I have long argued that cars are machinery first, and art second. With the very rare exception of pure show cars, they were designed to be driven, not to be displayed for gawking passersby. It is only through the use of a car that its underlying magnificent strengths and disappointing weaknesses emerge.
Our Ferrari is nearly 40 years old, and is even somewhat collectible, being one of 50 cars built with the 4-liter motor in the 250 GTE chassis. But the 1962 330 America is not restored, it's still a driver, as it was when born. And each time I fire it up to run an errand I am reminded of the exultant way the Ferrari claims its space.
Noisy, raucous, belligerent, confrontational. I think back to the early '60s, and an Italian autostrada peppered with Bianchinas struggling to hit 60 mph, and the feeling the captain of the Ferrari must have had as he swept through at 120 mph, scattering them in his wake.
The heavy, ponderous steering at low speeds simply reinforces that Ferraris were never meant to be driven slowly, just as a plane isn't designed to fly with its landing gear extended.
From time to time I've written of my use of the car for daily, pedestrian activities. In general, the response from readers and friends has been positive. So imagine my reaction when the following e-mail arrived, just after I'd returned from a 50-mile round trip to a local electronics store to buy some faster computers for the business. Accompanying me were my nine-year-old daughter, Alexandra, and her friend, Lauren.
"Has the 330 America blown up yet? I don't enjoy reading about how that car is mistreated. I'm not saying it shouldn't be driven at all, but any car close to 40 years old ought to be spared having a lawnmower sticking out of the trunk and having fast food wrappers dumped inside. It's not clear to me what is being accomplished by abusing this car, other than to annoy folks like me."-G. D., San Jose, California, via e-mail.
I thought back a couple of hours. Before leaving on our trip, we had walked to the garage to make our vehicle decision. What car to take? They wanted to go in "Enzo" (the name they've given the 330).
Our trip had been a success. The car didn't break down and used no oil. We managed to fit the three mid-tower computers, two laser printers and the 17-inch monitor into the Ferrari without difficulty.
The girls were hungry (they're always hungry when we pass a McDonald's), and a quick pass by the drive-up window netted us two Happy Meals and a "Big and Tasty" for the driver.
The food, such as it was, was consumed in the best American fashion, while driving down the Interstate at 70 mph. Between chomps, I asked the girls what they liked about Enzo. "The back seats are big, and the console between the seats is tall, which makes it a fun place to play with our toys," they replied. "And it's neat because it's so noisy and all the car alarms go off when we drive through the neighborhood."
And then came Mr. D's communication, which I've been musing about ever since.
I want my daughter and her friends to ride in the old beater Ferrari as we do daily-driver things. Sure, we can go on vintage rallies and trundle off to car meets, but it's really just as much, if not more, fun to drive the car to our mountain cabin and take it up the two miles of gravel road through three inches of freshly fallen snow.
The next owner of Enzo can coddle it, restore it, trailer it to meets and worry about rock chips. I'm happy to dig the old crusty french fries from behind the seat, wash the mud off the rear quarters and try to figure out what kind of cupholder would fit between the seats for my can of diet Pepsi.
So I've decided, unfortunately for Mr. D's sense of vintage Ferrari propriety, to keep using the car exactly as I have been. Instead of a lawnmower, maybe it will be an aquarium sticking out of the back. Or a new cage for the pet finches. Or perhaps we'll be hauling the cylinder head from the Alfa race car to the machine shop. Or taking the girls to summer camp, trunk filled with sleeping bags and backpacks.
After all, it's just a car.


"The 1961 Alfa Spider had that funky humped-up top," artist Bill Gillham said of his watercolor on this month's cover. "That's probably why you usually see them with the top stowed."
Gillham has been an art teacher at West Albany High School in Oregon for 30 years. The pictured car belonged to an auto shop teacher who used it as a daily driver until he put it into a ditch while dodging a deer. Gillham painted this car while it was parked on the grass behind the high school.
It sparked his interest in Alfas; he bought his first Giulia Super in 1978, has subsequently owned 73 Alfas and currently has a collection of eleven, including a '58 Spider Veloce, '62 Sprint Veloce, '62 Sprint Speciale, '65 Sprint GT, '76 Giulia Super and '70 Jr. Zagato.
Primarily an abstract painter, Gillham only occasionally does renditions of automobiles. His artwork has appeared on the poster for the Northwest Classic Rally four times, and on the cover of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club magazine.
This watercolor, on Arches hand-made French paper, is in the SCM permanent collection. Gillham paints by commission; he may be contacted at 541/327-1486 (OR).

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