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The Quick and the Slow in Monterey

Ferrari California

The Monterey week is always a good opportunity to get a run in exotic cars that don’t always end up in Michigan, specifically Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Matteo Sardi, Ferrari’s urbane PR man, offered me a chance to drive a California one afternoon over the weekend and I could hardly turn it down, could I?

In truth, it wasn’t a great drive - too much traffic even to get out along carmel Valley Road from Pebble Beach - but the car is pretty sweet. It’s quite fetching to look at, even if it doesn’t have the grace of the original California from the 1950s. I probably used the 453 horsepower once, but the 4.3-liter V-8 engine makes the most amazing noise, the car rides well, and the interior is gorgeous. There’s actually a bit more rear-seat legroom for an 11-year-old than I had been led to believe, but the steering is too light for my taste.

Of course, my kids quickly got an attitude. We were going through the Del Monte forest and Emma spotted a Lotus Elise coming the other way. “Oh,” said Cameron dismissively. “That’s just a Lotus: we’re in a Ferrari.” I had to remind him I own a brace of Lotuses.

Much as I enjoyed the Ferrari, I had a lot more fun with my Historics runabout, a 1970 Morris Minor Traveller. The Traveller is the woodie wagon version of the Morris small car that originally went on sale in 1948.
Morris Minor Traveller
This particular Minor has a Datsun (Nissan) 1200 engine in place of the original BMC A-series engine, along with a five-speed manual transmission instead of a four-speeder. It’s a common enough transplant and works very well - that is, more reliably than the British original.

Where the Ferrari isn’t into its stride until you’re in triple-digit territory, the Minor would struggle to go that fast. But it’s a hoot on Laureles Grade, the sinuous road that connects carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, at 60 mph, because you’re running near its limits all the time.

You feel like you’re connected to the machinery much more than in the Ferrari. The Datsun shifter is excellent and the Minor has lovely steering, better than the Ferrari’s. Honestly. The Morris Minor steering rack was a staple feature of late 1950s and early 60s British sports and racing cars, and time in a Minor will quickly make you realize why.

The Minor was a hit in the paddock at the track, with lots of “cool” and “cute car” comments. One kind fellow even gave me a Hot Wheels Minor hot rod, for which, many thanks.

Related posts:

  1. Monterey Weekend: La Acido Vita
  2. Monterey Weekend: Our $100 Hand Stamp
  3. The Duke of Earle Leaves Monterey
  4. Our Mark Gillies Makes Podium at Monterey Historics - Again

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The Quick and the Slow in Monterey
The Quick and the Slow in Monterey

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Ferrari Ins Quotes on Auto Machine

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