By: Tino Mingori
Many of you own Ferraris which carry the designation GTB, GTS, GTC, GT 2+2, etc. We all know that the letters GT mean that these are cars were designed for Grand Touring, but how often do we use the cars for that purpose? Not often enough. Last spring Patrick Ottis in Berkeley California decided it was time to encourage some serious Grand Touring and the focus of his attention was the fabulous 275GTB/4. It is not surprising that Patrick picked the 4 cam as the model to be featured on this back road adventure. He has owned a 4 cam himself for quite a few years and this model has always held a special place in his personal Ferrari lineup. As the writer of this article I should admit that I share this assessment, so the comments you are about to read are not likely to be objective. Lynn and I have enjoyed owning and driving our 275GTB/4 for over twelve years and it is still exciting to open the garage door, remove the cover and embark for an hour or two (or ten) of 4 cam automotive pleasure. You can always tell the big time 4 cam lovers. They are the people who purchased their cars prior to 1985 and still own them. But I digress.
In addition to his affinity for the model Patrick had another reason for selecting the 4 cam as the featured car for this drive. Most of these cars were built during the single year of 1967, so 1997 is the 30th anniversary of their construction. When you consider the anniversary aspect and think about the fact that these wonderful cars are rarely seen on the road any more, it becomes natural to dream about seeing them once again doing what they were created to do. Patrick put out the word and received numerous responses from 4 cam owners all across the country. As often happens, the numbers shrank as the departure date drew near, but when the first hint of daylight filtered through an overcast sky on August 12, 1997, there were still six 275GT'B/4's fueled up and ready to roll from a secure warehouse near PatrickÕs well equipped restoration and repair shop in Berkeley, CA. The drivers included Mike Higgs, Tom Garber, Patrick Ottis, Brandon Wang, Eric Zausner, and myself. We were accompanied by wives, relatives and friends who either rode along as passengers or traveled in the backup car, an Alfa Romeo 164. It was comforting to know that we had a professional mechanic tools) on the drive. Guy Mangiamele, a journalist affiliated with Cavalino Magazine was also with the group. (An interesting fact I learned on the trip is that Mangiamele means "eat apples".) While waiting to depart my thoughts turned to serial numbers which indicated that our car was built directly behind Patricks on the Maranello assembly fine all those years ago. It had been almost 30 years since these two cars were together in the same room
The first 30 minutes or so of our drive were spent negotiating the morning traffic on the San Rafael Bridge and in Southern Marin County. Then things thinned out and we were off on Highway 1 tracing our way along the winding coast and listening to the wonderful V12 sound that only Ferraris make. We passed through Stinson Beach and Fort Ross on the way to our lunch stop at the historic Gualala Hotel. After lunch we continued to track the mainly wild and undeveloped coastline to our evening destination in Little River, just south of Mendocino. When we arrived we filled up the main parking area in front of the Little River Inn and spent an hour or so admiring the cars and checking them over to see that no problems had developed. (None had.) Then it was off to the hot tubs to relax and get mentally prepared for a marvelous meal awaiting us in the dining room of the Inn.
We were hoping for sun the next morning, but no such luck. The morning photo session had to be conducted with the overcast skies which are apparently common to the area at this time of year. Other obligations made it necessary for three cars in our group to turn south after breakfast, so our hearty band was reduced to three 275's plus the Alfa chase car. No matter; our truncated tour still contained some of the most rabidly enthusiastic 4 cam lovers on the planet and we were determined to keep these magnificent cars revving for a while longer. By mid morning we were zipping north toward the Avenue of the Redwoods.
As soon as we turned inland toward the redwoods, the sun came out and the cars began to flicker and glow as they passed in and out of the shadows of the tall trees. A beautiful sight. After a while the euphoria of the situation was such that we decided to do some seat hopping and sample the feel of each other's cars. An interesting experience. Although similar, each car had its own personality reflecting the fact that the cars were hand made in the first place and had different life experiences in the second. One of these cars had been driven over 240,000 miles! Now there's a car that has been enjoyed. Stopping only for gas, we continued North until we came to the end of the Avenue of the Redwoods just below Eureka. This was our turn around point, and it was now time to begin heading back toward San Francisco and ultimately to Monterey where the sports car extravaganza known as "Monterey Weekend" was due to begin. Near Willits, the group split again with one car heading for Berkeley, one for Carmel Valley and one for another night in Little River.
All of the cars had performed beautifully. There was not a wrench or screwdriver in sight up to that point. Remarkable. Wouldn't it be nice if I could end the story at this point and say that each of the cars continued safely to their destinations to be parked by grinning owners. Unfortunately, life is not always that kind, and as the traffic thickened north of San Francisco there appeared a pickup truck which stopped just slightly faster than the 275 GTB/4 following it. Enter the flatbed and all the distress associated with such an event. I did not observe the incident, but early reports indicate that the damage was not extensive. Even so the bending of one's beloved 4 cam is a shattering experience. Often the "minor" repairs involve considerations such as "While we are fixing this perhaps it would also be a good idea to also take care of ... $$$$$$". Having come to know the owner of the wounded car, however, I am confident that this 4 cam will be back for a lot more road action in the not too distant future.
Except for this one blemish, I can certainly say that this was a most wonderful and memorable experience for all who participated, Various Ferrari models have been honored in the past, but usually this has been as a static display. Somehow it seems more appropriate to honor a "GT" car by doing some genuine Grand Touring. Patrick Ottis had a good idea here, and we ought to keep the spirit alive. So stay tuned all you GT owners and get ready for some more Grand Touring events to appear in the near future. Why not begin your fall touring schedule with the Southwest Region overnight drive and spa planned for October 18-19? Look for the ad elsewhere in the newsletter. See you there.