I'm a pilot for American Airlines. Things went to hell after 9/11 and I got furloughed (made redundant for you Brit-speakers) in March 2004. As part of the severance package, I was allowed to use airline travel privileges for two years. I had spent the prior full year flying back and forth to Iraq (I'm also a C-5 Galaxy pilot in the Air Force Reserve). So I found myself with the gift of time, plus a full year of salary piled up in the bank. What could be better?
Thanks to the tightness of the international Pantera owner fraternity, I had offers of surplus garage space in several cities in Europe from various Pantera owners. So I took the plunge and shipped my '66 GT-350 clone from Long Beach to Bristol Port, England. It lived most of the time in Cobham, Surrey (just off the inside of the M25, halfway between Heathrow and Gatwick), and the rest of the time it was about 20 minutes north of Charles de Gaulle airport (Paris).
I then lived like a rock star for two years. I'd fly over in first class on a 777 out of LAX, hop in my car, cross the channel and tear around the continent for a week or two, drop it in Paris, fly home, go work for the Air Force for a week or ten days, then fly back to Paris and repeat the exercise.
I can't remember what it cost exactly; I know that I had to pay about $50 each way if I flew coach; first class was a bit more, and worth it! :thumbsup:
I think I took a total of 16 (!) driving holidays in 2004 and 2005, making all the big events--Goodwood (both kinds), Le Mans, Le Mans Classic, the RAC Euroclassic, various De Tomaso events, the RAC Motoring Challenge (a brilliant two-day event that they only did once, consisting of a private track day at the Nurburgring one day, and Spa the next), plus several non-automotive driving holidays (I took my mom around Devon and Cornwall, for instance).
Alas, when my travel privileges ended in 2005, I shipped the car back to the USA. It went to Detroit for a six-month restoration, which is now in its seventh year.
The motor was supposed to run on the dyno this week, and I hope to have it back in the car and have the car back home in California by the end of the year.
It will live in California for the foreseeable future, although at some point I do hope to establish it in Europe on a more-or-less permanent basis.
One thing that made it totally fantastic was that I was allowed to keep my USA number plates on the car, as it was imported under a 'temporary importation' scheme. You know those infernal cameras on sticks that they place on the side of the road in England? They flash at you annoyingly when you blast past them going 30 (or 60!) mph over the speed limit. That flash is a bloody nuisance. I never heard a word from the authorities the whole time I was there. If you are living in England, I highly recommend driving your car wearing a USA plate. It's the most liberating thing in the world! :laugh:
Finally, here's some photos. Here it is at a deserted crossroads in rural France:
At the Ferrari factory (on one of the RAC Euroclassics I was able to drive the car on the private Ferrari test track at Fiorano; this was taken on a previous international De Tomaso trip to Italy to visit the De Tomaso factory)
At the Goodwood Revival:
Rounding Hotel Corner in Monaco:
Exiting La Source hairpin at Spa:
In front of Chateau Chantilly north of Paris, starting point of the RAC Euroclassic one year:
Here's a shot in front of Tintern Abbey in Gloustershire, from when I first had my car in Europe:
The numbers on the doors were vinyl, a legacy of running track days with the Nor-Cal Shelby club prior to sending the car over. I tried to remove them, and the paint peeled off the door! :stunned: So I put them back and kept them there.
It turns out that it's illegal to drive with numbers on your doors in some European countries and England (how dumb is that?) which is why I had to cover them with vinyl roundels as seen in the photos above.
Interestingly, the German slot car company Carrera got ahold of a photo of my car, and used it to make a 1/32 slot car! They did an admirable job of it; they even modeled me accurately, as the driver is wearing my red Arai helmet and yellow Pantera Club long-sleeved t-shirt! They got everything right except the wheels; they already had an existing GT350 model with stock wheels, so they kept those instead of changing them over. Still, how cool is that?
Okay, we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming!!!!! Thread drift complete; if you want to chat more about this, start up a new thread in the Paddock or Ron will chew us all out! :laugh: