Experience D’Orth

There's No Such Thing As A Junk Ferrari  by Bill Orth

Ever see a Ferrari in a junkyard? Even those of us who spent more of our high school era studying automotive shop manuals than text books have rarely, if ever, come across one while scouring for parts for some vehicular Frankenstein we were building. I found one once, flat on its belly in red Georgia mud, and its tale is probably worth telling; I even have a photo of it and the chassis number somewhere, but deadline's today, so no time to look for it.

Dear to our hearts as nearly all Ferraris are, like treasured family pets there still occasionally comes a time when one has to be euthanized. Usually a serious collision is the cause, and it takes a pretty good whack to total a Ferrari, since they're generally valuable enough to justify repairing. This is actually more true today than it was twenty-some years ago, before the new cars entered 6-figure territory and the older cars were....just old cars. Consequently, when someone is restoring an early Ferrari, salvage yards rarely offer any help. Nonetheless, when I was rebuilding a sadly neglected 330GT twenty-some years ago, I checked around to see if some needed body panels could be found.

I had driven a truck to Atlanta to pick up some other bulky stuff, and asked the friendly guys at FAF Motorcars, Atlanta's Ferrari dealer at the time, if they knew where I could find a hood for the old 2+2. They didn't have one, but suggested a salvage yard 'way out in the country northwest of the city, where they knew one had been interred several years earlier. I drove out there and found a huge Southern-style junkyard. Behind tall fences laced with Kudzu vines and razor coils on top were maybe twenty acres of rolling red clay hills, dotted with a few trees and lots of nasty underbrush. A small creek wriggled through the middle and formed an international boundary of sorts: domestic cars were stacked on the side of the creek closest to the office building and everything foreign was on the opposite side.

Asking the oh-so-stereotypical chunky good ol' boy behind the counter if he was aware of a Ferrari being in their yard, brought: "A whut?" Some senior staff was quizzed and one of them knew the whole story. Four or five years earlier (this was in 1980), some fellow had misjudged a set of curves on a narrow, winding, downhill road "up t'ward Chatt-nooga." A combination of velocity and uncompromising laws of physics (my words, not his) sent the car through a guard rail and down a steep bank through the trees and vines, during which it rolled over a couple of times. Their wrecker had dragged it back up out of the bushes and brought it to the salvage yard to await the insurance company's prerogative. Months went by as adjusters tried to figure out what it would cost to fix, until finally the decision was made to write 'er off. A towing and storage bill had accumulated by then, so the Ferrari was bequeathed to the junkyard. Following their industry's standard practices, the engine was taken out-with a torch-the Borrani wire wheels were stacked up among piles of other muddy sets from a variety of Pontiacs, Dodges and Chevrolet pickups, and a few other bits and pieces put on dirty, cluttered shelves. The seats wound up on Randy's 'skeeter' (see definition at end) and he thought the engine had been sold to somebody from "At-lay-UN-tah". The rest of the car had been dragged across the creek and plopped down on the bank, next to, of all things, a derelict Iso Rivolta and a lot of dissolving VWs and old Datsuns.

Following his finger-point down through the yard toward the creek, I picked up a retinue of several incredibly filthy, but certainly genuine, junkyard dogs. After picking through the ground clutter of bent wheels, old tires, twisted bumpers and god-knows-what-else lurking under the weeds, I came to a sad, twisted, faded red shell that unmistakably had been a 330 GTC. My canine escorts leaped inside the doorless carcass to get out of the sun and began energetically scratching ticks and licking their...orbs. I looked over what was left, and it wasn't much. Both doors were gone, all the glass was broken or missing, the roof pillars made a parallelogram, the dash had been gutted, the seats were on Randy's skeeter and the whole shell was sitting in thick red dirt half-way up the rusty brake rotors. The hood was leaning against the front fender, exposing the dirt the car was lying on and a sapling had taken root where the engine had been. It was over an inch in diameter and was beginning to leaf out nicely about a foot above the fender line. The once-red paint was now so badly oxidized it looked dull pink and all the chrome and stainless trim was badly deteriorated. The shifter box, with its exposed gate and rusty shift stalk (no knob) was full of rain water and all the interior soft trim had long since rotted away. Well, shit. GTC hoods don't fit 2+2s, so even though it was there, albeit bent, I couldn't use it and the whole detour had been a waste of time, so the dogs and I walked back to the truck. And for half the trip back to Orlando, I was scratching ticks.

Four years later, my friend, Tim, and I were looking for a transaxle case to repair another 330 GTC we had, and I remembered that the car in Georgia had had its gearbox when I looked underneath through the weeds. We called the junkyard to see if they still had the car and made a deal to buy the whole thing.

"Make sure you bring a chain saw," said the guy,

"there's a tree growin' up through it."

After sawing down the now-four-inch-diameter oak, they lifted it out of the mud with a big forklift and plopped it on our trailer. The transaxle helped put another GTC back on the road and, to get rid of what was left, we placed an ad in The Ferrari Market Letter and attracted an amazing number of folks who needed various bits and pieces from it. Just like the Thanksgiving turkey that you thought was a picked-clean skeleton, your cat can find a lot to eat in it after she drags it under the table while you're watching TV in the next room. In fact, after every last little bit of suspension arms and other small parts were gone, a fellow in California bought the bare hull just to get the straight floor pan, since he had a GTC that had been hit hard in the side!

-- Bill Orth --

(A 'Skeeter' was a '60s redneck hot rod popular in the South; the entire body was removed from an old car, leaving the seats, engine and everything else exposed; an aluminum beer keg was always mounted as a gas tank and big wide tires installed to ride over the sandy hills and mud flats.)


--  Bill  Orth--