IN 1970, aged 25, Richard Wolf bought himself an XKE convertible. In honor of the E-Type’s 50th anniversary, R.D. tells of the glory and the madness in owning the world’s sexiest roadster.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img Richard Wolf for ADLX ::: Ferrari Testarossa
YES, you’re seeing double. Our man Richard has one helluva an eye for a good shot. And an eye for beautiful cars, too. Above and below are shots of two, identical Ferrari Testarossas that R.D. took while visiting an Italian car rally at Autumn View Farms in Massachusetts. We covered this event last year and the sheetmetal present is stunning.
But about these photos – few can argue the Ferrari Testarossa’s inherent sex appeal. There’s something about that ultra-low profile, those wide hips that hug an enchanting thoroughbred V12, and pop-up gator headlamps that scream exotic.
And those Pininfarina side strakes…
Simply put: the Testarossa air intakes are the sports car styling cue to end all styling cues. The cars themselves are 80s icons which makes it particularly tantalizing two see twins compellingly staged as these have two redheads have been.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: Ferrari v. Lamborghini
RICHARD Wolf and I have been having a discussion lately on Italian car design.
Loyal to his E39 generation frosty blue M5, Richard’s quick to call a spade what it is and even quicker to pounce on what he sees as bad design. When his baby was in the shop for cosmetic touch ups recently, he shared his displeasure in having to bear the weight of driving a retrotastic Dodge Challenger, “the essence of cheap,” he said.
Sorry to confirm, he was right about the Challenger.
And he’s right about what he sees as the trend in Lamborghini and Ferrari design. To Richard’s keen eye, it seems the two car makers have switched roles. Thirty years ago, the Lamborghini Countach was wild and wildly flamboyant to its core. Complicated, over-the-top design that was more provocative than beautiful was Lambo’s raison d’être. NACA ducts met Stealth bomber wings. It’s as though Lambo had an inside guy in the US Airforce.
Ferrari, on the other hand, was the quintessence of restraint. Symphonic, yet subtle curves were the Boxer’s forte. And even the wild Testarossa made certain geometric sense in its iconic horizontal air slats and gently wedged profile. Ferrari was wild, yet paradoxically the more conservative of the two exotics.
Today, German management at Lamborghini has rerouted and trained the raging bull on being both sharp, clean, almost too efficient. Consider the Gallardo, a masterpiece of minimalist edge and clean surfacing. Ditto for the Murcielago and even the wildly imaginative Reventon – whose cleaved angles are all brilliantly purposed.
Ferrari on the other hand has grown fat- as if overly content with its own largesse. No longer lean, contemporary Ferraris seem like heavier GTs that are taking an ungainly focus on creature comforts. Taking their eyes off the prize as it were, the classically beautiful lines are gone for bold but ultimately tone deaf styling cliches.
It’s as though Maranello’s external sheetmetal seems oddly at the mercy of wind tunnel shaping and the whims of auto stylists who’ve abandoned taste.
The “low-cost” California is emblematic of this shaky route to excess at the expense of beauty. It’s high, fussy boot with vertical quad exhausts recalls not so much Ferrari as it does Fiat.
In another thirty years, if we’re still driving exotics, it’ll be interesting to note whether Ferrari and Lamborghini maintain their current trends. For now, we have to marvel at the role reversal.
RISING at seven thirty to be out the door at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning is, by most standards, not a gentle start to the day. Having just returned from New York at three o’clock that very same morning, you can imagine how daunting the prospect must have seemed when the alarm clock jolted yours out of REM and into a groggy fog.
Fortunately, there was good cause and plenty of caffeine on hand.
Days earlier, our friend Richard Wolf had alerted me that upwards of 40 enthusiasts from FerrariChat.com were staging a get together in Glastonbury, Connecticut to drive an hour or so north across the border into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where with other regiments from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire they’d converge on a small horse farm for lunch and golf cart polo.
He suggested I meet up with him so that from the seat of his E39 generation M5 we could take part in a brilliant caravan of Italian exotica.
“What better way to spend a Sunday?” said Richard.
What better way, indeed, said I.
“Be at my house nine sharp.”
A former air force pilot, more of the military has rubbed off on R.D. than I think even he’d care to admit. We arrive in Glastonbury with the show already in progress.
FerrariChat forum ringleader Lane (below) is dressed in black to match his tutto nero 348.
He appears in jubilant spirits and for good reason. This year’s September meet is bigger than last year’s. And a quick scene survey shows as many Porsches as Ferraris in a range of vintages from the 70s to the present – along with plenty of other lovelies: Alfa Romeos, BMWs, and even an old Cobra.
The owners mix and mingle before saddling up for the hour’s ride north and I pause to take in the happy sight of a banana yellow F355 F1.
The 355’s owner, Jay, late 30s, a good natured do-it-yourselfer from Bristol, Conn. tells me he had just purchased the car last year from some guy in the Sunshine State. Later in the day, he’d share a harrowing account of toying with his car’s V8 that would’ve terrified many owners into having AAA and their insurance adjuster ready on speed dial.
We’ll come back to that in Part II.
The weather, so far, is holding out. There’s alternating clouds with brilliant patches of powder blue. The weather’s like any September day in New England; sweater cool in the morning and shorts hot in the afternoon.
A pleasant breeze clears the air of idling fumes that smoke from the low exhaust rumble and tap-tap-tap‘s of thoroughbred sixes, eights, and twelves. A Glastonbury cop drives by the parking lot, amused. I with Jacqueline and Richard with Claudia get into the M5- ready to roll.
And without fanfare, but in coordinated succession, the line of Ferraris, Porsches, Alfa Romeos, BMWs, and a Cobra sets off down the road. It’s an inspired view.
We’re led by a brilliant red 512M. The last of the Testarossas, I decide that this Ferrari has one of the finest tails in all of automotordom. Sad to think that history may treat the 512 as an afterword in the Testarossa’s decade-long story. By the time the red head saw production in the early 90s, it was already an old car. But who the hell could care either then or now? Such flamboyant beauty!
In any event, the 512 plus entourage is catching attention as we enter and exit small towns like Coventry, Mansfield, and Stafford Springs. I’m in a technicolor line of show ponies parading across hill and dale. One long seven figure train of exotica – che bella!
Our travels take us through back country roads mostly, but there’s a brief interstate interlude.
Once we’re on the highway, well, the convoy manages to catch more than a few motorists by surprise.
Understanding that there’s some nut job leaning out the rear window of the M5 taking shots, one driver after another takes turns tailing R.D.’s blue Bimmer; like school fish shadowing a great shark.
Breaking from the pack, a bright yellow 911…
…followed by a black CTS-V. They alternate positions just aft of starboard.
Inside the M5’s cozy confines (funny that a midsize sedan should have such limited rear legroom) Richard is regaling company with salty jokes with punchlines that could peel rust off a Jag’s bumper.
Amused, Jacqueline’s looking backward recommending shots and finds an appreciation for the Caddy’s edgy style.
It’s certainly angular, I say. Nice to find an American make in this Euro crowd. Powered with a mid decade’s Vette Zo6 V8, the first gen. CTS-V would be game for chasing after Italian exotics any day. But on this Sunday, for the most part, ours is a steady, lawful procession.
And once off the highway, our pace gets even more casual.
At points, a little too casual.
But hey, we’re on a Sunday drive. And, eventually, we find Massachusetts. And Massachusetts finds us.
Route 19 directs us into the town of Wales.
It’s a small, colonial hamlet where the church is having a community fair. Our exotic convoy cuts through town traffic and the yellow 911 that’s been tailgating us takes a pit stop for petrol while the rest of the posse presses on.
The quiet secondary road takes us through Brimfield; curving past state forest on its way north towards Warren. The forests are mixed deciduous with gently sloping hills that periodically descend into lakes or marshland- truly beautiful turf.
We close in on our target destination until…
The lead Ferrari -the red 512M with the magnificent tail – has veered off the beaten path. We’re a little lost.
The 512’s driver, Paul, steps out seeking advice.
This intermezzo also allows for another lovely photo op.
Coordinates reset (we’d missed our turn by one tenth of a mile), friendly chuckles all around, we’re back on the road.
And within a minute we’re turning onto Autumn View Farms -the meeting point for what would be an afternoon of gazing upon breathtaking automobiles, consuming fine grub and drink, and chewing the fat with amiable aficionados.
In Part II: a tutto rosso Berlinetta Boxer, a tale of life and death surgery for one Ferrari’s V8, and a nice Greek fellow who wants to unite the world’s sports car owners. As you’ll see, it was worth the early rise.
As seen on CPTV | Copyright © 2009 Heinrich Rogers Productions, LLC
WHAT a day.
It was July. The forecast called for possible showers or thunderstorms. Humidity felt something like ninety-nine percent.
Then the sun came out. And the humidity stayed as glued to hillsides of northwestern Connecticut as our sweat-soaked shirts stayed glued to our backs.
Race weather, in other words.
I can’t remember watching one of my uncle’s NHRA races on a day when the air wasn’t so hotly thick with the smell of gas and burning rubber. Being at Lime Rock – a very different kind of course – with Joe Ficca as he took to the track brought back some of those childhood memories.
As did fond recollections of all those Porsche and Ferrari club meets I’d witnessed at Lime Rock over the years.
This day, we brought a range of BMWs and one Cadillac to the track to experience Lime Rock’s famous twists and turns for ourselves. Following a renovation, the track was freshly paved with an extra turn carved into the hillside following the back straight.
But our time was as limited as the Park’s was valuable (memberships cost $100K) so we set out to answer a number of questions.
Which of the BMW convertibles we tested would prove fastest?
Could an E65 550i beat an E39 M5?
Would an XLR-V out perform a gang of M-powered BMWs?
Executive Producers: Gunnar Heinrich & Neil Rogers
Line Producer: Tiffany Hopkins
Editors: Neil Rogers Production Assistants: Kevin Kusina | Larry Henrikson
Camera: Neil Rogers | Chris Reo | Ben Winchell | Jan Hering
Writer | Host: Gunnar Heinrich
Special Thanks: BMW | GM| Lime Rock Park | Dres. Ward Heinrich, Sr. & Jr.| J.M. Ficca
By Gunnar Heinrich
BACK online following its televised premiere, the BMW Trio are ready to party on – online.
This segment, shot last winter in the Connecticut River Valley’s frost bitten hills, showcases three BMW drivers – Hardy Drackett, Newt Clark, and Richard Wolf – and their unique rides in a game of generational compare ‘n contrast.
The story’s central premise revolves around BMW’s legendary E39 (predecessor) generation M5 sedan; a car that some stalwart enthusiasts insist is, was, and forever shall be the most soulful M-car that the roundel hath wielded from metal.
As a juxtaposition to this most sanctified of four door time travel devices, the segment cross compares the old M5 with the current generation 550i (whose performance numbers come within firing range) and an M6 fitted with Dinan pipes (whose specs completely obliterate both Bimmer sedans).
Separated into Parts I and II, TRT is 16:25.
By Gunnar Heinrich
DEAREST reader, surely you’ve not thought that I’ve forgotten you?
It’s been a very busy last week and a half for Team ADL. Luckily, our contributors Christopher and Steane have both done their part by pitching in to keep the words rolling forth on these blog pages. Major domos to them.
Triangulating between Gotham, Lime Rock, and Block Island, production has had the crew running in sixth gear @ 6000 RPM. It’s been dense.
Here are a few tasty details…
- SoCal transplant Alexandra Harbushka voyaged with the crew out to Block Island (a six mile wide block of hills and beaches 12 miles off Rhode Island’s shoreline) to lend her consumer’s viewpoint in determining which convertible – the 128i or 328i was the better buy. Mercifully, no moped riders were hurt in the course of taping.
- We wanted to capture a performance comparison test between Richard’s E39 M5 (see M5/M6/550i video) and Hardy’s current gen. 550i. The two sedans’ specs are so close – we figured we’d answer the question that nobody seems to have yet asked but some have surely wondered – would a standard 5-Series now have the capability to beat a previous gen. M car? So, we scheduled time at Lime Rock Park to make that happen. Third lap into the warm up and the M5 lost its brakes. Coming to find out, in a recent service RD’s trusted mechanic forgot to change the fluid. By lap three the liquid in the reservoir simply boiled.
- We then pitted the talented Mr. Drackett and his enflamed 550i against Cadillac’s supercharged, 4.4 Liter, 443 horsepower V8 XLR-V. My uncle, former NHRA record holder Joe Ficca, took the reins of the big Caddy. Several hot laps, plenty of tyre squeal, and some sideways action later – both drivers’ lap times returned just a consistent two second difference. You’ll have to watch the video, to see which car won…
Quick shout outs to the folks at A&M Specialists, BMW NA, GM, Fred Mackerodt, Lime Rock, and the Block Island Chamber of Commerce – without you parking on the island would not have been possible.