I had the perfect car lover’s vacation planned, which included driving up the legendary California Highway 1 to enjoy the festivities at Monterey Car Week — but what made it perfect was that I would be doing the whole trip in my Ferrari F355. Unfortunately, my perfect plans went up in flames, literally, before I arrived in California.
Before shipping my 1995 Ferrari F355 to the West Coast, I spent plenty of time shaking it down. Since purchasing earlier this year, I put over 1,000 trouble-free miles on it, and everything except the hazard light switch was working perfectly. I really wasn’t worried about a breakdown, and I actually thought shipping out my Ferrari for the trip would save money, as I have a tendency of impulse-buying cars when I travel to California.
Unfortunately, the logistics of shipping a car to a specific event can be challenging. The industry doesn’t work like FedEx, with same-day pickup and guaranteed delivery dates, since truckers have to combine a group of cars heading in the same direction in order to make a profit. Sometimes it can take weeks for a car to get picked up, especially if you live in a remote area like I do. So I needed to give myself a good buffer, should there be a long wait. I also needed to ship the car to someone I trusted that could store the car for me until I arrived.
I thought about asking Doug DeMuro, our editor here at Oversteer, but he lives in San Diego, and I wanted to start my trip farther north in Los Angeles. He also travels a lot, and given his well-established opinions on the 355, he probably didn’t want the liability. I also considered dropping it off with my grandparents in Orange County, but I didn’t want to trouble them with storing a car for weeks. That left me with one great candidate, who had plenty of storage, and who was enthusiastic about having the car: Parker Nierenstein of the popular YouTube channel Vehicle Virgins.
Parker and I have become friends since I visited California a year ago, and I offered him the car not only to drive and enjoy, but also to make YouTube videos with until I arrived. I was excited to see his take on the car, and I gave him the green light to do whatever he wanted with it. I thought it was a mutually beneficial deal: I was getting free storage, and he was getting an interesting subject to make videos about. Turns out, instead of being a friend, I was more like the Unabomber.
Securing shipping was fairly easy, and Parker received my 355 weeks before I was scheduled to arrive. Everything went fine with the delivery, and with Parker’s first video giving his initial impressions. A week later, Parker started making another video making fun of Ferrari owners — which ended up documenting the final hours of my Ferrari’s life.
When I got a random phone call from Parker, I immediately knew something was wrong. He reported that he was smelling strong fumes, and he wanted to open the engine hatch to investigate, but he didn’t know how. I gave him instructions and remained on the phone while he popped the hatch and started looking, eventually discovering that the cap for the power steering reservoir was stripped — not allowing the reservoir to seal, and gushing fluid out of the top. He offered to have it towed to his local mechanic, but since I wasn’t worried about a small amount of power steering fluid igniting, I told him he should limp it there. Just to make sure he wasn’t doing something stupid, Parker called his mechanic to get his opinion as well. The mechanic agreed with me and gave the same instructions. Parker said he then started the engine, and made it about 15 feet before the Ferrari exploded into flames.
The car engulfed so quickly that Parker and his passenger had to scramble out of the car without being able to grab their camera equipment and personal items. Despite the fire department arriving within minutes, the engine bay and cockpit were totally consumed by fire before being doused. Just for good measure, the fire department took an ax to what was left of the rear hatch to gush water directly on the engine, and apparently pried open the front storage compartment to douse the nose just in case. It was all over within 10 minutes — and my beautiful dream car now resembled a rolling roasted marshmallow.
Obviously I don’t blame Parker for anything that happened, and I’m relieved that nobody was seriously hurt. Thankfully, my insurance is covering this — and my trip is continuing as scheduled in a rental car. I’m devastated, but clearly, things could be much worse.