The Good Old Days

After a 25-year hiatus, Jack Castor and his Cal Spyder are back on the road again.

October 19, 2012
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Jack Castor likes old things. When I first meet him at his home in Half Moon Bay, California, he’s in the middle of the 1936 movie “Come and Get It,” starring Frances Farmer. Lining one side of his living room are a half-dozen Penny Farthing bicycles, which Castor, who once rode one solo across the U.S., tells me aficionados called “ordinaries” (versus the later “safety” bicycles that have two wheels of the same diameter). Antique gas pumps fill his dining room, and his kitchen contains numerous antiques both culinary and otherwise.

When it comes to automobiles, Castor’s cars aren’t simply old—they’re classics. In his driveway, for example, sit a ’53 Kaiser Traveler and a ’62 Corvette roadster. Other machines in his impressively eclectic collection include a Hudson Metropolitan, a Messerschmitt microcar, a BMW Isetta, two Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders, a Jaguar XKE and a D-Type (the latter is a replica), an Apollo roadster and two BMW 507s. And then there’s the reason I’m here today: a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT California (s/n 1425GT).

There’s nothing historically significant about s/n 1425—it was never raced or owned by royalty—but this Cal Spyder is striking for two reasons. First, it’s unrestored, and looks it. Second, it’s a driver. “I drive this car now far more than I did back when I first bought it,” says the 75-year-old Castor. “Most Cal Spyders are restored, perfect, and are trucked to shows. I like this one the way it is, so I don’t have to worry about getting a scratch. I can just drive it and enjoy it.”

CASTOR’S INTRODUCTION TO SPORTS CARS came in 1961, when, as a newly minted aeronautical engineer from Penn State, he drove his Model A coupe cross-country to his first job, with the Convair aerospace company in San Diego. “There were 13 Penn State graduates who went to Convair, and they all bought sports cars,” he recalls. “I wanted a Morgan, but couldn’t afford $3,500 for a new one since I was making only $525 a month. I bought a used Jaguar XK150 roadster instead. I got that for $2,150.”

His interest in sports cars only grew after he took a job at Lockheed, south of San Francisco, in 1963. “I joined the Lockheed sports-car club,” he recalls. “We thought we were the best in the Bay Area. We put on two autocrosses a year. At the end of the year all the participants who drove in autocrosses would rate them, and we would always win the best autocross of the year. It was a great club.” 

Castor’s car collection swelled steadily during the 1960s, as he regularly bought but rarely sold. “That was the start of my storage problem,” he quips.

Then one day in early 1969, a Lockheed engineer named Johnny Johnson brought his red Ferrari convertible to work. “At lunch we all went out and looked it,” says Castor. “I said, ‘Jeez, Johnny, what is it?’ Well, it was a 250 Cabriolet that he bought from a young American in Modena named Tom Meade. So I said, ‘I’m going to Europe in June, I already have my vacation planned, and I want to contact this guy.’ So Johnny gave me an address and I wrote to Tom Meade and said I’m interested in a Ferrari California or a Mercedes 300 SL roadster. And he wrote back and said he had a Mercedes roadster and two Californias.”

Also from Issue 122

  • We drive the 740-hp F12 Berlinetta
  • Enzo Ferrari Museum opens in Modena
  • Collector of '80s and '90s Ferraris
  • Fernando Alonso leads F1 World Championship
  • Ferraris at the 2012 Pebble Beach concours
  • Market Update: Affordable V8 Ferraris
  • Legends: 312 PB
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