Affinity for Speed

Four decades after he was expelled from high school for drag racing, Ken Lingenfelter landed a brand-new LaFerrari.

April 9, 2015
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One of the first of 499 Ferrari LaFerraris to be produced was recently delivered to renowned car collector Ken Lingenfelter. Yes, that Lingenfelter, owner of the famous Chevrolet tuner Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. How, you might wonder, did a Chevy guy become one of Maranello’s chosen few? By being a Ferrari guy, too.

“I believe in setting business goals and objectives,” Lingenfelter told me during a recent visit to his suburban Detroit, Michigan office. In 1995, he decided to reward himself when such a goal was achieved by buying his first exotic car—a Ferrari, naturally. “But the first time I got behind the wheel of that F355, I wasn’t really certain I liked it as much as I thought I would,” he admits, due to the angle of the steering wheel, the gated shifter and the car’s handling compared to the muscle cars he was most familiar with. “But I learned to love it!”

Since then, Lingenfelter’s purchased many more Ferraris, seven of which currently reside in his 250-car collection. You can read more about this sizeable fleet on page 49, but all of these machines were acquired for the best reason possible. Says Lingenfelter, “I buy the cars I like. A lotta guys collect all convertibles or all Fords or all Corvettes, but these are all just cars I like. Thank goodness, when we have events with the collection a lot of people like the same cars I do.”

GROWING UP AS THE SON of a General Motors’ plant executive during the height of the muscle-car era, I developed a love of these cars,” Lingenfelter explains. “I also have an affinity for speed and performance that got me expelled from Dearborn High School. Why? Three reasons: One, I won a race in a ’69 Camaro against a Ford-driving classmate; two, because it was a GM car; and three, because racing was banned on school grounds.” [For those readers not familiar with the intricacies of American muscle cars, Ford’s headquarters is located in Dearborn while General Motors (home of Chevrolet) HQ is in Detroit.—Ed.]

This strong competitive spirit mixed well with Lingenfelter’s business acumen. At age 22, he founded a service company in the real-estate industry and was off to the proverbial races. In 2003, at age 50, he sold that company, which had grown from three employees to around 3,000, for a tidy sum. Lingenfelter then did what you might expect from a lifelong muscle-car fan: He began to buy the very best muscle cars (especially GM brands), which now make up about 30 percent of his fleet. But he wasn’t through.

While he started with the F355, and later worked his way through a 360, a 575M, a trio of F430s, including a Scuderia, and a 599 GTB (“I think there’s one or two I missed,” he says, apologetically), Lingenfelter soon set his sights on Ferrari’s supercars. His 288 GTO was the first Ferrari in the collection as it exists today.

“I’d go from one Ferrari to the next one to the next one,” he explains. “I wasn’t displeased with any of them—I was as excited as anything with that F355—I just needed to get one out of the way to make room for the next one. But when I went to buy the 288 GTO, I was actually on a hunt. I had always wanted one, mostly due to the exquisite styling, and I spent a considerable amount of time looking for a good one. I bought this car on January 31, 2007.”

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