Cars, above all else, seem to be what bring my dad and me closest. Though he's attended my basketball games and occasional track meets, sports don't really interest him. Now cars, well, that's a different story.

We were once in West Nyack, New York, and I couldn't have been more than five years old, and as we walked down the street together we passed an antique car showroom. Dead center in the middle of the room was a silver 1954 Mercedes Benz Gullwing coupe. I remember it being perhaps the coolest car I had ever seen.

As my dad looked at it, he told me how he had seen this Mercedes with his father and had asked if he could borrow the money to buy it. At the time the car cost $1,500 and came with a set of matching luggage. His father had looked at him like he was crazy and said, "Do you know what I could do with fifteen hundred dollars?" Today that amount of money might cover the cost of a single Gull- wing tire, forget about the luggage.

My dad has certainly been known to fantasize about cars, and I have, too. A visit to the Ferrari factory in Italy was an endless source of conversation and unspoken longing for both of us. My grandmother, who has it written in her will that my dad cannot buy a Ferrari, quickly brings him back to earth whenever any of this Ferrari "nonsense" comes up.

My first Cobra experience, at Lime Rock, was amazing. I was about eight years old, and all I remember were 427s in every color imaginable - with stripes, numbers, you name it. My dad was in total awe.

I won't disagree
when Dad says
we don't work
well together.

Me, I had never seen one, so what did I know? But to my father... When he finally placed the order, both he and my mom had been to ERA and seen other cars in various stages of construction; I had only heard the stories. What followed was six months of getting up every Saturday morning at ten (an ungodly hour by college standards) and sleepwalking to the car to go to ERA. We would spend a minimum of two hours there, usually more. And most of that time we just wandered around the floor looking at the Cobras, inspecting their progress and talking to their owners who, like us, showed up every weekend.

I won't disagree when my father says we don't work well together-we simply don't. This project, however, was entirely different. Despite Peter Portante's insistence that we could not finish in a week, we finished in a little more than four days.

Wiring and minor fuse mishaps, a trip to ERA to double-check on the fit of the doors, and a visit from Portante when we discovered we'd lost a critical part were all part of the experience. But when we turned the key and the engine growled to life, I don't think you could have found two happier people. What a sight that first ride must have been: me sitting on nothing more than a sheet of aluminum in a car with no interior (carpeting, seat belts, et cetera), and us riding up and down the street as the sun set, lapping a girl on Rollerblades.

Now anytime the thermometer creeps up past 45 degrees, it's an excuse to jump into the Cobra. As for Ferraris, who needs one?

Diversion - May 1999

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