Updated: Feb 11
BY NICK CANDEE
One night in our early teens Dad came home and awakened older brother Ken and me. He had a Clymer sports car anthology, and asked us “what’s the most beautiful car here?” Printing being simple then, it was a couple of choices before we landed on the “right” car. A few days later a trailer dropped off what we called The Blue Bomb: a 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa (chassis 0732), a pontoon-fendered Scaglietti example, as I’d learn later. It was exquisitely over-restored as a four year old race car in metallic midnight blue with four American-quality chrome exhaust pipes, Borrani wheels, and the 12 cylinder Ferrari howl that makes the viscera quiver. For a little over a year “we” were stewards for the greatest car in the world.
Later, I would learn that Ed Baumgartner rolled the TR in 1961 at the Road America 500, the root cause of the superb refinishing. I waxed it a dozen times, and felt in the most tactile way the genius of Scaglietti’s lines. Ever since the Testa Rossa, I think that the only way to appreciate the contours of a car is to wax it, like reading braille with sensitive finger tips. We had extra sets of its 24 spark plugs, the tiny 10 MM Champion Z10 used on the DB4GT (and Honda 50); I took one to a silversmith, had a silver chain run through a hole drilled in the electrode, and presented it to my wonderful girlfriend. She actually wore it from time to time. At that age I could differentiate between a car crush and a girl crush, but the ache was there, and it set me up for a lifetime of sensitivity to beauty…
Can “us kids” claim inspiration after hounding Dad to take us to Elkhart Lake for the Road America races? Perhaps not, as some of my parents’ pals had caught the sporty car bug and went racing. As a pre-teen I was fascinated by long road races, the pinnacle of which was the Carrera Panamericana; in 8th grade I wrote a novelette called “Corvettes South of The Border” in which American ingenuity took on Germans and all comers with better ideas and graceful sportsmanship. This taught me place names from Tuxtla Gutierrez to Chihuahua, and glimmerings of race strategy such as selecting axle ratios for mountains or head winds… so began a lifetime subscription to Road & Track.
The idea (at Happy Hour, says brother Ken) was that Dad bought the TR so that Tom Schelble could race it. I have no recall of any races, but I do recall a “warm-up” drive on a sunny 24 December: We donned WW II surplus flight suits for a run up the recently repaved, straight Highway 45 in south Fond du Lac county. Wind chill at 15° F. X 130 MPH is an exceptional rush. Adrenaline overcomes it.
As a kid that learned to drive a grey & red Ford 8N tractor by age 12, shifting gears without synchro, I was able to drive the TR—but only in and out of the garage! The startup was theatre: turn the key, wait for the fuel pump to stop clicking, and then start - a couple of times, as the six Webers hissed, spit, and coughed their way into a loping idle. Ah, for the chance to work up through all four gears for that distinctive ripping canvas shriek out of the four exhaust pipes.
Alas, Harry Woodnorth of Chicago came to get it one night for a collector in Omaha. TR 0732 is last listed as being in Switzerland, and was the subject of a monograph by Doug Nye in 1995... it was also detailed in Joel Finn's TR book.
YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW!
In the 1990s my dad asked, “Son, what’s an old Ferrari like the one we had worth?” “Dad, you don’t want to know.” “Darn it, I’m your father—tell me!!” “OK Dad, the pontoon fender Testa Rossa, that finished 7th at Le Mans in 1958, as # 22 in American livery, white with blue stripes? That used to be parked in the tractor shed? That you bought for five grand, and then sold for five grand—so you could buy that Mondial with the overheating Ford V8, now with Harley Cluxton in Scottsdale?” “OK son, that’s it.” “Well, Dad, the Twin Cities dentist that owned it for ages just did a deal with a Japanese collector that values the car at $X million dollars.” “[EPITHET] - you shouldn’t have told me! Your mother made me sell that car!”
The truth was, it was an obsolete race car, no longer competitive, traded for a faster idea. It was just an old car a generation ago... but magic even then! Over time I came to respect the British car that in 1959 finally beat Ferrari at Le Mans and the Nurburgring (the DBR1) and on the big American road courses (the DBR2).