Short Stories

Late-Night Hobbies Are The Weirdest Hobbies

Everybody's got odd little pastimes that bring them immense satisfaction — those pursuits few other people truly understand or appreciate. Restoring cuff links, perhaps, or turning old filing cabinets into yard art. Macramé. I don’t know.

Here’s mine: I love manipulating photos of cars. Not the Photoshop way, because I have no idea how to do that. I’m talking about the physical object, actual printed-on-paper photos. I cut them out of magazine stories and classified ads and auction catalogs, and I stare at them with one eye closed and move them around before my face, folding and bending them slightly until I see what I’m after. Then I pin them down in specific and highly unscientific ways to hold that shape so I can then shoot my own photos of them.

These changes in perspective, these subtle shifts in how a car is presented and viewed, completely alter the characteristics that often make each car so unique and identifiable.

These are late-night ventures, perhaps there is whiskey, and inevitably a story comes to mind, some made-up history of each made-up car, so I write briefly and furiously, sit back, and shake my head at how dumb I am. And how much fun it all is.

Shelby GT500 KR

Montana cattle rancher Carl Durridge raced his shortened Shelby GT500 KR extensively in western SCCA events from 1968 until his tragic death in 1970. Dubbed the “Jester” by his fellow racers, the 400-horsepower Mustang was nothing less than a handful, and for a man who spent much of his time going 20 mph behind the wheel of an old Studebaker E-series pickup, to see him struggle to control the tiny beast was nothing short of comical. Until Riverside, that is, when it turned tragic.

1984 Avanti

My cousin Donny bought this fiberglass kit car thing in like 1984. Just a tiny black and white photo in the Hemmings classifieds, but it was like $900 or something, fully built and driving, which he kept saying was a steal. “It’s a steal, Ronny!” he said. “You don’t even understand.” It was called “The Aventura,” some guy’s vision “not just of the Avanti, but of a better Avanti, of a more perfect Avanti.” Donny and me drove up to DuPage County the next day in my F150 and hauled it back on the trailer. He still owns that thing.

1967 Chevy

In summer 1967, Arnold Stapleton, nephew to Bill Mitchell over at GM, got himself an internship drawing cars at Chevy. The boy was talented and his uncle mostly gave him harmless free reign. Mitchell’s sister-in-law really just wanted something to keep the boy busy for the summer before his senior year at Oberlin. Arnold’s mandate, then, as stipulated by Bill Mitchell himself, was simple: Dream up cars and draw them, and give Uncle Bill a ride to work every so often. The Impala “Shortstack” wagon was one of his earliest renderings that summer.

1961 250 GT California Spider

In 1961, a regular client of Luigi Chinetti’s Greenwich dealership commissioned an even shorter short-wheelbase version of the 250 GT California Spider. Enzo Ferrari was incensed by the request, but with no interest in losing his biggest client, Chinetti took up the project in secret, and this N.A.R.T.-built “Connecticut Spider” was the result. All important mechanicals remained, while significant chassis and body work took place between the wheels. Today the car resides in a private collection, though it is officially unrecognized by Ferrari Classiche.