Sunday, March 18, 2012

What Memories Are Made Of

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was once a young soldier serving in Uncle Sam's Air Force and stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base in what was then, West Germany.  As hard as it is to believe these 50 years later, the Cold War was in full swing, the Soviet Union was a genuine threat, and I served, along with hundreds of thousands of other Americans, in an occupation army.  WWII was still very much in evidence.  Shell pocked buildings and war-time destruction were commonplace.  There were still areas of Germany where little children would run up to you begging for loose change or candy, but for the most part, the Marshall Plan had done its job and Western Europe was back on its economic feet and life had pretty much returned to normal.

As luck would have it, I ended up in a cush job as a base photographer and my 3-year tour of duty was pretty much spent in an 8 to 5 job with lots of time off and money in my pocket.  Not a whole lot of money mind you, but certainly more than most civilians.  Also as luck would have it, after about six months in the country I bought a car.  A wonderful little Fiat 500 Abarth.  It wasn't much more than a go-kart with a body but it was just as much fun to drive as a go-kart and got something like 40 miles to the gallon of gas which cost me 11 cents a gallon (on base)(gas was over $2 a gallon on the economy).  No sooner had I gotten the car than the next piece of luck fell into place.

An airman who had served out his term and was about to rotate home befriended me so that I could chauffeur him around to his favorite saloon, which was located in a small hamlet not far from the air base.  He would buy me beer for my trouble and introduced me to his friends, all of whom were German.  He would go to Nuenkirchen because there were very few Americans there and no GI bars.  He spoke fluent Deutsch and hung with the locals.  It was there that I met two young friends and we became inseparable.  But that's another story.

This story is about the reason, when given the choice, I chose to serve my country in Germany rather than Bermuda... my love of European auto racing, or more succinctly, my love of Ferraris.  No sooner had I gotten my little Fiat than a journey to the Nurbergring beckoned.  Nestled in the hills of the Black Forest region, the Nurbergring was the most challenging, and dangerous race course in a world of dangerous race courses, but a wonderful place to visit.

In my last post I reported that this year's Amelia Island Concours de Elegance featured the 50th anniversary of the Ferrari GTO.  Seeing those cars brought back a rush of memories, for I was there to see them race and photograph them lo those many years ago and the memories and photos are still fresh.  With your indulgence, I'll share a couple with you.

The red beauty at speed, Nurbergring 1963.  The red beauty at rest, Amelia Island Concours 2012.

Ferraris weren't the only thing running that day.  The Shelby Daytona Coupe.  Same car, different number.  Dan Gurney at the wheel.

What $50 million looks like.  There were only 33 GTO's manufactured, and 17 of them were at the Concours.

This car has a special meaning to me and my good buddies who were visiting over the weekend of the Concours.  This was the car that Sir Stirling Moss drove to victory in the GT class at the first Daytona Continental in 1962 (later became the 24hrs of Daytona).  We were there to see it.

The prettiest fanny this side of Marilyn Monroe.

However, sometimes the real beauty lies under the bonnet.  The famous Ferrari V12 with Webber six-pack.  None other like it.

Alright guys, this will be the last car post for a while.  Hope you enjoyed it.

36 comments:

  1. I loved it, Mr. C.
    There's (or was) a Fiat 500 in the window of a local import repair shop here, a ten minute walk away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Doug. I loved that little car. Used to drive it like a bat out of hell all over Europe. Of course, it wouldn't go more than about 70mph but it was how it got you there that made it so much fun.

      Delete
  2. an old buddy of mine in the AA program told me that communication with someone else was based in learning to listen to how a person reveals himself in the way he talks about stuff that's close to his heart. your car posts may indeed be about " cars" and your deep interest in and fascination with them, but they also reveal you to be a thoughtful and reflective person with a real appreciation for history, context, and craft.

    and, as the daughter of a mechanic who never met a car he didn't love (to tinker with), i have to agree that the six pack was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words Harlequin. The thing the photos don't really show is how small these cars are. They are tiny. You have to be a contortionist to get in and out.

      Delete
  3. Who knew that the Cold War era with the possibility of nuclear war destroying civilization would ever be considered the good old days. I'd take the Soviet Union back in a minute compared to the Middle East insanity we cannot get away from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could almost agree with you BB. The difference was that the Soviet Union was for real a jack-booted land grabbing super power responsible for killing as many people as Nazi Germany.

      Delete
  4. All I can see is that even though I was good, there would never be anyway I could claim to have had the touch to synch up those carb's for maximum effect. I might've been able to get them halfway there but nope...I know my limits. On a long straight what would that coupe do speed wise. flat out opened up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean WM. It was all I could do to sync the two single drafts that fed my little Fiat. I don't know exactly the top speed, but they used to reach speeds of 150mph or so on the straights. Back in those days that was flying. Still is I guess. But don't forget, that little V12 was only 2.5 liters displacement. Pistons the size of beer cans.

      Delete
  5. Wow, some real beauties. We had a little Fiat Spyder in the late 70s. We bought it used from a Ford dealership, and got it for a song because the brakes didn't work, and the Ford mechanics didn't want to mess with them. Best as I can recollect, the repair was very simple ... adjusting the parking brake fixed the regular brakes, too. Anyway, that was a teeny little car, and not very practical for a family with three kids, but we sure did have fun in that thing. (Sometimes all you WANT in a car is two seats, no matter how many kids you have!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always wanted a spyder. They were so pretty and had Alfa engines. You're right about the two seats.

      Delete
  6. Any chance you've got a nice blue Shelby that I could take for a spin? I'm in the mood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just so happens I've got a spare. I'll ship it right over.

      Delete
  7. I get the impression you really like cars.
    These are real beauties, what fun it would be to drive one. And on the Nurburgring, at that. I only ever managed a beetle, but they were a joy too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One thing I really like about you Friko is your power of observation. ;) But, as the bio says... gearhead.

      Delete
  8. Looking at those Italian beauties gets me slightly aroused. I didn't think machines could still have that effect on me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean. Imagine what they did to a 16-year-old!

      Delete
  9. "The prettiest fanny this side of Marylin Monroe." You'll need to have Marylin stand next to the car so we can make an accurate judgment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, the car is immaculately restored, Marilyn not so much. But ahhh, what mammories, I mean, memories.

      Delete
  10. You may call that Fiat in the top picture "litte" but compared to the BMW Isetta that my neighbors across the street had, it's practically a Hummer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I know the BMW you're talking about. It is tiny.

      Delete
  11. *"Little" - not "litte." Gosh, I hate it when I do that.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ach was für ein Leben ... und da war ich mit meinem Yugo!

    ReplyDelete
  13. OK, I had to come back. I read a German newspaper every day - and guess what was in today's edition: a story about how an American is copying the Nürburgring and rebuild an exact replice in Nevada.

    The story is in German (http://www.spiegel.de/auto/aktuell/0,1518,822390,00.html); couldn't find the English version of the same article, which they sometimes have. But you can always look at the pictures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The URL took me to a homepage for Der Spiegel. Oh well, I couldn't read it anyway. But, suffice it to say that the replica is most like built to scale as the original Nurburgring was 14 miles long.

      Delete
  14. I want to know how you and JJ got an umlaut.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To get an Umlaut (hope you are on a regular PC - it's different with Macs and may be different with laptops): hold the "alt" key and type "0252" on the numberic key pad (while still holding down "alt"): ü
      Alt+0220: Ü
      Alt+0246: ö
      Alt+0214: Ö
      And so on...

      I can even make the symbol for Euro: Alt + 0128: €

      And they say you don't learn anything blogging.

      Delete
  15. UmLaut now that was an Automobile.
    First to complete the New York to Cape Horn Run.
    Legend holds it took them 14 years. Most of the time was spend in the Amazon Jungle. Turns out they actually made a set of rubber tires there on the spot. Once they got the trees cut.
    UmLauts are hard to find.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just so happens that there is an UmLaut dealer in Sarasota, a place where no one's in a hurry.

      Delete
  16. almost as good as sex, eh? having a beautiful car that runs! forget the other...LOL...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny how, the older you get, so many things compete with sex.

      Delete
  17. My father was stationed in Germany in the 50's. We lived first in the small village of Parsberg and the the Army camp of Hohenfels. I have very fond memories of the people and the country.
    Nice cars!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ditto that Rubye. I loved Germany and would love to go back.

      Delete
    2. Rubye - you lived less than an hour's drive from my home town. Small world. Glad you liked it.

      Delete
  18. I wouldn't count on anything from CHENEY except screws .
    That's why the Queen is going after him with Ger- Remy.
    MISHARE did a switch .
    TZINGST- COMELLO.
    Fuck it.

    ReplyDelete

Sorry about the comment thingy folks. Too much spam.