(Bloomberg) -- Benjamin Clymer has come a long way since 2008, when the financial crisis prompted him to take a severance package from UBS and start a blog that fueled his obsession with watches.

Today that former side project, Hodinkee, is the leading resource for watch aficionados worldwide, with a cap table that includes Tom Brady, Tony Fadell, John Mayer and LVMH. With handsome articles, intimate deep dives and insider knowledge of the industry, Hodinkee brought modern watch collecting culture mainstream. It was the first authorized watch dealer on the internet and last year generated more than $100 million in revenue; its first brick-and-mortar store will open later this year in downtown Manhattan. (Bloomberg Pursuits participates in content sharing with its editorial side.)

Now executive chairman of Hodinkee (hodinky is Czech for “wristwatch”), Clymer has led it to partnerships with Hermès, Leica, Omega and IWC, among others. His newest endeavor, Fairgame Golf, is an app and podcast for golf lovers. But Clymer has a lesser-known fascination: vintage cars. He owns quite a few, including a 1959 Porsche 356 Zagato, a 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Zagato and a 1981 BMW M1; at one time a 1960 Lancia Flaminia Zagato and a 1967 Porsche 911S were also in his collection.

In this installment of “How’d You Get That Car?” we explore the latest addition to his collection, a 1968 Ferrari 330 GTC in Grigio Mahmoud color, which holds a special place for him beyond its achingly classic elegance and air-cooled V12 engine—it’s tied to watershed moments in his life. Clymer first drove the Ferrari in Rome the day after he got married; he took delivery of it in the US on the day his daughter was born. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

You’ve owned several significant cars. What did you want with an old Ferrari?

As any little boy does, you kind of hold Ferrari in a special lens. Coming from my world, it’s like Patek [Philippe]. There’s Porsche, which is like: OK, your dentist may have driven a Porsche, or your wealthy friend's dad may have driven a Porsche. You’re kind of aware of them, even though they’re not in your environment.

Then there's Ferrari, which is just so beyond the norm, at least for me. I grew up in Rochester, New York, a really dramatically different environment. There were no Ferraris in that area. If there were, I didn’t see them—let alone a vintage Colombo V12.

By Colombo V12, you mean the water-cooled V12 engine designed by Gioacchino Colombo and produced by Ferrari for several of its models from 1947 to 1988.

Yeah! The dream for me was always to have a proper Colombo V12 Ferrari. A friend was like, “Hey, you should look at a 330 GTC, which uses a 330 motor but uses the chassis and transmission of the [more expensive Ferrari] 275.” I was able to drive a restored 330 GTC from a dealer here in Connecticut. I said, “Wow. This is 90% of the experience of a 275 for frankly, much less money.”

And on top of that, in many ways, it represented what I wanted, which is something that’s really understated—something that I could drive around town without attracting too much attention. I realize how ridiculous that sounds as a young person driving a Ferrari.

And like your taste in watches, you  tend prefer cars that are pretty reserved?

I’m very much on the same plane as I always have been, which is buying something—whether it’s a watch or a car—that has a great story behind it, and really, really subtle elegance. Something that is not flashy. 

So how does one go about finding a 330 GTC?

I went about doing what I do, which is scouring the web for stuff all day, every day. 

The 330 GTC is kind of ... I don’t want to say entry level, but it’s the first serious V12 Ferrari before you get into the 275s and Daytonas and all that crazy stuff. Because of that, they’ve been expensive cars since new, but a lot of them have been owned by the previous generation of classic car buyer, who cares mostly about restoration. So all these cars were restored, every single one. I looked for probably four or five years, and I could not find an original 330 GTC to save my life.

Why did you want one unrestored? 

I pretty much only buy unrestored cars. What I mean by that is: as much original paint as possible, as few owners as possible, unimpeachable provenance so there’re no issues. If you’re going to spend that much money and take that much risk, why not go all the way and ensure that everything is as special as possible?

So eventually, you found this one.

I was like, “Holy s---! This car is as original as I’ve ever seen on a 330 GTC.” It was Jan. 1, 2021. I found it on Classic Driver, which is a website that I’m cruising all the time and frankly, haven’t found a ton of success there. But when I saw this car, I was like, “Wow. What is this thing?” It just felt so unusual to see an original owner or a few-owner car.  

I ended up getting in touch with the broker, a guy named Peter Wallman, who’s now in charge of RM Sotheby’s in Europe. He knew me from Hodinkee, and he was a watch guy, so we did the diligence on the car. I had it inspected by people in Rome. 


Oh yeah, the car was sitting in a garage in Rome since 1974. And these were the prime days of Covid. Nobody was vaccinated. Nobody was going anywhere. Peter’s, like: “Look, the car is in Rome, but I’m in the UK. I can’t really get there, but if you know anybody, I’d be happy to introduce them to the owner, and they can do the diligence on the car for you.” 

I had a Italian friend that used to work at Zagato. He was able to organize a full inspection and report on the car. It came back, and they’re, like, “We’ve never seen a 330 GTC in this original condition, ever.” The majority of it is original paint. It’s got the original chassis sticker on the window. The insurance sticker’s on the front window as well, from 1984. Everything about it is original.

What a rare find. 

The car has basically been owned by its second owner since 1970, an older guy. He’s, like, “Look, I bought this car to drive to my house on the coast of Spain from Rome. I used it for four years, and then I put it away.” In the early 2000s, [his children] said, “Dad, we’d love to use this car.” So he decided to pull the motor out to get it going. Then they got the quote for how much it would cost to rebuild, and the kids said, “You know what? We’re good on that.” So they left the motor in pieces in a cave under the garage.

A minor detail: This perfectly unrestored Ferrari had no motor in it. 

Yeah ... I ended up buying the car in February or March of 2021, and I decided to not ship the car back immediately. I decided to bring it back to life in Italy simply because A) the car was in Italy, B) that’s where all the best mechanics are for Ferrari and C) just to do something different. 

My friend Jacobo, who helped me find the car, helped manage the revival. We [rebuilt] everything mechanical, but left the outside of the car and inside original. Seats are original. Carpet’s original. Everything on the car is original. But we redid the motor. A full mechanical resuscitation.

Walk me through that: Did you do any modern upgrades in terms of power, tuning, suspension, brakes, that sort of thing?

No, not a single upgrade. I’m a total purist with this stuff, as you probably would not be surprised to learn. The guy that we found actually worked at Ferrari in-period. He used to build these cars—an older guy named Carato Patella. He did the motor. A few other guys did the transmission, a little bit of the bodywork, etc., to straighten it out. The steering wheel was kind of splintering. We found a guy that literally, all he does is work on wooden steering wheels, because that’s what they have in Italy. So we brought the car back to the situation it was in, in 1974.

How long did that take?

It was a seven- or eight-month thing, which is really fast for a car this old. Before we bought it, we did an inventory of all the pieces of the motor so that we didn’t buy the car and then all of a sudden realize, “Holy s---, we don’t have the block, or we don’t have the headers or we don’t have something that is really numbered and important.”

I’m generally an optimistic person, that’s all, “Oh, how hard could anything be?” Turns out, pretty f---ing hard. That’s a lesson learned, but I wouldn’t have changed much. If I were doing this on my own, it would never have happened. My friend speaks English and is native Italian; he was really managing it for me. He was the guy that made it happen.  

How did you negotiate the buying price? 

It’s tricky. Hagerty lists what the average price is for the car, what it should be. We did the dance of negotiating. I paid right in the middle of that range. [$495,000–$695,000 depending on condition.]

It was actually pretty daunting. I paid a very fair price for the car, but it ended up costing me several hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it back into running condition. This is for sure the best-quality 330 GTC there is, and certainly the most original. But the goal here is not to make money on it. I probably will never sell this car, so it doesn’t really matter. It’s just to have something that is usable by me and fun to live with.

You’ve had some epic life moments with it already. 

The world opened up a little bit in 2021, so my wife and I decided to elope in Rome. We got married in September of ’21, and sitting outside our hotel was the car. The very next day, we woke up early, and the first time I drove the car was the first day I was a married man. 

We left our hotel at 7 a.m. and drove through the center of Rome, which is crazy. My first drive in the car was through Rome, where it had lived its entire life! It was awesome. Then we went up to Tuscany and did a little tour, stayed up there for a few days. We ended up coming back down to Hotel Il Pellicano, which is an iconic hotel on the coast of Italy, and then drove back to Rome and flew out from there.

What a dream trip! How did the car do? Any breakdowns?

Actually, no breakdowns. The only drama we had—and I will say it was real drama because it was a Sunday—was that one of the tubes on my rear right tire had a small leak. Because of that, I had to fill up the air fairly regularly by the end of the trip. Turns out there are no gas stations open on Sunday in Italy.

Of course not, ha ha. 

That was a little hairy, but we survived. I would just fill it up every 45 minutes or so we were driving, and it was fine.

And then you left the car in Rome, to be shipped to you on arriving some time later. 

The guys at the port dropped it off at a garage in the Bedford [New York] area. One of my very best friends and co-workers ended up picking up the car for me at 8:30 a.m. in the morning, Dec. 28, because my daughter was born that day at 8:34 a.m., and I was at the hospital! So we got married in the car, honeymooned in the car and it arrived basically within five minutes of my daughter being born. 

That’s incredible! 

And on top of that—and I don’t say this in any patronizing way, I mean it sincerely—my wife loves riding in the car. That adds material value to my life. We live in the country. I want to be able to get in a car and not just go for cruises around with my bros. I want to take it to dinner. I want to go to our friend’s house in this car. As I grow into a father, which I now am (and about to be again), that has real value to me.   

It’s understated and usable. But then again, it’s a Ferrari—so special. 

Up here, I live a pretty casual lifestyle, but getting into a hand-built 1968 V12 Ferrari, you really feel like you’re transported, which is the exact same reason that I got into watches 15 years ago. It reminds me of the heyday of what I think is peak handmade manufacturing. The year 1968 is where you have the Paul Newman Daytona [wristwatch from Rolex] arrive on the scene for effectively, the first time. Patek is doing some of its first Perpetual Calendars with an automatic movement for the first time. It’s very much this idea of traditional craftsmanship in a beautiful form. 

Other installments of our “How’d You Get That Car?” series include a stunt driver and her Porsche 911, a photographer and her Ford Ranchero, a brand wizard and her Fiat Panda, and an auction chief and her MG. 


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