderful oddities the US didn’t. She gave me the Merkur, which was pretty cool as a 16 year old; and she got a ‘86 Dacia 1410 GTL in Beige—that was the actual colour’s name in the marketing material— and then a ‘89 Skoda 135GLi in China Blau—yes, blau— that got crunched only a year old so that’s when she moved to the Sterling. She was all over the place, one year a luxurious car, the next a Czechoslovakian run-about.
“But in 1990 she also bought a Citroën 2CV. It was from a couple of brothers importing them from France as new-old cars. It was aptly called Escargot Motorcars. They’d buy an old rust-free frame in Southern France and replace everything on it with new components. New engines, body panels, everything but the frame was changed out; and the frame was painted bright green or blue to show it had all been apart. She saw it at a pretty swanky booth, considering, at the Toronto International AutoShow when she was out there for some conference. She ordered a Rouge Delage AC 446, and Noir Onyx AC 200 Charleston and actually still has it. I’ve enjoyed that car for years too.”
“I have that exact car in my other garage but have always boringly called it a Burgundy and Black Charleston,” Mr. Brant said sarcastically. “It’s also an Escargot car. Does she still have her picnic basket and champagne bottle? I’m really liking your mom, by the way.”
“Yes, and I remember one of Escargot’s tongue-in-cheek marketing slogans—they’d had only one warranty claim: a plate in one of the car’s picnic basket broke. Mum still has her basket, and the little plaque on the dash too.
“Care to guess what came next? It was in 1992 and is arguably the funniest one yet. She bought it in April, five days before they announced they were done.”
“Correcto. In—I kid you not—‘Snow White.’”
“Simply amazing,” Mr. Brant exclaimed.
“And we’re not over yet. I loved that she was buying all this weird stuff but I was also advising her to buy a Toyota Camry, or something Japanese. But she loved buying weird cars. Everyone hates buying cars period, but she loved it; she’d go out of her way to find the most ridiculous pseudo-dealer who was just barely eking out a living.”
“So, then what?”
“The Yugo did quite well, surprisingly, and was replaced by a Lada Samara in Snowdrift in ‘98. Lada had actually sold a lot of cars in Canada. I remember reading they had up to 70 dealers at one time; but it started to crumble when the Koreans entered the market with the Hyundai Pony which, not surprisingly, she didn’t buy.
“And then, in 2001 she bought a Saab 9-3 Viggen in Laser Red with a Rocky Black interior—I can’t make that up— and she’s never looked back. She’s put a ton of mileage on it and while it’s had issues over that time I can’t drag it from her little age-spotted hands. She uses the 2CV on nice days and the Saab on all others.
“Now you surely understand, in excruciating detail, where this weird car collecting gene came from.”
“I certainly do. You’ve clearly come across it honestly.”
3. Get Smart’s Rides…
“I asked why they’d put it up for sale in the first place. She said it didn’t fit the museum’s new theme of Automobiles and US culture, or something like that. With the exception of Richard Dreyfuss driving a blue one in American Graffiti, and Maxwell Smart changing into his wedding suit in a yellow one while being chased by KAOS, I think they had a point. Their loss, my gain.”
“I’ve always thought a cool collection would be to find and buy all the cars Agent 86 drove in Get Smart. Can you name them, in order, Mr. Brant?”
“I too loved that show. I was doing a lot of work at ski resorts in California in those days. Got to meet a bunch of the celebrities back then. Sugar Bowl in Tahoe was popular with the Hollywood set, I guess because of its relation to Mr. Disney. They even named the peak Mt. Disney. So, let’s see… Maxwell Smart started with a ’61 Ferrari 250 PF Spider.”
“What? No way!” Tanner said surprisingly. “Everyone knows it was a Sunbeam Tiger.”
“You’re not as smart—pun intended—as you thought, huh? The 250 was used in the pilot episode. I was actually offered the exact car years ago and passed on it, bought a California instead. So, yes, after that it was the ’65 Tiger but they also used a plain Alpine in some scenes—just changed the script to Tiger on the side. Needed room to add a machine gun under the hood which the V8’s size wouldn’t allow—something like that.”
“Well… sounds like you do know what you’re talking about. I’ll be doing some fact-checking on the Ferrari, by the way. The Tiger was in Carnival Red,” Tanner snuck in.
“Then a ’67 VW Karmann Ghia convertible, in blue. Right Tanner?”
“Correct. Neptune Blue.”
“And finally a Shelby Mustang GT350 convertible. In blue as well?”
“Wrongo Mr. Brant! That was the Chief’s car—a GT500 in Medium Blue Metallic.”
“Nope, no KR, it was an early ’68,” Tanner confirmed.
“And you know what KR stood for, right?”
“Child’s play: King of the Road,” Tanner responded brightly. “So what was his last car?”
“Hmmm, I know this…give me a minute, it’s buried in the recesses of my memory bank… it takes a while for the retrieval mechanism to spin up… ah, there it is: an Opel GT.”
“Wow, Mr. Brant, I didn’t expect you to pull that out of your ass, I mean, out of thin air. Nicely done. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, it was in Regal Gold Metallic.”