I attended my first Virginia City Hill Climb which was organized by the Ferrari Owners Club (FOC) in Southern California in a Ferrari Berlintta Lusso. It was my second Lusso--silver with black leather--and I had acquired it a short time before the event. It rained off and on the entire weekend but that didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm for the adventure which began as many of us drove up in a convoy of Ferraris that today would make any museum proud. I remember Walter Ward in his 275 GTB making some very adventurous, if questionable, passing maneuvers along the way but most of use showed some restraint in our high-speed cruising and there were no mishaps that I can recall.
There were a number of memorable people participating in the event; some were regulars and quite a few I'd never met before. Larry and Diane Bloomer were a part of the scene in their Daytona, as I recall. Phil Cole was someone I met for the first time that weekend and he was in a California spider. There was a fellow who weighed over three hundred pounds and, following him in his 250 GTE, it was quite noticeable that his Ferrari was canted to the left--the springs on his car clearly unequal to the task. No one seemed to know him but he became a topic of conversation when the extremely attractive young woman who rode up with him in his Ferrari immediately stormed off heading back to Los Angeles within minutes of their arrival. The nature of her discontent was never revealed or discovered but it is safe to say that she realized she was getting more than she had bargained for.
Everywhere you looked, there were Ferraris of every description on the road, in the rain, their owners having a wonderful time. We descended on the small, historic town in such numbers that we were spread out over several motels. The first evening, my girlfriend and I decided to go for a ride and see some sights. Phil Cole and his date were going to go with us but the rain made it impractical because his California either had no top or it was drafty and leaking rain into the cockpit. As a result, we all piled into the Lusso with me, my girlfriend and Phil in the front and Phil's girlfriend curled up on the luggage shelf in the back. I don't know that we were comfortable but we were dry and having fun. It turned into a very late night and we almost missed the morning breakfast meeting but for Larry Bloomer who came looking for us.
The actual hill climb was something of a letdown for me as the Lusso did not respond well to the elevation. The car felt as though it was running on six of its twelve cylinders. I made one timed run up the hill without a practice run and, though I enjoyed the challenge, I didn't attempt a second run under the circumstances.
On the way home, I developed an interesting etiquette for high-speed touring in the company of friends. The roads we traveled were often one lane in each direction and it could be difficult to see when it was safe to pass. Whenever I passed a slower car, I would leave me left turn indicator on so that those behind me would know they, too, could safely pass. I would leave it on until an approaching car made passing unsafe for those behind me at which point I would signal a right turn as a warning. It worked very well and we were able to maintain our momentum.
The Virginia City Hill Climb was a memorable event and the organizers did a terrific job making it so. Thinking about it now puts a very big smile on my face!
Quick note from Chuck Queener:
It was started by Hans Tanner with the FOC. Important detail. It was his idea, CQ
From Larry Crane:
If you remember, those Ferrari events were made possible by Hans Tanner, former resident of Modena with access to both Ferrari and Maserati racing teams, wrote reports for Road & Track, produced the first important book of Ferrari history and, rumor has it, ran guns to the anti-Castro Cubans for the CIA and was indirectly (directly?) involved in the botched landing at Bay of Pigs. Hans finally made his second home in Virginia City and was much admired by the local administrators and characters, from which he was given permission for a second hill climb (SCCA had one through Silver City) on the new road.
I drove Hans home from an FOC meeting early in the week he took his girlfriend's, and his own, lives. My library contains many volumes from Hans' collections. One of the great characters we find in this amazing city. Attached is my photo of Hans at the start of a climb. I think that is Walt Ward by the sign in the distance.
Thanks for all you do Stephen,