Somewhere outside of Grenada, Spain, I watched from the passenger seat as Jean Sage ran the engine in his 250 SWB to 6,500 rpm. Accelerating up a short straight on a closed-road hillclimb, he cracked a perfect upshift into third before hitting the brakes, double-clutching back down into second, and pitching the car sideways through the next hairpin.
Manager Editor Cindy Banzer and I were participating in the fourth edition of the Tour de España, a five-day event in the south of Spain that started in Grenada and ended in Valencia. The route book promised a nonstop program of circuit racing and hillclimbs, linked by high-speed transits.
Sage was driving his dark blue SWB, S/N 2165 GT, that he has owned for 31 years. A renowned Ferrari historian and formidable vintage event driver, this was my first opportunity to spend time with him. In addition to comparing philosophies of collecting, I admired his mastery behind the wheel.
The Tour de España is an intense, difficult and sometimes dangerous event. One race was held at night on a Formula One circuit, with speeds exceeding 140 mph. (You'll find our photo essay on page 12.) It is put on by Patrick and Sylviane Peter, in conjunction with the Federacion Andaluza de Automovilismo of Spain and Carlos de Miguel Egea.
As with any car event, the activities are really an excuse for those who share a passion to come together. From SCM'ers Dennis Varney and wife Kathy in their lightweight Alfa Sprint to good friend Chip Connor and co-driver Danny Sullivan in the ex-Denny Hulme Porsche IROC RSR, everyone shared common goals-to go as quickly as possible, while being mindful of safety issues, and to enjoy their cars as they pushed them to their limits.
It's no secret that these European events are hard on cars: the C-type that was punched hard in both nose and tail, the 275 GTB that rolled and burned and the GTA whose front fender was wrapped nearly back past the front wheel well bore mute testimony to the intensity of the competition.
Yet no one was injured, and cars, after all, are merely metal that can be reshaped, repeatedly if necessary, into their original configuration. Those who chose to compete at this level have made the conscious decision that the experiences they have racing at the edge are worth the accompanying risk of damage to their cars, themselves and to others.
Through the five days, we all learned something about ourselves, our friends and our cars. We learned just how good these cars were when they were built, and just how hard they like to be run. We learned how to settle into a rhythm with our machines, as they performed their daily ballet that sometimes included two hillclimbs and two races on different circuits in a ten-hour period.
After Sage's car succumbed to a failed rear-axle bearing, I was graciously offered a ride in a brilliantly restored, chopped-tail 1964 Lancia Flaminia Zagato 2.8-liter 3C. Readers may recall that I briefly owned a similar car with a rounded tail, but sent it on to SCM'er Chet Andrews when its needs began to overwhelm me.
This was an opportunity to get highly coveted seat time behind the wheel of a Flaminia Zagato in top condition, and I was not disappointed. Owned by Spaniard Jorge del Vecchio, the Lancia proved itself to be an extraordinarily competent, sophisticated, high-speed GT car. Nearly perfectly balanced with its rear-mounted transaxle, the car stayed exceptionally flat under all circumstances. This was in marked contrast to the extreme lean the hard-working Giulietta Sprints exhibited as we passed them on the track.
Our only problem, a wire to the fuel pump that vibrated loose, was no surprise given the pounding these machines took on the hillclimb routes. SCM'er Dick DeLuna ground his GTA's drain plug completely off, depositing several liters of oil on the ground.
We at SCM continue to maintain that these European touring events are the best possible way to learn about the DNA of your collector cars, and something about yourself as well.
If you're interested in participating in these events and need a co-driver, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. My FIA license is up to date, my driving suit and helmet are packed and I'm always ready for another adventure.
SUBURBANS & FRESH MEAT
We've added a new column this month that tracks the prices of "flavor of the month" sports cars. The media-generated buzz and the accompanying inflated asking prices surrounding new models ranging from the Mini Cooper S to the Ferrari Enzo can be fatiguing. The column, entitled "Fresh Meat," will report on verified sales of various new models of interest. You'll find it on page 55.
We've added another car to the SCM stable, our first new car ever, a bright red '02 Suburban. The fiscal appeal of 0% interest for 60 months was irresistible. Out of loyalty, our first call was to my former employer, Ron Tonkin Chevrolet and Gran Turismo, but they had already sold out of their '02s. An Internet search brought us to Curt Warner Chevrolet in nearby Vancouver, Washington, where we were well taken care of by their competent and personable fleet manager, Darrell Creamer. If you're considering a new Chevrolet car or truck, contact him for a competitive quote at 800/543-4646, or darrellc @curtwarnerchevrolet.com. Mention that you're an SCM subscriber. He'll treat you right.
A '69 Pontiac GTO coupe graces the cover this month, making tracks at the Italian ski resort, Cortina. This image was created by Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman, and appeared in contemporary magazine advertisements. The two artists were responsible for more than 500 magazine illustrations, with Fitzpatrick painting the cars and Kaufman the backgrounds.
The two collaborated for 24 years. Kaufman died in 1995.
Giclée prints on archival watercolor paper of this illustration and others are available through the artist's Web site, www.fitz-art.com. Prices range from $275 for an artist's proof to $225 for a signed and numbered proof. Smaller digital prints on heavy matte photo paper are available for $65.