Blog : Exploring

Summiting Mt. Washington in a 488GTB to Celebrate Ferrari’s 70th Anniversary

Summiting Mt. Washington in a 488GTB to Celebrate Ferrari’s 70th Anniversary

Thanks to MountainProject I know the exact date I first climbed Mt. Washington. It was November 20, 2004 and my friend (now world-class scientest at Yale) and I climbed up the frozen waterfall that is Pinnacle Gully before hitting 54 mile per hour gusts of wind in the alpine garden and bagging the summit.

It was a first for both Brad and myself. It was our first time climbing together. It was the first time either of us had led an ice climb (I led the first two pitches and Brad led the third and final rope stretching pitch). It was also the first time we had seen each-other since we played Little League together; a fact I did not realize until he brought it up. I had thought he was just a competent stranger I met on a climbing forum online and had no idea he was the same Parry whose father had coached me a decade prior.

I have gone on to climb and ski Mt. Washington several times, sometimes solo (an entry on MountainProject from December 24, 2005 simply reads “Soloed Christmas Eve. One of the best climbs of my life.” I recall little else.) but yesterday was the first time I had ever driven to the summit via the Mt. Washington Auto Road.

True to form, I thought up the idea to drive the Ferrari 488GTB to Mt. Washington’s summit the night before I actually did it. I can be rather impulsive at times.

I had received numerous emails and invitations to attend press junkets for Ferrari’s 70th Anniversary this week in NYC and, since I happened to have a brand new Ferrari parked in the garage downstairs, I figured I might as well do something wildly unique to commemorate the anniversary of an iconic brand that has danced its way in and out of my life for years.

The execution of that idea is the photo to the right.

Six dollars worth of mylar balloons, thirty-eight dollars to drive up the mountain, and a solid nineteen hours of driving.

It's not a proper celebration without birthday balloons on top of New England's tallest mountain.

Sure, I could have splurged for something more extravagant, but what the hell do you buy Ferrari for their birthday?

As you no doubt know from the thousands of bumper stickers regaling tales of minivan adventures across the country, no trip to the summit of Mt. Washington is complete without the bumper sticker telling everyone you’ve been there.

In a rather elitist way inspired by the combination of my preferred literature and music of the time (Mark Twight and NOFX), I used to make fun of those bumper stickers that read “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington”. I smugly held the belief that summits of mountains should be reserved for those who reach them by natural means but my obsession with all things powered by a combustion engine has me rethinking this hard and fast position which I had previously, and passionately, held. And so, the Ferrari had a congratulatory bumper sticker bestowed upon her rear window overlooking both the 3.9 litre 8 cylinder engine and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

This is probably the meekest accomplishment in the history of Ferrari but it’s all I’ve got. I’m no Schumacher after all.

I'm guessing that's probably the first time that bumper sticker has been on a brand new Ferrari...
Jenna's first time summiting Mt. Washington is wildly different from mine...

No trip to New Hampshire is complete without a trip to Polly’s Pancakes in the aptly named Hamlet of Sugar Hill, just outside Franconia where both Robert Frost and the Old Man on the Mountain used to live.

I certainly did not earn this feast, but I don’t visit New Hampshire as often as I used to so why not have a keto-cheat day (again)? Plus, it’s Ferrari’s birthday celebration. Everyone’s allowed a cheat day for Ferrari’s 70th Anniversary, right?!

What you see below is a corn meal waffle topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, maple butter, granulated maple sugar, and doused in maple syrup. I had two.

So, here’s a sugary toast to Ferrari on their 70th Anniversary. Cento di questi giorni!

The building may have changed but these corn meal waffles at Polly's Pancakes are still the same!
Going All Out for the 2017 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

Going All Out for the 2017 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

This is the story of how I cashed in my Delta miles for a one-way ticket to Oklahoma City to buy a used Triumph motorcycle from a rock-and-roll youth pastor and rode it 1,636 miles back to New York.

It’s also the story of how I brought some amazing people together to transform that dust-filled bike into a gorgeous Steve McQueen inspired cafe racer and how more than 92,000 moto-enthusiasts from 56 countries got together yesterday to raise over $4.4 Million for the Movember Foundation.

Every year since we started in 2009, Alister & Paine Magazine has supported one non-profit or another through in-kind donations of our products and services. In the past we’ve donated to organizations close to our heart like The Access Fund and Livestrong. This year we decided to support The Movember Foundation by way of participating in The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR). The money raised goes towards prostate cancer biomedical research and initiatives to support men’s mental health and suicide prevention.

We donated over $25,000 in content marketing and advertising services to help raise awareness of The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride mission and interviewed their founder and CEO, Mark Hawwa, on alisterpaine.com.

In order to participate in the ride, though, I needed a bike that fit the bill.

FINDING A DONOR BIKE FOR THE BUILD

I managed to find a relatively affordable 2014 Triumph Bonneville T100 to ride in the 2017 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. The only problem was its location on the border of Texas and Oklahoma in a town aptly named Texoma. I journaled about my three day adventure each night on Instagram. If you’re interested in reading those entries you can find them below.

Motorcycle Diary. Day 1. Praise Jesus & Ride Motorcycles.

I woke up around 3AM this morning with the lights of midtown Manhattan shining in through my apartment windows. A quick shower, shave and kiss and I Ubered to the airport where I caught a flight to Oklahoma City by way of Atlanta. I made it to Tornado Ally by noon and the rain was coming down in buckets. I was buying a Triumph Bonneville T100 sight unseen and riding it back to New York for two main reasons… Continue reading on Instagram

Motorcycle Diary. Day 2. There’s Never Enough Nashville.

Today’s adventure started off with rain, again. After about thirty minutes of trying to put up with the shards of rain slicing my face I decided to do the only reasonable thing a man alone on a motorcycle does in Arkansas on a Saturday morning. I went to Waffle House. Good googly moogly that place is something else. My grits were floating in a sea of butter and the bacon! The bacon is so thin it’s like they took one thick cut piece of bacon and… Continue reading on Instagram

Motorcycle Diary. Day 3. Cold or Cold and Wet.

Today was the longest day. Physically, mentally, and literally. Since Friday afternoon I’ve ridden 1,636 miles from Oklahoma City to New York. My body is numb. My ears are ringing. And I’ve been home for hours. I started the day on the border of Tennessee and Virginia. I rode through the cold, and the rain, in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and, finally, New York. The cold, combined with the constant vibration of the Triumph, brought splintering pain… Continue reading on Instagram

BUILDING THE ALISTER & PAINE BONNIE

Thanks to A&J Cycles we were able to turn this virtually stock 2014 Triumph Bonneville into a black and brown cafe racer with cleaner lines and a little extra power in only eight hours (video below).

We got most of the parts from the awesome guys at British Customs and Herm at Dime City Cycles. The front end needed some serious clean up which was accomplished with a short front fender which we kept in a raw aluminum finish, the Low Profile Headlight Bracket, Satin Black Headlight Assembly with a DCC Originals LED Headlight, Low Profile Gauge Relocation Bracket, LSL clip-on handlebars, chocolate colored Biltwell Thruster Grips, and black DCC Originals Bar End Mirrors.

One of the biggest visual changes came from swapping out that stock exhaust (with slip-ons that the previous owner had welded on) with these gorgeous drag pipes from British Customs. Not only did that make the bike look cleaner but it completely changed the way she sounds in a BIG way. To help add a little bit more power and clean things up some more Brian and Jason added the Air Box Removal Kit and Air Injection Removal Kit from British Customs.

To clean up the rear end they completely removed the rear fender, added this Motone Fender Eliminator Kit, and swapped out the stock seat for the Slammer Seat from British Customs (the brown color matches the Biltwell grips perfectly).

They also swapped out the rear sprocket, put a new–lighter weight (and non-rusted)–chain on, replaced the rear shocks, cleaned the front fork gaskets of debris, and put on some new tires. All-in, I think they dropped about thirty pounds of unnecessary weight off the bike and made her look like a bike worth way more than it cost!

CUSTOM LIVERY FROM TUKI

The finishing touches were two hand-painted side covers by Travis “TuKi” Hess (click the link to watch a video of him hand painting the side covers!). Personally, I love pinstriping and hand lettering. I can watch Instagram videos of guys like TuKi all day long.

I decided the bike–and I–already had a bit of a motto after the adventure we’d been on together and had recently discovered the latin phrase “Auribus teneo lupum” which means “I grab the wolf by the ears”. To quote Mentalfloss, the phrase “comes from Phormio (c.161BC), a work by the Roman playwright Terence—was once a popular proverb in Ancient Rome. Like “holding a tiger by the tail,” it is used to describe an unsustainable situation, and in particular one in which both doing nothing and doing something to resolve it are equally risky.”

Sounds about right.

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE NAMED THE “MOST DAPPER” IN NEW YORK CITY’S DGR

There was some fierce competition out there and if I couldn’t join the ranks of the biggest fundraisers (I barely made Top 100, which goes to show how awesome guys like Vincent Nikolai are at raising money for the DGR) than I had better at least place for looking good!

The suit is from Alton Lane, a premium bespoke tailor with showrooms in a dozen cities across the country. I chose a lighter weight wool/silk/linen blend from Scabal’s St. Tropez collection which turned out to be a good choice since it was ninety degrees in the city yesterday.

On an ordinary day I may have been over-accessorized but this was no ordinary day. For cufflinks I rocked some Ox & Bull Silver & Gold Day of the Dead Skulls from cufflinks.com. On my hands I went all out with eight custom rings from jewelers I scoured the world (ok, I scoured Etsy and Instagram) for. The rings came from Rough Design Co, Black Rock Jewel, Joel Muller, JM Custom Skull Rings, and Hi Octane.

SHOP THE LOOK

THE CROWNING TOUCH

DGR sponsor and British motorcycle helmet manufacturer, Hedon, sent me this gorgeous Hedonist helmet in with a silver foiled finish for the ride and asked me to find a local artist to give it a custom touch.

In keeping with the theme of the bike, I found Jon from Handsigns who hand lettered the bike’s motto across the cap of the helmet. Jon’s work is incredible. I was able to visit his studio in Crown Heights to see some of his other projects and it seriously just makes me want to add hand lettering to everything I own. He really took an already beautiful helmet to the next level.

Of course, everyone always notices the goggles (which I couldn’t even wear before I got LASIK last month).

I first saw these goggles in a picture of Chris Runge driving one of his aluminum bodied Frankfurt Flyers and it’s one of the things you simply can’t substitute with anything else. These authentic British WWII fighter pilot inspired goggles from Halcyon really completed the cafe racer look.

A SMASHING SUCCESS

All in all, my first Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was a resounding success.

As a company, Alister & Paine Magazine was able to support a great charity and donated more than $25,000 in services to raise awareness for the cause. As a global event the statistics are staggering. More than 92,000 moto-enthusiasts from 56 countries raised nearly $4.5 Million for prostate cancer biomedical research and to support men’s mental health and suicide prevention. Plus, I got to dress to the nines with a thousand other gents in New York City and have the NYPD block traffic for us while we toured through Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

A huge thank you goes out to every single company and individual who helped us pull off the most successful Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, yet. It wouldn’t have been possible without you!

1,465 Miles in a Frankfurt Flyer

1,465 Miles in a Frankfurt Flyer

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2016 edition of the Porsche 356 Regsitry.

The very first thing anyone asks when they see the Frankfurt Flyer is always, “What the heck is that thing?”.

No, it’s not a kit car. No, it’s not technically a Porsche. It is something else altogether. Perhaps the best way to describe the Rünge Frankfurt Flyer is that it’s a Porsche powered work of art; an homage to the craft, passion, and obsession of men like Walter Glöckler and Petermax Müller.

These were the pioneers, or perhaps rather the madmen, who built the predecessors to the modern Porsche we all know and love today. Driven by the desire to go faster, these rocketmen had octane in their blood and found innovative—and sometimes desperate—ways to get more speed out of the cars they built. Utilizing the time tested approach of squeezing more power out of whatever motors they had on hand and shaving weight wherever possible, they would race these handbuilt aluminum cars throughout Germany during the 1940’s and 50’s.

Of course, these creations also found their way into the renowned Mille Miglia, Nürburgring and other races. These endurance events were considered the most dangerous motoring competitions of their time—and that is precisely where I got the idea to drive one of Christopher Rünge’s Frankfurt Flyers from his home state of Minnesota to the winding roads of the Hudson River Valley.

Nearly a year earlier I had commissioned Chris to build Frankfurt Flyer #005. My specs were simple: stay pure to the heritage of the car, use a Porsche 356C “Bruchrasa” engine—aptly named for Tom Bruch, the engine builder who set his first land speed record at Bonneville in a 1967 Porsche 356 Carrera Speedster—and divert from the legacy only in one area. I wanted the wheels to remind me of the early morning sky in the Sierra Nevada.

My plan was to book a one way ticket to Minnesota, drive to the Rünge workshop, jump in the cockpit and drive nearly 1,500 miles on state highways through cornfields and mountains as fast as I could.

Just as I had grown up idolizing mountaineers and adventurers like Sir Edmund Hillary and the more egomaniacal, and insanely accomplished Mark Twight, I found the mostly obscure and anonymous toolroom racers of the past becoming the heroes of my adult childhood. I wanted badly to experience the blistering heat, the blinding sun, and the prayer that you make it through the turn just as I had wanted badly to experience hurricane force winds atop remote mountains in my youth.

Like all adventures, things did not start off according to plan. When I arrived at Chris’s house early on a Friday afternoon in the woods of central Minnesota, I was quickly introduced to the raw handbuilt time machine I’d be piloting back through farm lands to Silicon Alley. The simplicity was astounding. Each of the rivets perfectly spaced. The sun gleamed off every angle of the aluminum body. The blue wheels mimicked the bluebird sky reflecting off the hand hammered aluminum.

She was, I thought, perfect.

I stuffed a duffle bag, camera, and small tool kit under the aluminum tonneau cover and, without much fanfare, I was off.

Unfortunately, I only made it about ninety miles before Chris had to pick me up, stranded on the side of the road, with what we thought must have been a bad generator that drained the battery of all life. She simply wouldn’t start.

After a day of nonstop problem solving we had figured out it wasn’t the generator at all. The aftermarket voltage regulator Chris had initially used was reversed and unlabeled. With a new Bosch regulator installed, courtesy of a local gearhead’s Super Beetle, I was on my way by Sunday morning. As the Flyer approached mile 356 on the odometer I found myself thinking of the men who inspired this car, and the cars of their time, nearly seventy years ago.

Years before becoming an official Porsche racer, Petermax Müller built one of the first of these kinds of toolroom racers in postwar Germany around 1947. Food in Germany was incredibly scarce and Müller used his access to food to barter with Wolfsburg engineers for their services. This is the earliest example of a “Frankfurt Flyer” style racer that I know of, but they peppered the German countryside during the decade after the end of the war. 

They used mostly Volkswagen parts from military vehicles like the Kübelwagen and Schwimmwagen but, around the same time a car dealer and motorcycle racer in Frankfurt named Walter Glöckler was also building VW-based lightweight racers.

It’s impossible to believe that Dr. Porsche had no idea what these men were up to, using 356 engines and parts to build something faster and, with all due respect, better.

I pulled off that first night at Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa, overlooking the Mississippi River a short pitch from the shores of Wisconsin. The campground was full and the sky was dark when the Flyer sought shelter, louder than I would have hoped, away from the prying eyes of any park ranger who might want to kick me out for not having a campsite.

Fatigued, sunburnt, and smelling of oil and exhaust I passed out under the Iowa sky to the sound of locomotives in the distance.

Six hours later I was showered and back on the road before nearly anyone at the campground was awake. As I rolled up and down the beautiful country roads that border both these states I mused about the history of the car, and by default the history of Porsche. There is so much history that we as modern Porsche owners have taken for granted. While 356ers may know the name, only a small minority of the Boxster and 911 drivers I come across have any idea who Walter Glöckler even is.

As someone who’s new to the world or Porsche ownership I’m amazed at the blank response I get from fellow Porsche owners when I mention Glöckler’s name. I can count the number of people on one hand who have recognized Petermax Müller’s name. But these were the archetypes behind the cars we know and love today. In many ways, the 550 was born from these designs.

I stopped somewhere in Indiana for gas and to check on mechanicals. With the rear shell open she attracts the attention of men of all ages. Old toothless gear heads, rednecks, yuppies, but the girl eyeing me up was none of those. Six feet of legs and Polo Red lipstick in a floral sundress. With a glance she suggested things far too inappropriate for a Sunday morning. I expected to watch her get in her boyfriends car and peer back at me but she, an apparition, was gone by the time I had finished fueling up the Flyer.

I hit the road again and watched the odometer climb over a thousand miles. A thousand miles. That may have been more mileage than all of the other Frankfurt Flyers combined, and it was only my second day. As I approached a train crossing I felt the heat suddenly become overwhelming and the Flyer began to lose power. She had been accelerating, climbing, and turning like I imagined a P-52 would have handled. Loudly, but decisively. Now, without warning, I was in the middle of congested traffic with a lack of power to the wheels.

In the past, racers would have had a crew riding alongside them with spare parts and knowledge to keep the car in the race. Me? I had Chris. Masochistically loyal to his customers, and rightfully proud of his creations, he checked in with me every few hours to see how the ride was going. On several occasions we leveraged the wonderful beauty of the iPhone’s FaceTime to troubleshoot small problems, like a lack of acceleration due to a slipping throttle cable, which was easily fixed with me hanging upside down out of the single-seater cockpit of the Flyer, all the while entertaining the questions and amazement of fellow travelers.

I don’t recall how I first found out about Christopher Rünge’s handbuilt cars. According to my email records, I first reached out to him on May 31, 2015. At the time, he had only built two of his now relatively famous Flyers. A week later he would publicly unveil his third handbuilt racer and he had just started to build his fourth. After seeing photos of these raw aluminum bodied racers, I knew I had to have the fifth. I didn’t quite know how I would get my hands on Number Five, but if Müller could build his original racer piece by piece in exchange for food at a time when the memory of using Deutschmarks for kindling was still fresh in the minds of millions of Germans, then I certainly had no excuse.

I was looking for a car that could be a daily driver if I wanted it to be. Something solid with a rust free body and pristine frame. I wanted a vintage racer to drive hard through the twists of the Catskills, but didn’t want the fear of a twisted frame or seventy year old mechanicals not being able to hold up to the stress of driving—really driving—these cars the way they were intended to be driven.

That’s why I thought, somewhat naively, that this beautiful toolroom racer would be the perfect daily driver for me.

As I barreled down the eastern Pennsylvania mountains the front end bucked up and down against the storm winds lifting up the front end. Lightning flashed on the horizon but I was deaf to any sound of thunder.

All I could hear was the melodic percussion of Tom Bruch’s horizontal four. I hoped the storm would hold off, or that I’d somehow skirt it, until I got home.

But the rain began to fall. Slowly at first. I thought I had been hit in the face with a small rock. Then more. The rain sandblasted my face and felt like shards of glass against my sunburnt forehead.

I pulled off the road, took shelter in the parking lot of a 24 hour Denny’s, and hastily covered my faithful chariot in the waterproof canvas tarp I hard brought for exactly this occasion.

I had known I’d be threading the needle through at least two or three thunderstorms, and I wove my way around two of them, but the third had hit early and caught me by surprise. The forecast was bleak, but I decided to ignore the weather predictions on my iPhone and trust my instinct. As soon as the rain began to fade I was out in the parking lot checking the oil and tire pressure before taking off beneath a cascade of lightning that illuminated the slick roads ahead.

Fifty six hours after setting off from Minnesota I was home. The skin was peeling off my forehead from the wind and sunburn, my eyes were wide from the adrenaline and alertness required to pilot me home as fast and as safely as possible, and I could hear the engine roaring in my ears hours after she had been put to bed.

I had traveled 1,465 miles from start to finish, and I felt the camaraderie between beast and man. A bond reserved for those who have made it through something spectacular. Where, but for the grace of God and German engineering, things could have gone terribly wrong.