Chapter 12 continued


I had the Ferrari TRC for a while, and as summer arrived, I began to spend some time with the car. It was a genuine old factory race car, in fantastic original condition. In appearance, it is virtually a twin to the example shown at the bottom of page 88 in the Fitzgerald Merritt book, and, in fact, may be that very car. 

Ferrari 500 TRC "The Jitney"

It was a very deep, dark red, and again it was a factory “night before the event” paint job. The interior was stark as it should have been. The seats were simple dark red vinyl cushions and backs, piped in white! I was sure they were replacements, but, in fact, they were not. Proper painted competition wire wheels. The car was a doll to drive; it would do anything you asked and the torque from the four cylinder DOHC engine was almost enough to turn the car on its side.

That car remains the best looking TRC I’ve ever seen.

Summer came and the children endlessly wanted to go to our swimming and tennis club. Often, I’d gather up the kids and we’d all enjoy the swimming. 

The TRC was the perfect car for me to take the kids to the club. It had no interior, no carpets, and the seats were vinyl cushions! You could literally hose out the inside if need be.

Working at home had its pluses, and you could easily be pressed into all manner of domestic service. 

If I was the designated parent, it would have to involve one of the “company” cars, as the family station wagon was not available to male drivers.

So off we’d go, all three kids in the Ferrari TRC, bathing suits, towels, water toys, the whole shebang. Geoff was eight, Chris had turned six, and Elizabeth was just over two!

The children loved that car. No restrictions; just get in and let’s go. The two boys would squeeze into the passenger seat and hold their sister on their laps. They loved the bark of the exhaust, and though they were very young, I think they loved the ruckus the car would create every time we arrived at the club. The mothers of all the children within 100 yards of the Ferrari would gather them in for protection.

I would spend most of the afternoon with Libby in the kiddie pool!

When we’d leave, the kids would jump in with sandy feet wet bathing suits and towels. On the ride home it was always; “. . . Side roads, Dad, side roads . . .” They loved to be whipped around corners, uphill and down dale; and, they had all grown to love the noisy open sports cars.

(. . . Don’t start again with that irresponsible parent business . . .)

We just used the hell out that great old Ferrari. In my August, 1969 Newsletter I listed the car for sale at $4,225!


( . . .Years later, in the very late 1980’s, I answered my telephone one afternoon, and a crisp voice at the other end said he was calling to get my input on the history of such and such, a four cylinder Testa Rossa, that had finished quite well at Le Mans.

I told him I was certain that I hadn’t ever had a TRC that had a distinguished racing history.

At that point his tone of voice took on an air of weary resignation; he was obviously talking with someone who was a few sandwiches short of a full picnic. After tolerating me a bit longer, and going over his impeccable facts, it dawned on me that he was talking about our old “Swim Club Jitney”!

Well, that brought me straight out of the ether, and enthusiastically I began to tell him what a great summer we’d had in that wonderful old Ferrari.

I think I’d gotten to the point where I’d said: “you could hose out the inside, if you needed to,” when he seemed to want to wind up the conversation quickly.

But, he’d opened Pandora’s Box, and I continued flooding him with our adventures in the TRC.

A point came where he literally hung up! He must have had something he needed to do. 

(Of course, it turned out that this terribly significant Ferrari TRC had been restored to within an inch of its life, and certainly the kind of churlish, childish, folklore that I had to offer was not going to fit in to the provenance, anywhere, thank you very much!)



I was casting about for a place to run the operation, when one evening I ran into Eugene Mason. Gene was an elegant, softly spoken, gentleman of enormous stature and charm. He was easily six feet four inches tall, trim, and possessed of a warm charming manner. 

A highly successful attorney, he enjoyed, of all things, racing the Formula A open wheel cars with two friends. One was Ray Kraftson, and the other was a fellow named Skip Barber! Gene had a full racing shop and garage on 63rd Street just off City Line Avenue (Route 1) in Philadelphia. The man, who owned the building, had mentioned to Gene that the east side of his building was going to be available for lease.

It had the proper zoning, central location, and the Overbrook railway station was a block away. There was a racing/service shop in place and the rent was reasonable.

As some of you may remember from the day, 2097 North 63rd Street had character. I didn’t say charm, I said character. The Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Main Line” tracks were right out the back door. I mean, step out the back door, and you were on the tracks!

The establishment on the 63rd Street side and on the front had been a filling station that had closed many, many years prior. Behind the small porcelain paneled gas station “office area” building was this big old warehouse with Gene Mason in the west end, and we would be in the space on the east end of the building. There was a long ramp alongside the filling station up to the second floor of the building where the property owner ran a wholesale party supply business.


You’re right, a thoroughly chaotic bit of real estate: all kinds of nooks and crannies, very little open useful space. (Almost something out of Dicken’s darkest London.)

Taking the building would entail all sorts of licensing, drafting corporation papers, Philadelphia city taxes, leases, keys, ad infinitum.
I signed right up! 

We had stationary printed up, and worked diligently to check off a few other items on the list of things that should have been done weeks before.

That collective “we” thankfully still included Larry McManus, who had joined me in the “library” office at the house. We’d often sit across from each other in the library and gossip back and forth, during the quiet periods. Always pretty much the same old thing, merely a different day. Larry’s day at “the office” had usually started out in a big way as my two year old daughter Elizabeth had taken a huge shine to Larry.

As soon as Libby would hear the screen door in the kitchen, around ten in the morning, no matter where she was in the house, she’d gear up full tilt and come hurtling into the library. About mid-room she would launch herself at “La-La”. Poor Larry would endure the blow, and carry right on with what happened at the Wetherill party the night before, or whatever, as he contentedly bounced Libby on his knee which she loved . . .

63rd Street would be a lot more like the real thing . . .



Karl Ludvisgen had, several months prior, bestowed the honor of Northeast Regional Director of the Ferrari Club of America upon me.
      (You thought I was joking!)

So in the midst of all the efforts of trying to prop up this new endeavor, I was prevailed upon to host The Ferrari Club annual meeting here in Philadelphia, which was a whole lot different deal than it is today.Recently I received a telephone call prior to the 2009 FCA annual meeting asking me if I had any souvenirs from the 1969 Annual meeting. 

My fondest recall of that 1969 event was that of the twenty or thirty people who had come for the weekend, virtually all had driven their Ferraris to the event, and used them as their daily automobiles. Bud Bickel brought his bespoke 330 Lusso Berlinetta, and for him the car was virtually a daily driver. Most of the participants had come long distances. 

Souvenirs of the meet had never occurred to any of us, to say nothing of today’s “Goody Bags” which were an unknown, uh, treat in 1969 . . . 

We had no “track days”, as we had no tracks available with any proximity to Philadelphia.

And, I hadn’t the foggiest notion how to plot out a road rally.

A concours d’elegance was unheard of. As I said, with rare exception, you drove your Ferrari to any sort of car show. Any judging was subjective and cursory at best. At the end of the day you drove your Ferrari home!

We did, however, have a couple of walloping good parties, and we all got to meet and enjoy one another, and our Ferrari automobiles. 



John Delamater called during the evening on a Sunday in early June of 1969. For those of you, who didn’t know the late John Delamater, allow me to be the one to enlighten you: John Delamater was, without question, the single best automobile salesman in America.

After forty plus years of having dealt with John, I believe I may have figured out a bit of his magic. In talking to you on the telephone, he was very soft spoken, very polite and spoke to you in an almost hushed tone. It was as if he was cupping the mouthpiece to prevent others from hearing a word about the precious bauble that he was about to offer you. 

He conveyed a slight air of urgency, occasionally apologizing for taking up your time; you could literally see him in a raincoat with the collar turned up, shielding him from the vultures that wanted in on what he had to offer.

With impeccable timing he would begin to let you slowly know what the car was. His descriptions were such that I never made it all way through one without wanting to shout out:

         “I’ll take it!!”

But you never got to say that. John wound you around the twist, finishing his lavish description in his own good time. 

Finally, at a point, you may be able to say: “How much is the car, John?”

In this instance, he was offering a stunning Ferrari. Not only was it a Ferrari Factory competition car, it was a 250 MM. 

Did I have a copy of the Fitzgerald Merritt book nearby? He asked.

“Turn to page 66, that’s the car.”
Ferrari 250 MM 0312 MM
“You mean yours looks like that one?” 

          “No, no, Kirk, please understand me, (another of John’s favorites, that . . . ‘please understand me . . .’ business; very effective.) It is that very Ferrari.”

I was no longer listening to him. I was staring at this incredible 250 MM in all its two thirds page color glory. It was everything anyone could want in a racing Ferrari. The car was iconic! Even in 1969, the Ferrari at a youthful age 16 was iconic. The car was off the charts beautiful. 

During the conversation, I drifted off into another sphere somewhere; John was going on at length about the car and I didn’t really care. I just wanted him to stop long enough for me to get the damn thing bought.

          “And, I do apologize for taking so much of your time . . .”  

The moment he dumped that line on me for the second or third time, I thought: “I think I’m being blown off here without having a chance to buy this car!”

Finally, I was given a chance to ask how much the car was!

          “$6,000, but that would be delivered to you, Kirk . . .”


          “I’ll buy the car” I said, finally squeezing a word in edgewise, and we quickly went through the details.

It was dark outside when we finished our conversation. I just sat there quietly in the library, feeling a tremendous rush from having gotten that Ferrari 250MM.

It was an indescribable thrill, the fantastic type of rush that I continue to chase, and will for all the rest of my days. I just sat there staring at this incredible automobile in the book.

We had been on the telephone for 40 minutes.

I called Carl Bross. He knew the car and seemed pleased that I had gotten it, and thanked me for the call, but it would not be a car for him. He had a 375 Mille Miglia coupe that would do for him.

I included the car in the next Sunday New York Times ad, saying it was on its way in, and referencing the Fitzgerald Merritt book, and photograph.

Very early the following Monday morning my telephone rang; it was a gentleman named Ron Spangler who was very pleasant to talk with. He questioned me about the 250 MM. I told him the car would be with me by the end of the week, and I could give him further details when it arrived.

          “How much is the car?”

   (. . . Hadn’t really thought that out just yet . . . I mused. Hell, I didn’t want to sell that beautiful Ferrari just yet. I hadn’t even seen it with my eyes!)

          $10,000” I said, assuming that would put a stop to the car leaving so quickly.

 “I’ll buy the car; I’ll be away for the next three weeks, but I’ll get it from you when I’m back. I’ll put a check for $10,000 in the mail today.”

And he did. Two days later the Ferrari and the check arrived. The car was stunningly beautiful. After spending a great deal of time just taking in every angle of the car, I fired it up, and with the outdated California tags, I took it for a spin around the neighborhood.

The car was utterly dreadful to drive! Simply terrible!

It was running on nine or ten cylinders, the suspension felt like it was completely bound up, and the brakes pulled to the right enough to scare you to death. The clutch was severe, just barely manageable. I pulled the car in the garage, and leaving the car running, I got out amidst the erratic idle and spitting from the carbs, and walked to the back of the car. 

Light oil smoke from both sides, which was OK, but a pretty good push of steam was joining in on the right side.

           “Blown head gasket.” I muttered to myself.

OK, Mr. Big Shot, what now? 

I took the head gasket job on myself, as I had gotten rather good at fixing the odd Ferrari head gasket here and there. After my engine repairs, Howard and Bill Brown, my Alfa Romeo guys, got the suspension squared away, and redid all of the Brake cylinders, having found that most of them were bound up completely.

Thankfully Ron Spangler’s travels had given me the time to set the car right for any actual road use. 

That Ferrari was my first encounter with a true “trailer queen.” This car had been restored to the nines, a good many years prior, but, the mechanical issues had been either overlooked or, more likely, the car had had no use whatsoever in the last several years. These were serious, expensive concerns. 

It wasn’t that anyone had deceived anyone else; it was merely a strong lesson for me. People restore automobiles for different reasons; many of them preferring over the top cosmetics, but then having the mechanical end simply tidied up enough to get it up to the podium and back into the trailer.

(. . . Remembering Mr. Bross’s rapid turn down of the car, I suspect he may have known a bit more about that Ferrari than I did . . .)

From the brief conversation I’d had with Spangler, he sounded like someone who would want to seriously drive the Ferrari.

There was a point where I had the head off the right bank of cylinders, and was facing a day in Greenwich, dancing with Stamos, Alberto and Alfredo at Chinetti’s for the parts when it occurred to me . . . What if they didn’t have the correct parts for an old racer like that?

I was one scared kid; still in short pants, trying to play in the big leagues. I’d used a sizeable bit of my available funds for a vehicle whose engine parts were now spread out on my work bench!

(In today’s world, you might want to imagine buying, say a highly historied Ferrari short wheelbase Berlinetta, using up several million dollars of your buying capital purchasing the car, only to face these same problems!)

It worked out OK, but the whole episode scared me to death. But, it also sent a very strong message to me; find out all you can about any “restoration.” Establish just how much actual road experience a “show” car has truly had, since it’s refurbishing.

Checking with Ron Spangler first, we trailered the car to The New Hope Auto Show, where it took a second place behind Bill Reardon’s 250LMB (GTO). Bud Bickel was there with his 330 GT Lusso, which he and his wife had driven a considerable distance to be there, and Erwin Goldschmidt brought his beautiful ’63 Super America.   

When Ron called to set up the delivery, he asked that I meet him at a location well south of Philadelphia, closer to where he lived in Bel Air, Maryland. Larry would drive the chase car and I’d drive the Ferrari. 

The further I drove that 250MM, the more effort it took. Remember, at that point, the car was only 16 years old. It wasn’t like the damn thing was a turn of the century bone shaker, but, again, it was a Ferrari racing car, that you had to take by the scruff of the neck, and run hard!

I was developing a case of severe dread that my buyer might come out of the ether after he drove the beast a few miles and promptly plunk it back on my door step. It ran just fine at that point, but it was so much “work” getting it down the road, through the gears, high steering effort, still marginal stopping capabilities, etc. The cabin noise was thunderous!

Spangler looked the car over quickly, and was on his way. I sensed that when he got in the Ferrari he had the proper “head” on for the beast. He gave the Ferrari’s throttle a good poke and shot off for Maryland.

This was before the days of cell phones, so I went home very worried, yet found there had been no calls regarding the 250MM, none the next day, or the day after that. 

Spangler had grabbed that Ferrari good and hard by the neck and driven right through any annoyances that were in his way. 

Several months later I saw him and asked about the car. 

He loved it, thought it was a blast to drive!


". . . I'll give a quarter for the group . . ."