Rise of the Phoenix

Usually when a car burns, that’s the end of it. But this Pinin Farina-bodied Ferrari—a Series I Cabriolet—defied fate to live another day.

October 21, 2011
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There I was at the wheel, top down, barefoot, carving corners in this vintage Ferrari. It could have been a half-century ago, scooting along above Monte Carlo, with me fresh from an all-night yacht party where I’d forgotten my shoes. In reality, the time was right now, the location not the Grande Corniche but Mulholland Drive near Los Angeles, yet the euphoria of the moment was the same, and the car, a Series I 250 GT Pinin Farina Cabriolet (s/n 1075GT), was a perfect fit.

It’s Peter McCoy’s PF Cab, to be exact, and I suspect he’s now wondering if letting me drive his gem-like Ferrari was really the best idea. “You need narrow Italian loafers,” he had said cheerfully earlier, while I removed my work shoes so as not to unintentionally mash throttle and brake at the same time. Then, with a hint of angst, “That way you’ll get the real feel of it.”

So how does it feel? Well, the front right drum pulls a bit and the big wood-laid steering wheel begs for more lock, but the 3.0-liter V12 engine is nobly strong and the car’s ride feels solid but luxurious. Maybe best of all, this 53-year-old classic still looks like a million bucks, even after the fiery hell it’s been through.

You see, nine years ago s/n 1075 all but burned to the ground in a 2,000-degree California wildfire; the photo on page 30 tells the story better than words ever could. As it turned out, that event was only the beginning of a new chapter in the car’s life, because McCoy bought the charred remains. He’d been looking for a Series I PF Cab for a couple of years when he at last found this one. “They just don’t come along,” he says.

McCoy’s next step was to ship what was left to Ferrari restoration whiz Wayne Obry of Motion Products in Neenah, Wisconsin. “When the truck arrived and we opened the doors, I went, ‘My God, what has Peter done?!’” recalls Obry. “I had to sit down with a cup of coffee and just let it sink in. I honestly did not believe it could be a full car again. It was by far the toughest endeavor our humble company has ever been involved with.”

It took 19 months and 9,000 man-hours of labor, but Obry, along with Motion Products’ partners John Kies and Bill Murphy and their 30-strong staff, returned the once-devastated hulk to its original beauty—and, amazingly, managed to preserve most of the original steel body panels in the process. The restoration was completed in May 2008, and three months later s/n 1075 won the Ferrari Grand Touring class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Can you believe McCoy let me drive it?

Also from Issue 114

  • First look at the new 458 Spider
  • F50 GT1 track test
  • We talk with Chris Amon, 1960s Ferrari racer
  • The 458 GT scores its maiden ALMS win
  • Ferrari's F1 season comes down to the wire
  • A convertible, twin-turbo 400? Why not?
  • Market Update: Modern 12-cylinders
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