This magnificent machine once belonged to a very dear late friend of mine, Mr. George Arents, III. Though somewhat obscure, the Arents family has a remarkable American history. From Dutch descent, they came over to The New World on the second voyage of the Mayflower. The family owned the Richmond Hotel; the lobby was copied for the final scene in "Gone With The Wind".
George's dad accumulated great wealth, even starting American Machine and Foundry (AMF) just for fun. He invented cigarette and bread wrapping machines among other things. A rose is named after Mrs. Arents; George III came along in 1913. Their home in Westchester County, New York, "Hillbrook," shown here, had 52 acres of mowed lawn. They eventually gave it to the Catholic Church, as nobody could afford to buy, maintain, and pay the taxes on it. My understanding is that the house was disassembled in recent years; we found the front door assembly in Chicago a year ago. They wanted $135,000.00. For the door.
George III, hereafter called George, was an accomplished sailplane and airplane pilot, and served in World War II. While flying over Europe, he had the chance to actually look down
on a UFO. In George's typical understated manner, he looked at the co-pilot and said, "Well, they're here". He also loved to race cars, eventually winding up with the Ferrari
team. His cars were blue with white striping, and George crashed in Pescara, Italy, spending months in hospitals and losing two inches of height. They named that curve after him. Later, George, Enzo Ferrari
, and Luigi Chinetti
would become business partners, bringing Ferrari street cars to America for sale. Chinetti Motors, in Greenwich, Connecticut, was just a few miles from Hillbrook. George also knew another racer around that time named Zora, who was working on a production fiberglass two-seater. Seems George made a suggestion to modify the car's rear suspension that Zora took to heart.
I met George in 1978 when he drove the then-blue GTC4 solo from "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" (Toluca Lake
) to Franklin, Tennessee, roughly 2,000 miles, to see his friend, artist/painter Walter Bunn Gray (1935-2002), here on the left. George, on the right, was 65 at the time.
I was the only one here privileged to drive the car, stalling it at the first intersection of course, as the clutch effort was a beast! While here, the car sprung a slight gas leak from a tube entering one of the six
2-barrel Weber carburetors on the massive V-12 (Yes, it also has two
oil filters), and George handed me the original-equipment Prancing Horse tool kit to fix the leak. I was flattered, of course. The car had THERE
on the California "personalized" license plate, a reference to Gertrude Stein
's "Everybody's Autobiography
" quote, "There is no there there." Perhaps George had met her while crossing the Atlantic on the RMS Olympic
, sister ship to Titanic, one of his favorites and a setting in one of his books, "The Brass Nightingale
A few days later we took a second spin around the county, and I didn't stall it that time. George complimented my cornering, and the suede Recaro seats didn't hurt the driving feel at all. We got behind a school bus doing about 20 mph. I asked George what he would do in a situation like this; he said he would wait till the coast was clear, then kick it in the ass. Well, I did that. I swear, we went from 20 to 80 by the time we passed the bus. The kids on board the bus will never forget the scream of the V-12 opening up, resonating off the side of the bus, and neither will I. Like Wile E. Coyote on an ACME Rocket
, first my arms went with the steering wheel, then body, followed by my head, landing on the Recaro headrest. All in second gear. Holy Moly, that car was fast! But then, why should it not have been? That was the only time I pushed the car, and it satisfied my curiosity. A then-21-year-old was very happy.
About a year later, I flew to Los Angeles to spend some time with George. He met me at LAX in the car, which had now been painted "Mahogany", as the original blue was losing its luster. On the Hollywood Freeway, I opened a Coors
(Which was still illegal in Tennessee, making it taste that much sweeter), and a bit spurted onto the suede dash. George just laughed and said it was all right. I didn't get to drive the car in LA, but he gave me instead the house car ... a one-year-old Peugeot 604, (above), which smelled like a fine shoe store inside. Only after I arrived did I learn we were three blocks from Bob Hope's house.
I corresponded with George up to his death in 1992. He always said "80 is enough;" he passed at 79. All his letters are safe here, as well as the copies and precopies of books he was working on. He also gave me his Ferrari North American Racing Team (NART) badge off of one of his racing cars, forever a treasure of mine. I may have desecrated the badge when I screwed it onto the fake woodgrain dash of a Vega Kammback wagon I rebuilt, after I put a Vega GT dash in the car; but George saw the badge and smiled. I think he liked the gauges in the car as much as I did.
Now some tech stuff! Only 505 365 GTC4s were ever made; 180 made it to America. There were 48 Ferrari colors used those years; I believe George's car was "Blue Chiaro Metallic" originally, but I'm not definite on that. Of course, Ferrari would custom color your car if you so desired. The 365 GTC4 had matte black bumpers and rear-end treatment, unique to the line at that time. Ten interior colors were offered; the car cost $27,500 in 1972. That year, the Kammback listed for $2,700. Air conditioning was standard, and Connelly leather was an option (On the Ferrari, not the Vega Kammback!).
Powered by a 60-degree V-12 displacing 4390 cc (4.4 litres), we smog-reducing, smug-inducing Americans got 320 horsepower, the rest of the world got 340. The car had two distributors, each with two sets of points. Want an oil change? Buy two filters and 18 (That's right, 18
) quarts of some really good oil. Need a tune-up? I just saw where a guy paid $12,000 for that service. You have to take the carburetors off to set the valves, which is required every 15,000 miles, then put the carbs back on and set them. Ouch. Built on a welded tube steel frame chassis, this car shares many components with the Daytona
and 246 GT Dino
, also produced at the same time. But the 365 GTC4 had a back seat ... sorta. Really too small to accept anything but luggage, a couple of folks twisted themselves back there when George was here, but the comment "never again" was heard as well.
The 365 GTC4 is immotalized on The Cars' "Candy-O"
album cover in outline by Vargas, no less, though it's a little hard to see under such, ahem, beautiful artwork. The side back windows, backlight, and roofline were copied from this car for the Chevy Monza/Buick Skyhawk/Nighthawk/
Olds Starfire, etc. series. David Colborne's
recent fine article on the Buick Nighthawk prompted me to write this post when I saw the familiar windows on the Nighthawk.
The last time I visited with George was in 1984, during the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA. His "toys" then, as he called them, were a 1938 Packard limousine and a brand new Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit motorcar, painted in his family's black and tan New York Yacht Club private colors ... his way of subtly snubbing the SoCal locals. He allowed me to drive both of them; I'll never forget cruising the Rolls down Hollywood Boulevard
, a stark contrast to my country living here in Middle Tennessee.
I'm sorry the pictures of George's car aren't fresher... I took them in 1978 and 1979 on film, and took the image of "Hillbrook" in 1980, then copied the prints with a Nikon digital camera this week for the story. I wish I could find and buy George's car, but I don't have a good place to keep the Miata
, much less something with this rich pedigree. But to just see his car again would be a treat. And to tell the present owner that George had owned it would be nice, too. Hopefully some day that dream will come true. Heck, maybe there is a there there!
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
And thank you, George and Bunn, for many fantastic, unique memories. I'll never forget you two.