Breathtaking! How else would you describe
standing with my customer in the configuration
room at the Ferrari factory and peering down
onto the shiny new LaFerrari parked below? Just
one of those special moments that made up a
31-year-long career of selling Ferrari.
For someone who grew up in Dover, Illinois,
(a town of 200 people, 60 miles north of
Peoria) and attended a two-room grade school,
spending a lifetime selling Ferraris wasn’t even
My father, Richard Eckhoff, served in the
Army during WWII. When the U.S. Army invaded
Italy, he was put in charge of a foundry located
in Livorno just south of Pisa, on the coast, 73
miles southwest of Maranello. The two Italian
brothers who managed the business owned an
Alfa Romeo that my father got to experience.
The stories and pictures from his days in Italy
had a significant influence on me. While my high
school classmates were buying their Camaros
and Mustangs, at age 16 I bought my first car. I
narrowed my choices down to either a Triumph
TR4 or a 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider. I chose
the Alfa. The previous owner had installed side
draft weber carbs, quick release racing lap belts
and a roll bar to track the car.
That little Italian 1600cc 4-cylinder would
sing a beautiful song when you wound her up.
My biggest thrill came from taking some of
my high school buddies for a ride on a twisty
blacktop road I knew very well. They would
scream and grab for anything they could find
to hold onto as I clipped the apex and powered
out of my favorite right-hander. Not one of them
ever accepted a second ride. I sold the Alfa
when I went to college, something I’ve always
The Beginning of a Sales
After completing my stint at SIU-Carbondale, I
went to work at a newspaper in southern Illinois.
Two years later, I decided I needed a career
change. I took a week’s vacation, packed up my
silver Porsche 914 and headed to Columbus,
Ohio, to begin my search. Armed with a resume
and no sales experience whatsoever, I went
looking for a car sales job. Rolling into the
city on a Sunday evening, I passed a little Alfa
Romeo/BMW dealership that I didn’t know
Little did I know I would end up there the next
The following morning I began my quest. First
I stopped at two big Porsche dealerships that
merely slid my application under a tall stack of
others. No hope there.
My third stop was the Alfa dealer, Continental
Sports Cars. I walked in and asked for the sales
manager. I told him I was looking for a sales
position. He took me to the owner’s office. After
chatting with Charlie Nemeth for two hours, he
asked me when I wanted to start. I had found
a job. I signed a lease on an apartment that
afternoon, checked out of my hotel and headed
back to southern Illinois.
On September 7, 1976, the day after Labor
Day, I began my sales career at Continental
Who’d have thought a 24-year-old from
Dover, IL, would discover he could get paid to
share his passion for sports cars with people?
In 1977 I ventured north of the border to
attend Jim Russell Canada Driving School.
They invited the top two drivers from the
session back to race in their summer series.
That was Jacque Villeneuve, younger brother
to Ferrari F1 driver Gilles, and me.
Sales were going well and I was building a
following. In October of 1978, I organized a
trip to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix,
the first year it was held on the Île Notre-
Dame. I chartered a plane and flew with five
customers to Canada for the race. The city
went nuts when home town hero Villeneuve
won the race, his first
F1 victory for Ferrari.
And A Bird
I sold my first
Ferrari, a new 1981
308 GTSi, to one of
our longtime Alfa
Scotty was a
prominent attorney in
Columbus. It was a
traditional red/tan car.
A week after taking
delivery, he parked it in front of the showroom,
walked in and offered me a drive. My very first
in a Ferrari!
Excited, I climbed behind the wheel with
Scotty alongside. Fired it up, clicked the shifter
into first gear and headed west of Broad Street.
We entered westbound I-70 and the fun began.
Up through the gears I accelerated . . . through
the gated shifter . . . click, click, click. . .that
3-liter V8 singing its beautiful song. I gently
steered us around the 55 MPH moving pylons.
(Remember the national speed limit was 55
at the time.) Soon we were hurdling along
somewhere north of twice the double nickel.
One exit past the I-270 outer belt, I swung
off onto the cloverleaf for the return trip. We
merged on alongside an Ohio State Patrol car.
Sadly that little red Ferrari settled at the 55
MPH mark. The state trooper slowed and pulled
behind us. He eyeballed that shiny red 308 with
an Ohio temporary tag. He then moved right
another lane and signaled his intent to exit onto
southbound I-270. My mischievous passenger
turned to me and said “when I yell, you punch
it.” I down shifted to third and once the trooper
reached the point of no return I heard “punch
it.” And I did! That 308’s rear squatted down.