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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tom Meade Update: March 2012 -Part 4

Metal Crafters and John Gaffoglio

“John Gaffoglio, Argentinian founder of Metal Crafters of Orange County, California, is one of my best friends. He would make prototypes for Chrysler, Porsche, Mercedes, Bentley, Rolls Royce. He worked on the Chrysler Thunderbolt, Plymouth Prowler, and Dodge Viper, to name a few. He has done one-offs for the Sultan of Brunei (Bentley and Rolls).

“Gaffoglio has since retired and moved back to Argentina. His three sons now run Metal Crafters out of Fountain Valley. I recall they did a concept “hot rod” car a while back for Chip Foose and it ended up not quite how they had intended.

“In the early ‘70s, a classic car collector named Tony Carlini was meeting with Iacoca one night. Carlini said ‘I have a guy who’s a genius at metal work and making prototypes.’ That same night he took Iacoca to see Gaffoglio. What resulted was an overnight deal between Gaffoglio and Iacoca to financially setup Metal Crafters, to build prototypes for Chrysler.

“In the 1980s, Gaffoglio would visit and stay over at my place in Milano when he had any business in Italy. And Iacoca had a villa in Tuscany outside of Florence. At the time, John was looking for Italian windshield glassmaking machinery. I would help him locate the parts.”

Ferrari GTOs

(above: Ferrari 250 GTO #3647 at 2008 Lime Rock Historics: This is the only 250 GTO that is still unrestored)

“I had a Series III, Ferrari GTO #4091. Today Peter Sachs, grandson of Harry Sachs of the Goldman/Sachs banking dynasty, owns it in Connecticut. I had a typo 64 LM roof GTO as a daily driver in Modena, and I had fastback GTO #3647 which I sold to Mr. Saurs, who lives on the east coast, for $5500 after originally paying about $900 for it, worth about $35 million today."

According to Tom: “It is commonly misunderstood and misrepresented in modern automotive literature as to the designation of series types of the GTOs. In common error, the auto journalist will refer the 250 GTO as being of two types, the so-called ‘Series I’ and ‘Series II’ body styles. This is inaccurate. Back in Modena they were not differentiated by only their body styles. You have to look at both the body style and the number of vents on the front sides.

“A Series I GTO will have the original body style that debuted in 1961, and will have two vent slots on each side of the front quarter. A Series II GTO, of 1962, continues the 1961 body style but has three vents on each side. A Series III GTO, the ‘250 GTO/64,’ of 1964, has three vents and a totally different body and LM style roofline.

“You can see clearly that GM took the design elements of both styles of the Ferrari GTO and directly applied them to the Corvettes of the 1970s and early ‘80s.”

Chassis Heist

“While in hospital about two years ago I had 4 valuable Ferrari chassis stolen.  They are as follows:

·      1960 250 PF Coupe: SN 1847
·      1964 250 GT Lusso: SN 2917
·      1966 275 GTS, 2-cam: SN 08653 --owned by Steve McQueen, #200 of 200 built
·      1969 365 GT 2+2: SN [N/A] –4 suspension corners intact, complete with steering and pedals

“I’m presently seeking their recovery and will offer a great reward. Anyone with any information about the chassis can email at:

“I was going to rebody them as they were nude chassis,’ as I have all of the mechanical parts and components for reassembly. You can see what Steve McQueens’ 1966 275 GTS looked like when he had it, on page 41, in the book ‘McQueen’s Machines’ by Matt Stone.” It’s also in Hillary Raab Jr.’s Ferrari Serial Numbers, Part 1.”

(above: Steve McQueen’s 275 GTS 4 NART Spider)

Inventors, Journalists, and Madmen

“In 1996 Marc Sonnery did an interview with me in Santa Monica but did not cover most of this as we just ran out of time after five hours. I’m glad Chad Glass is covering this material today, most of it untold (as of this writing). And I want to recommend another book, The Golden Age of the American Racing Car by Griffith Borgeson, another good friend of mine (and regarded as the greatest automotive writer in all history). With his wife, Jasmine, Borgeson lived in Aix-en-Provence, near Côte d'Azur, the French Riviera, one of the most beautiful places in France. When in Italy, he would sleep over at my house. He wrote a feature article about me in 1971 for Motor Trend.

“But about Borgeson’s book: Harry Miller stands as the central figure. In my estimation, he was a mega genius, my hero, and the God of American racing cars. You could say that he was the Nikola Tesla of race car design.

“At his workshop, in Culver City, California, Miller “reinvented” the overhead cam, the multi-valve engine, putting them on the map. And he built his own cars to boot. As early as the 1920s he was building V12s using 4 valves per cylinder. He got the attention of Ettore Bugatti when he raced his Millers in Europe. In 1955 Griffith flew to France and bought the two Miller cars that Bugatti had bought from Miller, years before, in order to copy the overhead cam designs --Bugatti literally ripped off Miller’s designs. But despite these historical firsts, his enormous gifts and achievements, he died penniless in a hotel room –he was too ahead of his time, which created a living hell for himself.

(below: 1922 HCS Special Miller)

 “Leo Gossen, his German engineer, developed Miller’s ideas into reality. In the 1930s Bugatti bought 2 of Miller’s cars and copied the overhead cam designs. It is well documented by Borgeson. And his journalistic successor, Karl Ludvigsen, sort of picks up where Borgeson leaves off. Ludvigsen, from Michigan, is the most technical auto journalist that I know of. He is, to the best of my estimation, without peers in his sphere of expertise. He went to MIT and writes about cars like an engineer.”

People continue shuffling by as Tom and I have our coffee. And that name stays with me: Ludvigsen --seems to ring a bell. I look up and take pause. As if caught trying to recollect a dream, I have a picture in my mind of a book that I have. It’s a heavy book, not light reading. And I’m nearly certain it is what I think it is.

So long after our meeting, back at home, I reminded myself to go to the spot I was envisioning, to get the book, and look at the cover. And as I expected, upon scanning the shelves, I recognized the title on the spine and it just said The V12 Engine. That’s the book. I then took it off the shelf and scanned down to look at the author. And lo and behold, there printed was: “Karl Ludvigsen.” I can say the book is quite dense and packed with history.

As visions and sounds of V12s from a bygone era echo away from my mental snapshots I am taken back to the present as Tom is continuing:

“Another influence on me, Michael Parkes, was a Formula 1 Ferrari driver and suspension engineer. He drove for Scuderia Ferrari from 1962-67. He joined them in 1963 as a test and development engineer. He was promoted to the F1 team, as driver, after John Surtees left, just before the 1966 Le Mans race. He would bring his personal Ferrari, a 275 GTB, into my shop in the Via Piazza, and work on it. It is from Parkes where I learned about suspension engineering theory. He was killed in a Lancia Stratos at age 46.

“Speaking of John Surtees, his teammate, Lorenzo Bandini (who in 1966 became Ferrari’s number one driver), was killed in an F1 Ferrari at the Monte Carlo Gran Prix, 1967.”

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