I'll never forget the feeling of spotting a long-lost love when I walked onto the lawn of Beverly Hills High School in 1992. The very first car I saw that June Car Show was a gray 365 GTC with the license number 12541. There was no question; this wasn't just a similar car, it was my car! That was the serial number of the Ferrari I owned from 1975 until 1987, and that's a number I remembered as well as my service number (AO3055985, in case you want to look it up).
I walked up to the white-bearded, happy looking guy standing next to the car and practically shouted, "That's my car!" He was naturally alarmed, probably thinking frantically about where he could find the title, until I explained to Judd Goldfeder that I was the first U.S. owner of the small-bodied, big-engined beauty. Well, second, actually, having bought it in 1975 from a friend in New York City, where I lived. He and his wife were the U.S. end of a small, informal importing arrangement her father ran from Milan, and I had gone to the port at Newark with them a couple of months earlier to pick up their latest Ferrari acquisition. I already had a 330 GT 2+2 from their earlier "collection", but as soon as I saw the rare 365, I knew the 330 had to go.
365 GTC s/n 12541 owners new and old, Judd Goldfeder and Earl Gandel at the Beverly Hills High School Show.
The car was a '69 but was somehow registered as a '67, which seemed to make the wheels of the New York State bureaucracy run smoother. My friend drove the car for a couple of months on the Italian papers (an MI number plate I still have) but he always had luck with the law that eluded me. I took delivery of the car in Bridgehampton, Long Island, 100 miles from New York City, and while driving it into the City, was stopped twice (but only ticketed once) for improper licensing. After that was sorted out, the car then resided in a 4-story public garage at 80th and Broadway, from where it got regular weekend family use to Bridgehampton and back (where I operated the race track, and still own a home), first with one new baby, then 3 and a half years later, with two kids, comfortably stowed in the luggage area behind the only two seats. And it did that for the better part of eight years!
Earl's son asleep in the back of the 365 GTC. Note the car seat held in with bungee cord and the luggage straps. Where is Ralph Nader when you need him? The kid is in college in Boston now, the car is here in California. The car looks the same (or younger) -- the kid doesn't.
Naturally, using a rare, 325 horsepower Ferrari for a New York City family driver resulted in some interesting experiences over the years. (Scouting around Queens at night looking for bootleg fuel during the '79 gas shortage comes to mind, as one). But the worst was when I blew the engine on the 59th Street Bridge during a summer Friday rush hour. Ultimately, it was the best thing to happen for the car's sake, but it didn't do my nerves or wallet any good at all.
I was using my boss's visit from California as an excuse to leave work early. I offered to drop him at JFK on my way to Bridgehampton and beat the rush. As I drove up to the office at 45th and Madison, he saw oil leaking under the car. We decided it was something to be concerned about, so he said goodbye, and jumped in a cab. I noticed that the oil gauges were normal, so I reasoned that I could get to Joe Nastasi's shop in Long Island City before real trouble set in. Very wrong.
Joe was, and is, a genius with anything Italian. Nastasi Racing Cars was home to a lot of people with cars that needed his tender care at a time when they were driven like I was driving mine; for transportation. The boom hadn't arrived, and no one, at least, no one I knew, was "collecting." So, Joe's was headquarters for a bunch of people who really needed his expert eye and hands.
I headed for the 59th Street Bridge, again reasoning that if I could reach the top before losing my oil, I could always shut it off and coast to Joe's shop, which was just below the bridge. After all, it was only a few blocks. And, again, the oil temp and pressure were OK, so I didn't think the leak was "that bad." Again, wrong. After an agonizingly slow "few blocks" uptown through the Friday rush of people who were also trying to beat the traffic, I got to the bridge and started up, eyes glued to the gauges. Just as I reached the peak of the bridge, I saw the tach whip to zero, and it got very quiet. My heart sank, or came up to my throat, I forget which. In panic, I jumped out of the car with horns blaring behind me, and with luck, there was a Honda Civic right behind me with rubber bumpers that just matched the two narrow chrome strips on the Ferrari. I got him to push me the few yards I needed to crest the bridge, and then proceeded to dead-stick it down the other side, around the off-ramp, and the two blocks to Joe Nastasi's - without, of course, the power brakes or steering!
Joe got very Italian with me when I told him what had happened, and what I had done. He screamed "You park the car and call me!" But I said, I was in the middle of Madison Avenue on Friday afternoon. "I don't care where you are! You don't drive it without oil. It's a Ferrari!" He explained, as if to a child, the simple reason the gauges weren't confirming the oil loss; the leak was at a lower line, after the pick-up. And, of course, the oil never got too hot as it pumped itself out of the hole.
For the car, the result was a new lease on life and the strongest engine it had ever seen. Joe took about four months to do it, which involved some creative trades for Volvo out-drives for his boat; but that's another story. I continued to drive the car on weekends, giving it regular, vigorous workouts on the Bridgehampton track every week, until my real job took me overseas in 1983. After a couple of years in Australia and then Japan, I decided the car wasn't doing anyone else any good locked up, so I had it moved to Los Angeles, where a friend, Don Prieto, stored and then sold it for me. And one buyer later, Judd Goldfeder became the proud parent. He's done a magnificent job of restoring, maintaining and loving old 12541, and I'm happy today to be the proud grandparent; although, I still get wistful sometimes.
About the author: Earl Gandel is a resident of Pacific Palisades who arrived there by way of 25 years in New York, Australia, and Japan, having started in LA. He misspent his youth watching people like Jack McAfee and John von Neumann play with their Ferraris in the mid-fifties (not to forget our own Cy Yedor in the ex-Ken Miles MG). In fact, his first real job was as von Neumann's advertising manager at Competition Motors, the SoCal VW distributorship during VW's heyday. An otherwise placid advertising career in New York was punctuated, on the side, by forming a partnership to lease and operate Bridgehampton Race Circuit on Long Island. ("There were actually two other people just as dumb.") The love-hate relationship with that classic road course lasted 12 years, and, while the income value of running a race track was about 8 cents an hour, he admits it was fun having his own 2.85-mile road course while owning a V-12 Ferrari.