The Bonneville Salt Flats, a vast Pleistocene-epoch dry lake bed in northwestern Utah, has been the site of numerous land-speed record attempts since the 1930s. Early speed kings like Ab Jenkins, Malcolm Campbell, George Eyston and John Cobb, along with later challengers such as Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, Donald Healey, Paul Newman, Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove, have streamed across the flats at often unfathomable speeds, throwing a wake of salt behind them.
Entrepreneur Joe Moch (pronounced, appropriately enough, like the Mach numbers) wants to join these legends as a land-speed record holder in class. His car is this 575M Maranello, a unique amalgam of three wrecked Ferraris. The number to beat is 232 mph. The time is August 2013. This story is about why and how this Ferrari was made, and what has happened so far in this extraordinary quest for all-out speed.
Moch can thank Luigi Chinetti for starting him down this road more than 40 years ago. It all began at Chinetti’s Ferrari showroom in New York City back in the mid-1960s, when a teenage Moch couldn’t take his eyes off a spanking-new 275 GTB. He’d never seen anything like it.
“It was a dream world,” Moch recalls of the moment. “Mister Chinetti was on the other side of the car and said, ‘Go on, kid, get in, see how the door slams.’ From that minute, I was hooked for life on Ferraris. I even got to meet Pedro Rodriguez, who came in that day.”
Moch took home to Michigan the goal of someday owning a Ferrari. And about a decade later, during a career in real-estate development, he bought a 250 GT California (s/n 4013GT) that he still owns. But while his Cal Spyder is as stunningly elegant as a vintage Ferrari can be, his Bonneville 575M is all about brutal purpose; it needs two military-spec nylon twill parachutes made by DJ Safety to help it stop.
The Bonneville project was already in progress when Moch, who now lives in Laguna Beach, California, stopped by Jim Busby’s nearby JBR Motorsport shop one day in 2011. Moch and Busby talked about their common interests in cars and vintage racing, and Busby revealed his on-going effort to build up a Ferrari to break the C/GT class record on the Salt Flats. A spark was lit. Two days later, Moch returned to buy the car. He told Busby, “Let’s go to Bonneville.”
Moch’s initial idea for the Maranello was business-driven. He and his son own Advanced Clean Air Technologies (a.k.a. ACAT Global), and after they acquired from the Delphi division of General Motors a new metallic catalytic-converter substrate, they pondered how best to promote it. They soon decided there was no better way to demo the converter system, which promises no compromise in performance or reduction in airflow, than to run it in something that would instantly capture the public’s eye. The Maranello, and the chance to set a new land-speed record, was a no-brainer. And with Moch’s fresh infusion of funds, Busby was able to kickstart the project in earnest.