Why none of us is in jail is a mystery after what happened on the California-Nevada border last week. In essence, Automobile Magazine hosted its own, internal Silver State Classic, in which we gathered a dozen of the world’s most costly and rare machines and then spent three days trying desperately to behave. In the process, a number of personal-best top speeds were achieved by various participants-six, coincidentally, in six different cars.
Let’s change the subject until I calm down.
That those three glorious days happened at all is another mystery, given the logistical nightmare of gathering such exotic beasts in one remote place. Companies such as Aston Martin and Ferrari and Lamborghini and Maybach are not in the habit of keeping spare high-dollar, limited-edition machines lying around at the beck and call of the automotive press. And when we call, Pahrump, Nevada, isn’t on their usual list of drop locations.
A little history. We realized, shooting the breeze one day, that there were more than a dozen different twelve-cylinder cars for sale in America. Joe Lorio proposed the twelve-twelves idea. We were still laughing about it when Mark Gillies came back with enthusiastic commitments from Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Maybach, and Lamborghini. The rest, we mistakenly decided, would be a cakewalk.
Six months later . . .
Our test date was scheduled around the arrival of the first Ferrari 612 Scaglietti in the United States. In typical Italian fashion, it landed late and was shipped across the country in a panic. That gave the Lamborghini Murcilago deal enough time to fall apart and come back together, thanks to the press folks at JMPR, many phone calls by Gillies, and a very generous loan from dealer Vik Keuylian. Someone told the truck driver who delivered the Lambo that he’d be done in an hour. They forgot to mention that that hour would be the very last one of daylight, when we would photograph the portrait for our cover. His was a long day parked in the sweltering paddock of Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, whose high-performance driving students could barely tear themselves away from us to return to driving the school’s Corvettes.
The other tight moment came when Aston Martin realized that, yes, it had a DB9, but no, it didn’t have the promised Vanquish S. Michael Jordan’s friendship with Galpin Motors produced Vanquish owner Ned Momary, whose retention of all ten fingertips attests to his success as a pediatric dentist. “I ordered a Ferrari,” Dr. Ned told us, “but after a year of waiting, I said forget it. I saw the Vanquish at the 2004 L.A. auto show. It was beautiful. I got the S. I love it. People know it’s something. I can see their mouths say ‘What is it?’ at stoplights.”
Our last snafu happened when unseasonable rain caused Death Valley to erupt in violent blooms, triggering a traffic jam of eco-gawkers, overbooked hotels, and allergic reactions that sent Richard Eccleston to the hospital. We settled over the border in Pahrump at the Saddle West Hotel, Casino & RV Park, a mom-and-pop operation filled with chain-smoking blue-hairs hooked to oxygen tanks and slot machines, who never noticed the wild cars in the parking lot. The grub was good, and it was just down the road from the Kingdom, “a gentlemen’s club” featuring grandma strippers who explained that they don’t get thigh burns from spinning on the pole because the pole itself spins. Ask me how I know that.
We tried to put Dr. Ned up in a big-shot casino down the road, but they lost his reservation. He didn’t care, because he’d just achieved his personal-best top speed trying to keep up with Don Sherman all the way from Los Angeles. He then got a ticket for going 51 in a 35 looking for us. Rusty Blackwell’s came the next day, for 70 in a 55: $157. The rest of us, well, we should have gone to jail.