The Dumple Designs #2: An oil man with impeccable taste

Randy Dumple

For all their function, cars are in another sense just huge toys. Everyone’s idea of play differs, but Stefan Lombard happens to enjoy bending images of cars to his will, shifting perspectives to make this or that car look like something else. With that in mind, we hereby present the fictionalized account of Randolph T. Dumple, automotive designer-at-large. –Ed.


I’ve been poring over this goldmine of recently discovered stuff, Dumple’s sketchbooks and diaries, devouring it all. What a gift! His was a life of stories and adventure, and while I am still sifting through it all, trying to organize and make sense, just today I was struck by an entry concerning the late Wyoming millionaire James Calhoun III.

That name has been in the news of late because of the bizarre circumstances surrounding a guns-for-lentils deal gone awry in Saskatchewan last fall. It’s an odd exchange no matter how you slice it, but the shady practices in which Calhoun’s eldest son, James IV, engaged—and the legal mire in which he now finds himself—likely mean an end to the Calhoun empire and the liquidation of their fabulous car collection. Scandal!

According to the records at hand, our famed automotive designer, Randy Dumple, was 54 and living in Switzerland when he received a telegram from James Calhoun III: “The oil man of oil men in all Wyoming” is how the Casper Star-Tribune once described this magnate of the American West.

Randy Dumple, in a diary entry dated August 29, 1965, observed thus:

Ferrari enthusiast with too much money … but impeccable taste!

“Love all my Ferraris,” Mr. Calhoun writes in his fan letter to me. “Love love LOVE my 500 Superfast especially.” He goes on, although certainly I don’t care. Love whatever car you want, sir; it’s not one of mine. And yet, curiously, the man has been made aware, all the way over there in the Powder River Basin, of a new Maranello coupe on the horizon for 1966, built on the 275 chassis and with Colombo’s four-liter V-12 to make it go. [Tom] Tjaarda’s 330 GT 2+2 variant is fine, if you like kids—or hate your friends—but a two-seat coupe… now that always holds appeal.

Mr. Calhoun closes: “And I was just hoping you might whip something up special, like what you did for Somoza [Nicaraugan president Antonio Somoza Garcia] with that delightful 375 America of his.”

What a mind, this Dumple. The next day, the seasoned designer drove a borrowed Fiat 500 down to Turin to bother Sergio Pininfarina for details. Randy had by this point in his career designed several Ferraris for enough of the right people, some of whom had Enzo Ferrari’s ear and whispered into it clearly enough or rationally enough or Sicilian enough to convince him it was a good idea to let Randy be Randy, even in Sergio’s shop.

Pininfarina resigned himself to the arrangement, but he practiced a knack for avoiding Randy Dumple around the studio. In his own papers he makes quite clear his feelings: “Quel Dumple è una piccola peste! Come un giornalista che ficca sempre il naso con le sue domande.” [That Dumple is a little pest. Like a reporter always nosing around with his questions.]

So, it was Aldo Brovarone, chief designer at Pininfarina, whom Dumple encountered in the offices of the great design studio on the 30th of August, 1965. Dumple bothered Brovarone, too, of course, but someone had to accommodate him, and it is understood the two men chatted about the upcoming 330 GTC over coffee and gelato at Gelateria Pepino. That, before Dumple folded himself back into the Fiat and returned to Geneva to send Calhoun, the oil man of oil men, his reply:

Mr. Calhoun,

I have just returned from inspecting Pininfarina’s plans for the new 330 GTC and am quite intrigued by your offer. I shall like to take you up on it. Will be in touch with more details and my fee, and once agreed, will supply you with some variations. — RTD

#5: “This is the most aggressive stance I could muster from the car. Curves and swoops aside, there’s an element of TVR to it that I’m not quite sure about, however.” Randy Dumple

Brovarone recorded his thoughts on their conversation for Sergio Pininfarina, closing his missive with what had become a common refrain whenever Dumple dropped in:

E ovviamente mi ha assillato ancora una volta per andare in una galleria del vento. Onestamente, Sergio, perché quell’uomo non può farsi gli affari suoi?” [And of course he nagged me once again to get going on a wind tunnel. Honestly, Sergio, why can’t that man just mind his own business?]

It must have been great fodder for Randy Dumple’s ego when he learned, some time in the spring of 1966, that Pininfarina did, in fact, get going on that wind tunnel.

As for the exploration of a custom 330 coupe commissioned by Mr. Calhoun, Dumple supplied the requisite sketches by the end of 1965, and by the following summer, Wyoming’s richest man had himself a new toy to “love love LOVE.”

#6: “This final iteration incorporates the shortened overhangs front and rear, which you desired. I believe, Mr. Calhoun, we are there. On your say-so, I’ll engage Pininfarina to begin construction of your “Power River Basin” variant—the Ferrari 330 PRB.” Randy Dumple


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    When I read the first installment of this series, I felt like I was just missing something and maybe it would all make sense in forthcoming articles. Nope. This “story” leaves me feeling like I wasted my time, got no information, no entertainment, nothing at all… Count me as someone who won’t be clicking on future chapters. Sorry.

    P.S. Being form Wyoming I can note that the car was certainly intended to be named “Powder River Basin”.

    I certainly enjoyed the article and look forward to more.

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