“You write about cars?” It’s both a question and a statement those of us in this business of automotive journalism hear quite often.
“No,” I respond, “We write about people, people who tell the stories about the cars.”
Those thoughts came to mind again as I read Full Circle: A Hands-On Affair with the First Ferrari 250 GTO, a book recently published by Larry and Petra Perkins.
You may not have heard of Larry or Petra, but you may well be aware of the Ferrari that Larry owned and raced, the first of the limited production run of the famed and now exceedingly valuable Ferrari 250 GTOs.
The Perkins’ book is the story of the car, but also of Larry Perkins and his quest decades after selling the car to learn of its fate, only to have, as the Perkins put it, the car find him.
Perkins graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in geology and anticipated a career in the petroleum industry. Instead, he was selling soap when he landed a job as a rocket scientist, an IBM systems engineer working as part of the Apollo space mission, developing, among other things, the Launch Countdown and Checkout Training Simulator.
Back in college, Perkins had helped crew an Austin Healey Sprite a friend was racing, attended the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix at Sebring, and caught the racing bug, caught it to the point that in January 1964, he bought a used Ferrari from racer/dealer Bob Grossman. The car was serial number 3223GT, the very first of the production run of the Ferrari 250 GTOs.
Under the banner of BARF, the Brevard Auto Racing Fraternity, Perkins would race the Ferrari in the inaugural Daytona Continental 2000K, finishing 11th overall. Two years later, they’d finish 19th overall — but first in the Sport 3000 class — in the first 24 Hours of Daytona.
They also raced at Sebring, where a teenaged girl visiting her aunt in Florida was coerced into a grandstand. Some 15 years later, that girl, now a woman, aerospace engineer and author, would meet and marry one of the drivers she’s seen racing that day.
But we’ll leave it to the Perkins to tell the rest of the story about selling the car and then, many years later, wondering its fate, only to have the car find Larry, who would drive it across the awards ramp at Pebble Beach on the 50th anniversary of GTO production.
It’s a story well told, and well worth reading.
Full Circle: A Hands-On Affair with the First Ferrari 250 GTO
By Larry Perkins and Petra Perkins
Petrapetra Publications, 2021
Hardcover, 228 pages