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Volume 2, Issue 11 - December 1995
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Oldtimer's Corner - Goldoni part III

By: Ed Niles

Gordon Culp was not the only one who wanted my pal Roberto Goldoni to find him a Ferrari. Among several others who made their wishes known to Roberto was Lyle Tanner, who with his then wife Kathy (our good member Katherine Bard) was very active in the formation of the Ferrari Owner's Club in Southern California. In the early 60's, Lyle was employed by the City of Los Angeles, where I had just completed my internship in the City Attorney's Office.

Lyle and Kathy, like most of us, were impecunious but adventuresome. And they loved those early Ferraris as much as anyone!

Let me try to explain what I mean by the use of those adjectives. Few of us had enough money in our bank account to go out and buy a Ferrari, even a used one. But we would scrape together whatever modest resources we could lay our hands on, and borrow the rest. A Ferrari that was a few years old would usually sell for around $3,000.00; perhaps a bit more. That was about 25% of its original price. The adventure came in not really knowing what we were going to get until it arrived. We were buying a car strictly on description, and if we were lucky, a photograph or two. And I had already learned that the descriptions were sometimes misleading.

So here we were, sending everything we could scrape together over to some guy in Italy, hoping that we would get our money's worth! It was a crap shoot! To this day I can remember how excited I was the day a car arrived from Italy, ready to clear customs and be driven away. I could hardly sleep the night before!.

Lyle and Kathy financed their "Goldoni Ferrari" with the sale of their first Ferrari, a 1955 250 GT "Europa".

But it was a Europa with a difference. (Time for another history lesson, boys and girls). The first Ferrari that approached anything resembling a "production-line model" was the 250 Europa, made on a 110" wheel-base. My first Ferrari was one of those. In 1955, Ferrari started producing the 250GT Europa with an almost identical body, but on a shorter (102") chassis. The 250 GT's featured the new front suspension utilizing coil springs instead the transverse leaf spring, and were considerably lighter and more nimble to drive. Also, they used the "small block" or Colombo engine rather than the large Lampredi-designed engine.

The Europas, like most of the Ferraris that preceded that model, featured an oval, almost round, radiator grill, but the Tanner's "Europa", which bore Serial No. 0407 GT, had a completely different and much lower grill. Also, the rear-end treatment and the tail lights were somewhat different from the standard Europa. There had been a few Pinin Farina show cars (Notably 0393 GT and 0403 GT) that featured the much lower grill, but these were essentially one-off cars. To this day, I have never heard a rational explanation as to why 0407 GT was different from the other 250 GT Europas in the series. It came about 25% of the way through the production series, so would not technically be considered a prototype.

250 GT s/n 0407 The Tanner's first Ferrari, s/n 0407 GT, when it was new. (Pinninfarina Photo).

Lyle and Kathy had purchased O407 GT from "a guy in Long Beach", when they discovered that they could buy a used Ferrari for $2,500.00, the price of a brand new Triumph that they had been contemplating. There were plenty of reasons for the low price. The grey-green-silver paint could only be described as "drab". The salmon vinyl and grey cloth interior didn't help. First one head gasket blew, then the other. And there was the day that the carburetors caught on fire when Kathy was driving to work.

Most of its life with the Tanners (a period of three or four years) the car did not want to seem to start on the battery. So one would find Kathy out in the driveway, in her 3" heels, pushing the car and then hopping in to pop the clutch to get it running! This may or may not be the reason that, before long, the clutch also needed to be replaced. With time out for paint and interior, no one would accuse the Europa of giving the Tanners reliable and consistent transportation!

Peculiarly, the Tanners' experiences with 0407 GT only whetted their appetite. So it wasn't long before they were in touch with Goldoni, To purchase their second Ferrari, a 1959 Berlinetta or competition coupe. Their "Goldoni Ferrari" bore the serial number of 1465 GT, and it arrived on the same ship as one of my own purchases. I got to the dock in San Pedro several hours later than Lyle, to find that he had already cleared customs, and was busily engaged in trying to get the car to run. When I went over to his car, I found Lyle under the hood, with the carburetors well and truly apart, bits and pieces spread all over the fenders and the top of the car.

Upon inquiry, Lyle explained that the car would start, but then it would immediately stop running. His diagnosis was that it was starving for fuel, even though he had put 5 gallons into the huge competition-size tank. I reflected just a moment, and then suggested that he look under the dashboard for some kind of switch that didn't appear to match the others. Sure enough, over on the right side of the dashboard, hidden from view, was a switch, that, when flicked, allowed the fuel to flow uninterrupted. Yes, boys and girls, it was an anti-theft device.

You see, we felt that old Ferraris were so unusual that they would never be stolen by any right-thinking car thief, but that was not the case in Italy. Over there, Ferraris were hot items on the stolen car market (for reasons which I have never quite fathomed), and so it was that I had already had experience with the famous fuel line anti-theft switch. Experience does count!

It turned out that the Tanners once again found themselves with a very unusual Ferrari. In 1959, while the factory was producing the standard Scaglietti-bodied Berlinettas for their customers, they were already thinking ahead to a new body style. After two prototypes with the new body configuration were built (1377 and 1461) a series of only 5 cars was produced in this style, Lyle's car and four later versions (1509, 1519, 1521, and 1523).

In this country, these seven unusual cars came to be known as the "Interim Berlinettas", but that designation was never used by the factory. Instead, it was just another step in the evolution of the competition Berlinetta built by Ferrari.

Not only were the bodies different on these seven cars, but a new engine designation appeared as well: 128DF. I won't bore you with more details, but if you are interested, Jess Pourret in his thoroughly researched volume "Ferrari, the 250 GT Competition Cars", devotes a chapter to these seven very special cars.

When it arrived, 1465 GT had a paint job of that non-descript metallic grey that the Italians were so fond of in the 50's, and Lyle and Katherine soon painted the car in a proper "Ferrari red" (whatever that is). In retrospect, it is clear that the 7 Berlinettas were made primarily for competition use, but in the 50's and 60's we didn't distinguish. We bought these Ferraris to use and Lyle and Katherine did, indeed, use 1465. For the three or four years they owned it, this interesting Ferrari was regular transportation for Katherine, who remembers one morning picking up a school-age hitch-hiker who missed his school bus. She was able to catch up with the school bus, and the lad implored her to "pass the bus first" before letting him off, so all his classmates could see him in the Ferrari! She remembers that he was out there hitch-hiking almost every day after that; the kid had found a good thing and he wasn't about to let go of it!

250 GT LWB s/n 1465 250 GT LWB Berlinetta s/n 1465 GT, the Tanner's second Ferrari, as photographed by Dean Batchelor circa 1966. Photo courtesy of Roush Publications.

One can marvel at the fact that the Ferrari factory would completely change its design for the sake of building only seven cars. To any American manufacturer, changing a body style would be a 5-year project. But remember, the changes to this new model were in two areas only: The engine and the body. The engine was nothing more than a further development of the 128D engine, while the body could be hammered out in two or three months. The first prototype of this short series of cars was built by Pinin Farina, with the others being built by Scaglietti, to the Farina design.

This body style earned the American sobriquet of "interim" for the reason that the seven cars used the 102" chassis of the Berlinettas built from 1955 through '59, while the body was almost a dead ringer for the so called "short wheel base" Berlinetta which started production in 1960. Approximately 200 examples were built of the short wheel base Berlinetta of 1960-62, and many aficionados feel that it is one of the prettiest Ferraris ever produced.

250 GT LWB s/n 1465 Another view of the "Interim Berlinetta", showing the unusual rear quarter window. Photo courtesy of Roush Publications.

But in its way, the "interim" Berlinetta is even prettier, as with the longer chassis it gives an overall appearance of being lower and sleeker.

Lyle and Kathy Tanner owned this interesting Berlinetta from 1965 to approximately 1969, when it was sold, and resold, several times to England, back to Italy, to Holland, and other parts of the planet. Lyle Tanner has had a number of interesting Ferraris since (for quite a while, Lyle owned, with the backing of Bill Schanbacher, a Ferrari parts business, and continues to trade in Ferraris). But it's doubtful th