The invitation came on a Monday, from Luigi Orlandini of Canossa Events Srl.

“Would you like to spend two days in Modena, learning about the restoration program Modena Classic Works, tour both Ferrari museums and drive some classic Ferraris on the Modena Circuit? The event starts this Friday, so you would have to leave from Portland on Thursday. You would be back in Portland Sunday morning.

“And we’d like your daughter, Alex, to come as well, as we have enjoyed her blogs and think she could bring a fresh perspective to the activities.”

Could you have said no?

We hustled to find our Chopard driving gloves, and were surprised to find how easy it was to pack for just two nights. Our flight left Thursday afternoon from Portland, direct to Amsterdam and then to Bologna. We departed at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, and by 3 p.m. on Friday we were at the opening press conference in Maranello. Sleep? Well, that would have to come some other time.

At a conference held at the Museo Casa Natale Enzo Ferrari, the philosophy behind Modena Classic Works ( was explained by the founder, Pierangelo Masselli. He prefers to restore cars for dealers, and has brought his organizational background to bear in terms of locating subcontractors of a high quality to do the work. His goal: a complete restoration in six months, rather than the two or more years these often take. Especially for a dealer, where time is money, a six-month turnaround is very attractive.

Masselli is no stranger to the world of cars. In addition to his own collection, he is a vintage-racer, with many victories in his Carrera RS.

Coincidentally, Canossa Events, which produced this tour, is also in charge of the revived Modena Cento Ore, a classic-car event I have driven in several times. The dates for next year’s events are June 3–8, 2014, and I highly recommend it. It offers two classes, both regularity (TSD) and competition (no-holds-barred racing) in an appetizing mix of special sections (hillclimbs) on closed roads, and flat-out head-to-head racing on circuits, including Modena and Mugello.

There’s nothing like it in the U.S., and it is one of the few European tours that is in the 40- to 60-car range, rather than the 400-entrant behemoths such as the Tour Auto or the Mille Miglia.

At speed

By 5 p.m., having been up 24 hours straight, we started to fade. However, our next stop, the Autodromo di Modena Circuit brought us fully awake. We had four cars for ride-and-drives — all from Masselli’s private collection. They included a Ferrari 328 GTS, a carbureted 512 Boxer, his racing Carrera RS and a Daytona Spider conversion.

The Modena circuit is a tight one, better suited to small-displacement cars than monsters like the Boxer. Nonetheless, muscling the cars around the track reminded me of just how much I liked vintage racing, where you got to find out your limits and those of the car in a controlled situation with a high safety factor. I don’t think highly of driving cars — old or new — at excessive speeds on public roads. You become a hazard to yourself and any unsuspecting civilian, driver or pedestrian who appears at an inopportune moment.

Alex got her first taste of driving a Ferrari by putting in a couple of laps behind the wheel of the Daytona. Her initial response, that it was “powerful, but heavy and softly sprung,” echoed the words of nearly every Daytona driver. This is a car for wide-open spaces, not gymkhanas. The Boxer, with aged, rock-hard tires, was a handful, as the slightest bit of power caused instantaneous and terrifying oversteer. The 328 was docile and friendly; I have always liked these cars ever since I sold them new as a manager at the Ron Tonkin Gran Turismo dealership.

But the E-ticket ride was in the Carrera. Masselli spared no revs as he took us for hot laps, and his ease and familiarity with the car were instantly apparent. When it was Alex’s turn, I said to him, “That’s my daughter. You need to go fast.” He smiled and replied, “I thought you would tell me to be careful. But I like it better that you want me to show her what the car can do.” I’ve never seen a grin as wide as the one on Alex’s face when she got out of the car.

Dinner was at the favorite restaurant of racers, Ristorante Montana, where during the meal we sampled three types of the regional wine of the region, Lambrusco, and ended with Nocino, a liqueur made from nuts. Our day was finally done.

The next — and final — day of our visit began with a tour of the Museo Ferrari guided by Antonio Ghini, Editor-in-Chief of the official Ferrari magazine. Following that, we had a “behind-the-scenes” look at one of the restoration shops used by Modena Classic Works, Toni Auto.

There was the typical, for Maranello, assortment of Dinos and 330 GTCs being dismantled, restored and put back together. But what caught my eye was a long-nosed car, covered and sitting in the back. The sharp fins along the front fenders were unmistakable — it was a Group 4 competition Daytona, perhaps the most impressive V12 of its era. No, we weren’t offered a chance to drive it.

And now for something completely different

I was back in Portland the next day, participating in 4wd guru Bill Burke’s two-day intensive off-road course in the Tillamook State Forest ( The SCM Defender 90, imported from England, veteran of the Warn Challenge, and kitted out with a 200-tdi turbo diesel, competition suspension, Superwinch Husky, Cobra high-back buckets and ARB locker rear-end with on-board compressor, was ready for the challenge.

A friend recently called me a driving fool. I took it as a compliment. ♦

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