ready except me. Then, the evening before we were to gather in Manhattan for
the start of the race, the telephone rang. It was Gurney. We exchanged a few
niceties, then I asked him why he had called. He paused for a moment, then
said, "I'm ready to go on the Cannonball."
drunk, or have you lost your mind?" I asked.
know, maybe a little of both," he said, laughing. "But I've had a
change of mind about the whole thing. Something I read. I'll tell you about it
when I get there. I've decided we just can't sit on our fannies anymore.
Everybody's terrified of offending somebody, and I almost got caught in that
trap. I'm jumping on the redeye out of Los Angeles right now. I'll meet you
just before the start."
Beautiful. I hung
up knowing that the Ferrari would be used the way old Enzo had intended it to
apartment on 35th Street was to be the rendezvous point for the racers and the
actual start would be at the Red Ball Garage, a typically grubby Manhattan
commercial parking establishment on East 31st Street between Third Avenue and
Lexington, chosen because it was near midtown and because its staff would be
calm in the face of almost any lunacy involving automobiles. Because everybody
had intended to start about midnight, we had scheduled a drivers' meeting at
the apartment for 10:30 p.m. Slowly the place began to fill up: the Bruerton
brothers staggered in, unshaved and exhausted. They had just completed their
44-hour, nonstop run from California and announced that they were going to
sleep for eight hours before restarting.
Larry Opert burst
in, smiling. With him were his two friends, Ron Herisko, a law partner, and
Nate Pritzker, an engineer. They had a car, they announced, thanks to The New
York Times and the unconscious generosity of a wealthy Long Island man.
Determined to find a car to race in the Cannonball, the three men had looked in
the Times classifieds in search of a "driveaway" deal—an arrangement
where one drives another's car to a destination for nominal expenses. This is a
common tactic used to transport personal cars by people who don't like to drive
long distances. The Long Island gentleman wanted his new Cadillac Coupe deVille
driven to California. Opert & Co. obliged, nodding hazily at his firm
orders that his prized machine not be driven after nine o'clock at night, not
before eight o'clock in the morning and not run faster than 75 miles an hour.
Naturally, all the regulations would be violated before the car left
The Polish Racing
Drivers arrived, decked out in full, Nomex driving suits. The room was full of
good-natured banter, as if nobody was thinking of the 3,000 miles that spread
out before us.
Then the doorbell
rang over the din, and there was Gurney. There was that familiar chiseled face,
revealing half the age of its 40 years, the firm mouth set in a crooked,
little-boy grin. Dan Gurney is a big man—6'2" and perhaps 200 pounds—so
big, in fact, that he spent much of his career on the Grand Prix circuit wedged
into tiny cockpits that had been intended for smaller men, racing sort of
sideways, with one buttock perched on the seat. He was wearing a tweed sport
coat, a navy-blue pullover and khaki pants. He carried only a shaving kit. Dan
obviously intended to get the trip over with in a hurry.
meeting was brief. I outlined the rules once again, noting that we would start
from the Red Ball at timed intervals, with the PRDA going first. They had,
after all, requested the "Pole" position—pun intended. The team
arriving at the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach in the briefest elapsed time—to
be documented by the electronic time clocks at the Red Ball and at the
Portofino's registration desk—would be the winner.
The cars had been
parked on the main floor of the Red Ball, lined up under the harsh light of the
bare ceiling bulbs. There was a van entered from Little Rock, Ark. parked
alongside the red and white PRDA van, with its flanks covered with sponsors'
decals and large type proclaiming, "The Polish Racing Drivers of America go
Coast to Coast nonstop!" By contrast, Moon Trash had been painted, from
bumper to bumper, in an ominous coat of flat black. Crouching beside it was our
Ferrari Daytona, its mirror-polished, royal-blue paint glinting in the raw
light. The elegant finish was highlighted by a masterful network of yellow
pinstriping, and its fenders were amply covered with decals from sponsors that
Kirk White's staff had attracted to help defray expenses. Gurney's and my name
were displayed in neat lettering under the windows. It had been the first time
I'd seen the car up close and its appearance was a trifle stunning. "Holy
cow, it's been cunningly disguised as a racing car!" I gasped.