by LARRY PRINTZ
photography by ROBERTO WESTBROOK
At one time she considered it just one of her husband’s cars. Today, Martha Glasser has become a passionate overseer and the sole driver of this Italian beauty, once owned by Nancy Sinatra.
Martha Glasser was not happy.
For the third day in a row her husband, Norfolk attorney Richard Glasser, had fallen asleep after a big lunch rather than help her navigate the rally they had signed up to run. She pulled the car over and woke him up.
“You can’t go to sleep; you’re my navigator.”
“You know, I’ve been navigating for three days. You haven’t asked me one time if I want to drive.”
You could understand his request; she was driving an unrestored 1969 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2. Who wouldn’t want to trade places?
Richard climbed behind the wheel and took off. As he tackled the twisting mountain roads of western Virginia with gusto, Martha could smell the car giving off odors the way athletes do when pushed to their limits. She had always admired his skill as a driver. But this time, she became alarmed. “Oh my gosh,” she thought. “This poor car!”
Later that day, while they relaxed over cocktails in the bar, Martha delivered her ultimatum: Buy his own sports car. “Get whatever car you want,” she said. “Start looking.”
Richard knew the score. She loved him, but she didn’t love the way he drove her car.
The Ferrari hadn’t always been hers. It had been his. He had bought it before they were married in 2000.
He had spotted it in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1996 while visiting Tom Barrett, whose auction house, Barrett-Jackson, attracts classic car collectors from around the world. While Richard had owned a number of collector cars, he didn’t know much about Ferraris. But he liked the car, one of 801 built between 1967 and 1971. He especially liked that its original owner was singer Nancy Sinatra, who owned it through 1987.
There was only one problem. The car had just been sold for $65,000.
“I said to Barrett, ‘If it falls through, I’ll pay you that,’ ” Richard says.
“And it fell through.”
Martha had first seen the Ferrari in Richard’s garage when they began dating. It didn’t interest her until 2003 when they attended the Cavallino Classic, a Ferrari car show held every January at The Breakers in Palm Beach. In the rarefied air of this storied hotel, walking on an impeccably manicured lawn that could be mistaken for deep-pile carpet, she could picture their car. Upon arriving home, and without telling Richard, she called the show’s organizers and applied to show their Ferrari the following year. The car was accepted, but there was a catch.
“Because I had filled the application out, I had to show the car,” she says. “I knew nothing about the car.”
So Richard gave her a crash course. After the show, at the awards banquet, she walked away with a second place prize. “We were elated,” she recalls. “And that was the beginning of this beautiful journey of learning more about the car and driving it.”
And, gradually, his car became hers.
It’s a love affair that has taken her around the world.
After driving the car in that pivotal rally at Virginia International Raceway in 2007, the Glassers attended Ferrari’s driving school in Maranello, Italy, in 2009. Once there, they were surprised to discover that a number of wives came not to drive but to buy balsamic vinegar. When asked if she wanted to go shopping, Martha said, “I’m driving” – and other women switched to the driver’s tour. “I am not sure that they ever had a class that had four women in it,” Richard says.
Once on the track, Martha told the instructor she wanted to take it easy.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry. It’s about making a beautiful line on the track,’ ”
Martha says. “So when he said that, I could get that. And after a couple of days, I got more speed, but I got more confidence. It was like drawing.”
But what is it about this Ferrari that she likes so much?
“Driving it is almost like you’re one with the car,” she says. “It’s not a racecar. It’s a touring car, so it doesn’t have that same sort of speed or have the agility, but it has a lot of power when it moves at speed. It’s comfortable when you put the windows down. And you can take a couple behind you because it has the two-plus-two seats.”
But there’s more to it than that.
“It doesn’t have a restoration on it. It shows its life on the interior and on the paint. It has a story to tell and once you start a restoration, you erase that. It’s like an antique.”
To ensure its provenance, the Glassers had the car shipped to Ferrari’s restoration shop in Italy as part of the company’s Classique program, which certifies that a particular Ferrari is authentic. The car passed muster.
So has Martha.
“I’ve met women who are driving, who are real drivers. I earned my stripes with them,” she says. “You don’t see a lot of women driving, but you’re seeing more and more starting to appreciate and love the cars.”
Despite all of their adventures – too many to print – and their new friends – too many to mention – there’s one thing they haven’t done: reunite the car with Sinatra. For now, Martha continues to maintain the car and drive it as weather permits.
“I think if you asked what I do as a passion or my hobby, it’s really the Ferrari.”
The same for Richard. After that fateful night in the bar, he bought a 2005 Ferrari Superamerica.
It’s still his.