The Lighter Side of Owning a Ferrari



The Copperstate 1000  by john babos


Crystal and I just completed the Copperstate 1000 in Arizona, and I can’t even begin to describe what a fabulous time we had…but let me try anyhow.  The Copperstate is a one thousand mile road rallye and tour for vintage sports and touring automobiles built earlier than 1973. It is sponsored by the Phoenix’s Art Museum’s Men’s Arts Council.  This year the rallye began in Phoenix, went to Lake Havasu City, continued to Las Vegas, then to Sedona and ended in Scottsdale over a period of five days. Each participating car received a basic map, detailed instructions, a loose arrival window to the day’s next destination, plus a list of questions to answer along the way.  Arizona’s finest; a.k.a. state troopers, as well as a team of support vehicles and mechanics escorted the cars throughout each leg of the journey.

When the opportunity to drive the Copperstate first occurred, I was a bit apprehensive. Even though I’ve always had a desire to participate in a vintage rallye, we never did anything like that before.  But as the fates would have it, Jim and Deb Walters, experienced pros of the Copperstate, provided encouragement and information that made it seem very doable.  Another concern was our new old Ferrari.  It was new to us and an unknown.  We put less than 100 miles on it since its purchase.  What were the odds that the old car could do in excess of 1000 trouble-free miles?  How dependable would it be?  So we took a quick trip to Scuderia Rampante to have Dave Helms give it the once over.  With his head nod we committed ourselves to a great adventure. (At least we hoped Dave’s head nod was one of approval vs. one that ensured us that the vultures would wait until our death before they picked our bones clean as our lifeless bodies lay next to a shell of an old broken down Ferrari in the Mohave Desert). So, it was the Copperstate or bust.

            We arrived in Phoenix and eventually took our place for the start. The participating cars were absolutely incredible; Vintage Corvettes, Shelby Cobras, Bugattis, Bentleys, Jaguars, Mercedes, Alphas, Aston Martins, Porches and of course Ferraris. Thousands of spectators lined the parking area and road as we waited for our turn to begin. After what seemed an eternity, our names were announced, the little Ferrari’s engine sprang to life amidst the cheers of the crowd, and Crystal and I were off: so far so good. Our destination that day was Lake Havasu City and the London Bridge. It was an incredible day of driving, the Ferrari hanging in there despite the loss of many of the other classics. 

Being an engineer, I really enjoyed seeing the London Bridge and marveling at what those old codgers created hundreds of years ago.  Even more astounding was realizing that someone took the thing apart and reassembled it thousands of miles away, with only a few pieces left over. Something I can easily relate to.  (I think they made steps or something out of those remaining parts). It seemed fitting to drive our little Ferrari across the London Bridge, connecting to a time and place for both our little car and the bridge that is past and will never be again.

Our next destination was Las Vegas.  The little Ferrari performed superbly as we blasted into Nevada. Being an extreme introvert, Las Vegas overwhelmed me and I felt uncomfortable with all of the lights, people, noise and the lose of my money at the slots. And to think that I was naïve enough, no, make that stupid enough to think I would win enough to cover the trip, on nickel slots.  So the next day we proceeded to Sedona  via the Hoover Damn (did I spell that correctly)?

The Hoover Dam was another incredible feat of engineering that made me proud of my profession, (that being an engineer, see two paragraphs above).  As I marveled over the immensity of the dam, I couldn’t help but wonder how many bags of quik mix concrete it took and why they named it after a vacuum cleaner.

 As we continued on to Sedona, I was continually amazed at how much Crystal and I learned about each other after 20 plus years of marriage.  For example, when Crystal pulled over in the middle of the Mohave Desert and left the car, it wasn’t because she was tired of driving, but instead, tired of me telling her how to shift, brake, clutch, turn, accelerate, shift, “ go with the flow,” etc.  I also learned that when Crystal told me that I should have taken a right, I should not have told her that I knew where I was going and she should be quiet.  “Driving in rallies is a man’s world.”  What could she possibly know about road rallies?  (The silence that ensued overwhelmed the screaming Ferrari motor, not to mention the road and wind noise for at least an hour. I finally turned around and after many miles made the turn. Yep she was right).  Another thing I learned from Crystal was a fuel gauge that indicated full after 300 miles was probably malfunctioning, even though I tried to convince her that 1400 miles per gallon was reasonable.  The trip was a blast.  We saw and experienced things that only an event like the Copperstate could provide.  Accommodations were all first class. 

Our only incident occurred on the final day. Due to a simple misunderstanding, our baggage was misrouted and ironically sent to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with another group at our hotel, a destination that Crystal and I have yet been able to get to because the Grand Canyon officials think we have too much baggage. (Our baggage was returned to us a few days after we arrived back in Denver.  It was wet and encrusted in sand, but it was nice to know that at least our suitcases got to experience the rapids of the Colorado River).

Each day was an adventure as we passed, very quickly mind you; through deserts and canyon geology that would do the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) nature shows honors.  The people on the event and at the destinations were wonderful.  As we stopped along the way I was continually asked what car museum I was from.  At first I thought they were asking about the classic lines of our Ferrari until Crystal mentioned they were asking about me.  I guess the grey is really beginning to show. 

The Copperstate 1000 was nothing short of fantastic, the little Ferrari performed flawlessly, and quite frankly we couldn’t have been done it without the help of Jim and Deb Walter’s tremendous support and advice.  Dave, Kris, Bill and Niki Helms of Scuderia Rampante for ensuring extremely reliable performance from our car, and finally Bill and Myrla Orth, whose years of running the Mystery Rallies allowed us to be heads and shoulders above most of the other entrants in the Copperstate’s equivalent. (In fact, the members of the Rocky Mountain Region Ferrari Club had two of the three podium finishes in the Copperstate Mystery Rallye). Thanks all for a great time; we’re looking forward to next year’s Copperstate 1000.



john babos