The Scariest Ride of My Life -- and Then Some

by Shin Takei

After the heydays of the eighties, or the burst of the bubble, there was still some activity among the world?s collectors of exotic cars, namely Ferrari.  Those who missed the opportunity to buy one in a market with prices

rising everyday were now given the opportunity to buy in a declining market.  Those who purchased by pure speculation were now caught with cars worth a fraction of their investment.  In the eighties, anything with the name Ferrari was increasing in price, even cars traditionally unattractive to the enthusiast.  I, for one lost the opportunity to "sell" when the prices were high but much to my wife?s chagrin, I didn?t want to sell because I didn?t know if I could afford to buy it again. 

But I was one of the lucky few that had a steady stream of Japanese enthusiast customers who kept on buying well into the early nineties.  In fact I wasn?t even involved in the eighties.  These cars were mainly vintage Ferraris but occasionally Lamborghinis, racing Alfa Romeos and racing Jaguars joined the list.  I partnered with Bruno Borri and Luciano Fabbio of Modena Sportscars on La Brea buying and selling, restoring and converting USA models back into European Specifications.  But learning from the eighties, we never put any of our own money up front. Thus all purchases and restoration costs were paid by the customer up front. Modena Sportscars as you may recall were the mechanics that won the Daytona 24 hrs in 1979.  The team manager was Otto Zipper who past away the morning of the race and the car was raced with a black stripe diagonally emblazoned across its hood in his memory.  The drivers were Tony Adamowitz and John Morton.  Because of their reputation, many owners of vintage Ferrari had their cars serviced by Modena Sportcars. This made for a delicious scene of all types of Ferraris being serviced at any given time.  The store got quite busy a month before any car show or concours, especially the Monterey weekend.

I had the pleasure to ride shotgun on many occasions in some rare and valuable Ferrari. Sometimes, I got to go and test-drive the vehicles myself.  At another time, I was given the task to drive around the block to determine the problem.  I think I was being tested more than consulted but after my "guess" we would sit in Bruno?s cigarette-smoke filled office and discuss the problem.  Whenever there was a disagreement, and this happened quite often, the voices would be raised and English will be abandoned for Italian in mid-sentence.  About this time, I always chose to leave because I wouldn?t understand well and the atmosphere was unbearable.  The loud conversation would continue with more arm gestures and facial expressions than a Major League manager with the bases loaded. Eventually they will part company never to talk again that day, but the next day, they will be laughing and working on the cars like nothing happened.

One day, a young good looking Italian man drove up in a F40 with Italian plates.  He was here for the summer and imported the car on a temporary status.  Since he didn?t speak any English with Bruno or Luciano, I didn?t know what the conversation was all about, but he was picked up by an astonishingly attractive young lady and left the F40 for service.  For those of us who never had the opportunity to drive a F40, I can say that it is the most exciting car I ever drove.  My chance came in a closed circuit in Japan that was a bicycle racing training course.  This course was over five kilometers long with a long straight about 100 meters wide and riddled with all sorts of curves from tight switch-backs to long sweepers with declining radii and negative camber and steep climbs and down-hills, designed of course for the endurance bicycle racer with Tour De France