The first time I can remember having seen (or heard of) a Ferrari was as a teenager in 1951. I saw a picture of Jim Kimberly driving Briggs Cunningham?s Touring Bodied Coupe in an issue of Road and Track magazine. The race was in Argentina. I fell in love with that photograph and hoped that someday I could own a Ferrari.
The first time that I had a chance to ride in a Ferrari was some years later in early 1959. I had just "graduated" from the U.S. Navy and my wife, Barbara, and I decided to trade our supercharged MG for a new Morgan. We searched out Rene Pelendini?s local Morgan dealership in Los Angeles, and there met Lew Spencer who was in the process of making a name for himself in local Club racing. Morgans back then, as now, were in somewhat short supply. The only car on the showroom floor was quite well blocked in and unavailable for a demonstration ride.
"Not to worry" said Lew. As an alternative, he offered us a ride in Rene?s 212 Ferrari. With Barbara perched on top of the spare tire behind the two front seats, we motored out onto Sunset Boulevard. After a spirited drive through the Hollywood Hills, we arrived back at the dealership. Lew said "The Morgan performs about the same, but rides harder!" We bought a new Morgan DHC. It was the start of a long love affair, but that is another story.
I spent the next couple of years road racing motorbikes on a Ducati, winning a Class championship in 1961, but then crashed heavily at Riverside in 1962. Having discovered my own mortality, as young men are sometimes wont to do, I retired from serious racing. One day in the fall of that year, I was visiting a friend?s Morgan repair shop. In the rear was a lovely red Ferrari coupe. It looked remarkably like the one I had fallen in love with so many years before.
"Do you want to buy it?" my friend asked. "It is for sale and the owner would really like to sell it as it holds some bad memories for him." He introduced me to the owner and we were able to purchase the car. In looking through the papers and history of the car, I discovered that is was, indeed, the very same car that I had first seen in those photographs. The Ferrari was the 195S Touring Bodied Berlinetta, chassis 060MM which had run in the Mille Miglia and Le Mans. It had won its class at Sebring and raced throughout the U.S. for several years.
I really loved that Ferrari. I drove it daily for several years (you could drive old race cars on the streets in those days). Barbara drove it to the market. For a while it was the only car we owned. Unfortunately, some years later, we decided to buy a home and we had to sell the Ferrari in order to make the down payment. Today the Ferrari would be worth more than the house! I have kept track of that Ferrari off and on through the years. It went to England for a while (Peter Agg owned it), and now belongs to an Australian. The last I heard, he was keeping it in Italy.
Barbara and I have owned several Ferraris since then, but whenever I think of the 195 it is like a man remembering his first love. It grows brighter (and better) with the passage of time rather than fading from memory as so many things do.
About the author: Gerald Willburn is a long time Ferrari (and Morgan) enthusiast and member of the Southwest region. He is an extremely interesting person to talk with so be sure to say "hello" next time you see him at one of our events.