FCA Ortega Run 2007: Ferraris, feasting and fun

Click image for 50 high-res pics from the run

The Ferrari Club of America – Southwest Region, had their annual Ortega Run this past Sunday, and we were fortunate enough to go along for the ride. This Ferrari club is a great way to to meet other Ferrari owners and to enjoy your ride to its fullest. If you don't happen to have a Ferrari in your garage you can find a similar club for practically every make and model around. These clubs organize events and provide a newsletter or magazine with pics and articles about prominent owners and vehicles, and tips on keeping those autos running and looking their best. The FCA is no exception. Especially in Southern California, Ferrari's largest market, the FCA organizes everything from track events, to top-level concours d'elegance, and a whole bunch of social activities, like our Sunday run to the Thornton Winery in Temecula. It was a great day of classic and modern Ferraris, blasting along challenging and scenic roads, with a delicious lunch at the end of the drive.

Follow the jump to follow the journey and check out the gallery of gorgeous Italian classics, if you're into that sort of thing (who isn't?).

Starting in San Juan Capistrano, a group of nearly 80 Ferraris assembled for a lineup and check-in. Not everybody was going on the run, but several owners stopped by to say good morning and check out the other f-cars that had gathered. Everything from a 1948 166 Spyder Corsa to a 2-week-old 599 GTB Fiorano showed up. Towards the front of the line we found a 250 GT SWB lined up with a variety of other 250 derivatives including a Tour de France, Gran Turismo, GTE, and a Lusso. At the head of the line was barn find and vintage Ferrari part expert Tom Shaughnessy's 1954 375 MM. This former LeMans car has a 4.5-liter V12 that puts out about 340 hp. Good enough to push this beast past 180 mph on the Mulsanne Straight back in the day. Our ride for the first part of the journey was the slightly tamer 166 SC.

The 166 SC is powered by a 2.0-liter V12 generating about 140 hp. Might not sound like much, but it only weighs around 1400 pounds. And it's almost 60 years old. Like a flimsily-bodied go-kart, this thing was a lot of fun...for the first 60 miles or so. After a short construction delay we were able to let that thimble-piston V12 sing. Windy and cold in that barchetta, but oh so fun. Some thrilling moments winding our way up and over the mountains as we headed down towards Lake Elsinore at the base of Ortega. And then the real fun began. Even tighter canyon roads had us relearning our turn-ins and apexes from the "wrong" side of the cockpit. The non-synchro gearbox made quick shifts a challenge, but the rev happy motor never skipped a beat. The little right-hand-drive sports racer did a great job, easily keeping up with the 308/328 group. The snakeskin buckets did an admirable job of holding us in place and only occasionally had us wishing for seatbelts. Like on the very long downhill section where our driver Zac reminisced about losing the brakes on a 410 Superamerica the year before.

Best part of the ride in the 166 was fording the seasonal streams that crop up along the twisties. Nothing too big on this day, fortunately, as those vintage drum brakes tend to view water as an excuse to leave work early. The water DID create some levity when the first puddle pointed out the holes in the floorboards and firewall. One perfectly aligned opening was clearly set up by someone with a wicked sense of humor, spraying the driver's crotch with ice-cold mountain stream water. After about an hour in this "little boat," it was obvious it was barely street-worthy, let alone seaworthy. But boy was it fun, and quite a thrill. The stuff of future storytelling for the grand kids. But the day only got better from there.

A few of the cars stopped about 20 miles from the winery for a quick Chinese fire drill. Somehow, fortune smiled upon us once again, and we ended up riding shotgun in the 375. Where the 166 felt like a go-kart with some loosely fitted bodywork, the 375 felt solid and stiff and three times as powerful, which it is. The power comes on strong and keeps building across the rev range. The tires are barely wider than those on the 166 so hammering the throttle was not prudent, but in a straight line, very amusing. A modern F430 could beat this in the quarter mile, but not by much, and not with half the visceral thrill this produces. One note for males who might find themselves similarly fortunate to be a passenger in this car: wear a cup. The ride is beyond stiff and bordering on masochistic. Felt like a day of horseback riding after our half hour stint. Oh, don't forget the earplugs either. And goggles. Maybe a hat with a chin strap too if you care what your hair might look like when you reach your destination. Thankfully, though, this one had seatbelts. Big beefy vintage racing straps. Came in handy for the last few winding roads before we hit our lunch spot. As fun as it was, we didn't want the ride to end, but our stomachs reminded us what lie ahead.

We were among the last to arrive and made quite the grand entrance, driving past the auxiliary lot filled with all of the modern Maranello macchine, and driving up the hill to park among the classics in the winery's courtyard. The straight pipes broadcasting our ascent. Lunch was delicious and all the more enjoyable looking across the tables and seeing the Daytona and Lusso and SWB and...those two great roadsters that brought us there. The scene at Thornton was like some vision of Tuscany in the early '60s. All of those great racing and road machines assembled in a villa-like setting with good food and wine aplenty. Lingered over the cars listening to all of the people discussing their own ride experiences for a couple of hours, and just like that, it was time to head home. Quite an incredible day. Thanks again to Tom Shaughnessy and the FCA for playing host and arranging our rides. We look forward to the next one.

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