What Do Italian Supercars, Moustaches, and the 1980s Have in Common?

Everything. Literally everything.

April 15, 2017

58 Degrees, Overcast 

This past Saturday was my first visit to Cars and Coffee since an unseasonably warm weekend in February. I usually attend more regularly, but my wife gave birth to a remarkably handsome and brilliant baby boy on March 12th , so even though the world’s newest car enthusiast is usually sleeping (finally) between 5 and 8 am, jaunts to Great Falls were on hold. But it was set to be a beautiful Saturday morning and since I was awake anyways, I decided to go.

“I’m going change you and swap your PJs and give you a kiss and put you back down. I’ll be back in a jiff,” I said to him at 4:45 on Saturday morning. “I’ve got to go look at cars for a few hours.” He understood.

I arrived at around 5:45 and the first thing I saw was a white Lamborghini Countach 5000 Quatrovalvole with wing glowing in the darkness. I’m still not sure what model year it was, but it had to be post-1985. That was the year they introduced the QV. What I did know was it was built for the North American market, easily identifiable by big chunks of vulcanized rubber hot-glued to the bumpers and a Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system. And honestly, thank god because trying to wrap my head around tuning six carburetors gives me the sweats. I’m eyeballing the car, chatting up the proud mustachioed owner and thinking to myself, “Why did they upgrade this engine for 1985? They had just issued the LP Turbo S in 1984.”

Enter parking lot left: A bright red Ferrari 512 BBi.

“Oh yeah. That’s why.”

The details of the 512’s relationship to the Countach are complex, storied, and completely lost on me. I tried to teach myself, but Wikipedia was no help and I’m just not one of those guys with decades of Motor Trend Magazines stacked in the attic.

But what everyone knows is these two cars competed directly with the Porsche 930 for 80s supercar domination and that for the 1985 model year, the QV gave Lambo the leg up. I think the BB is the better-looking car. Sorry, 10-year-old me, but it’s true and we knew it. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner, but I assume he has a moustache. Decades later and Ferrari still won’t allow 512s or 308s to be sold to someone without a robust ‘stache. In the bill of sale, it’s called the Tom Selleck clause and it is unflinchingly rigid.

Just when I thought my 80s Italian supercar extravaganza was over, I see tucked away on the side lot a red Ferrari Testarossa. This car was the spiritual successor to the 512 and the earthly overlord of the Countach. It was faster, smoother, cleaner, more modern, less absurd, and the car is so quintessentially 80s, it acts as its own moustache. No need to grow your own.

Little known fact, the Testarossa took over as the official Miami Vice Ferrari after Sonny Crockett’s Daytona Spyder (which was really just a replica built on top of a Corvette chassis) was hit with a stinger missile in season 3. Even lesser known fact, Don Johnson wanted to grow a full moustache for season 4 but producers said he couldn’t because it wasn’t right for the character. That’s why they had to give him a Testarossa instead of a 512. Damn Tom Selleck clause.

I returned home a little before 8 and my wife and baby were still sleeping. He needed to be changed again, so I scooped him up and brought him to the changing table. I stared at him (I stare at him a lot) and I’m not sure if it was the lighting or the exhaustion or what, but I swear I saw a bit of fuzz above his tiny lip. Not a lot, but enough for me to rest easy knowing I had a healthy, happy baby boy who will one day be qualified to purchase a 1980s Ferrari 512. Phew.

Kodachrome Cars

February 25, 2017

59 Degrees, Partly Cloudy, Dewy

Emerging at 5:45 am on Saturday was an extraordinary experience. It was pitch black and almost 60 degrees when I stepped off my DC front porch. In February, that’s not just unusual – it’s surreal. Yellow daffodils popped through the gloom. I yelled, “No, you gullible idiots! It’s not spring! Retreat!” Flowers don’t speak English, so they stayed put. I stood with them for a few moments. It hasn’t been a long winter, but still, the colors. How I had missed the colors.

Georgetown Pike was busy heading West. I wasn’t the only clever car devotee to predict a dry, warm, salt-free February morning would lure big fish. I was led by a BMW M4 GTS with paper tags and followed by a black Ferrari F430 (possibly 360) with the top down. Both cars were with me all the way from the beltway. Auspicious signs. I arrived to a full-swing Katie’s Cars and Coffee a little after 6:30 am and already it was as busy as a mid-summer Saturday. The lot was packed with precious chariots, once-a-year jewels normally reserved for special occasions, perhaps never before let out of their barns in February. My colorful morning continued.

I headed to the bottom of the parking lot where typically the air-cooled Porsches collect. As their value has skyrocketed, so too has the attention they garner. But this week they were scattered throughout the lot. Perhaps the vintage Porsche owners didn’t have time to organize. But that’s OK – they’re easy to spot: Even in the company of custom muscle and one-off hyper cars, those little gumdrops glow. Their psychedelic colors give away their decade in Caribbean blues, chromatic oranges and reds that shame Italians.

Towards the center of the main lot facing the coffee house I saw a Volvo I had never seen before. Volvo model naming conventions aren’t my specialty, but this looked like an early 80’s 240 coupe sporting what I would describe as a smooth, organic yellow. According to the Volvo Owners Club website, it’s called “yellow.” You’d think the Swedes, a people who truly understand the value of an early spring, would have come up with a better name for such a cheery color. Daffodil, perhaps?

Not far from the Volvo was a familiar Audi R8 wearing burnt orange. I think the kids call it Iron Man orange, which is not to be confused with arencia atlas, a color normally reserved for Lamborghinis, but available (for a modest fee) on some R8’s. In front of the coffee house loomed a Dodge Charger with a blacked-out hood, most of the rest an outrageous DayGlo green, probably a modern re-spray based on Green Go.

And all the way at the back of the lot – back where it was almost certainly missed by many – was an Alfa Romeo in a color I had never seen before. Alfa, my sweet sweet Alfa, what do they call that color you’re wearing? What wonderful, mellifluous word did the artisans in Turin come up with to name that magnificent shade of purple-pink? The only color I’ve ever seen an Alfa don that looked better at sunrise than red.

Raspberry? Really?

From Volvo I’m only a little surprised, but I’m shocked when a pitiful color name comes from you, Alfa. You’re the company that’s co-opting the cloverleaf from the Irish; the company that made “broken” a term of endearment; the company that designed the Giulietta Spider, a car so beautiful that if you buckled a chimpanzee into the passenger seat, he would look like Grace Kelly. No, Alfa, this will not do. I’m renaming it. It’s now Valentino viola.

Prego, Alfa Romeo.

Addio all’inizio della primavera. Goodbye, early spring. Back to winter we go. Everything looks worse in black and white. But don’t worry – Kodachrome spring will soon be here to give us those nice bright colors.