A Day in May
Above – May, 1981 – Larry Nicklin having a chat with an Indiana State Trooper about prevailing speed limits north of Fort Wayne during a ride we took in his Ferrari Mexico.
By David W. Palmeter
February 5, 2019
For many years, Larry displayed his 1952 Ferrari Mexico 0224 AT in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum near his home in Leo, Indiana. In May, 1981, Chris Callahan, a writer for AutoWeek newspaper, contacted Larry about driving the Mexico for an AutoWeek article to which Larry agreed. I worked as an engineer at International Harvester Truck Division with Larry, who was a designer in the Styling department. We both belonged to SCHABBY (Sports Car Historians and Beer Boozing Yokels – this was a long time ago). Larry called me after the AW article was written and asked if I would like to go for a ride before he returned the car to the museum. My answer was predictable and immediate.
When I got to his house, Larry noted that the car hadn’t been registered for many years so he put a license plate from his Porsche on the Mexico. He also was wearing work clothes and, as it turned out, didn’t have his wallet with him. We headed north from his house up Tonkel Road – Speed Limit 55 – toward Auburn. After the engine warmed up, Larry cleared a slight rise accelerating past 80 mph at the same moment an Indiana State trooper was headed toward us. I yelled “trooper” but Larry was watching the tach, plus – talking, or even shouting – in a ’50’s Ferrari competition coupe with the big Lampredi V-12 at full cry was not useful communication. The red lights went on and Larry pulled over as the trooper u-turned and pulled in behind us.
I got out of the car immediately (you were allowed to do that back then) and the trooper walked up to me and noted that “You had that Jaguar going way too fast…” I pointed out, politely, that I was an innocent passenger (or words to that effect) and that the guy behind the right hand drive steering wheel was actually in charge of establishing the velocity of the ‘Jaguar’. (She didn’t seem to be in the mood for a lesson in how to recognize various exotic two-seaters.)
You would have to know Larry to appreciate the look on his face when he walked around the car to face the music. ‘Kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar – Adult Version’ is the best I can describe it. He explained, still with a slight Larry smirk, that no, the car was not registered and no, the license plate did not belong on that car and no, he did not have his driver’s license with him. He explained that we just had the car out of the museum to do a magazine article (some truth, if not chronologically accurate, the fact that I was taking pictures helped the yarn).
As I write this 38 years later, it is still difficult to believe what happened next. It only makes a little sense in light of the fact that the Indiana State Police were having a ticket writing slowdown protest at the time. She gave him a warning ticket and told him, “You get back in that car and you drive it straight home and I don’t ever want to see it on my highway again.”
What a wonderful day!
PS – After a cooling off period to be sure that no further repercussions were forthcoming, Larry and I co-authored a detailed description of the Ferrari Mexico and sent it to the arresting officer at the state police post. We didn’t get a ‘thank you’.
Larry sold his car, Lot 153 (Ferrari Mexico 0224 AT), for $4,290,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Auctions’ Amelia Island sale on March 12, 2011.