True devotion

True devotion

Kazuo Maruyama is Ferrari's first ever Japanese client. He tells his story

Words: Peter Lyon

Kazuo Maruyama has lived a Ferrari life. Born in 1948, a year after the Company first opened its doors, he has owned a dozen Maranello cars over the years. He has met Enzo Ferrari, owns a Concours-winning 275 GTB/4 and has his sights set on a 250 GTO.


‘To be honest,’ Maruyama smiles, ‘my first scheduled meeting with Enzo Ferrari didn’t happen. It was my fault. When I first visited Italy in 1974, I had set up a meeting with Il Commendatore to discuss the factory restoring my 275 GTB/4. But I stood him up. Yes! Unfortunately, I’d been delayed at the De Tomaso factory and when I got to Ferrari’s HQ he’d already gone home.’


Fast-forward nine years. ‘I will never forget the day I did finally meet Enzo. It was at the 1983 Ferrari Racing Days event in Maranello. He immediately knew who I was. Il Commendatore’s voice was low-pitched, rhythmic and mysterious, kind of what I’d imagine the Pope to sound like. I cherished every word he said, even though my Italian wasn’t that good.


‘He told me, “You’re that persistent guy who had us restore some of his cars. It would have been good to meet you in more relaxed circumstances, not at a busy event like this, so we could chat some more. It’s a shame you didn’t keep that first appointment.”’

Maruyama during a visit to Maranello in the 1970s
Maruyama during a visit to Maranello in the 1970s

Before he realised his LM dream, Maruyama bought a 275 GTB that was registered in 1966, making it the first Ferrari officially recorded in Japan, and making 2016 the 50th anniversary of the Prancing Horse in the country. Maruyama sold it before purchasing a 275 GTB/4 in the early 1970s. It was then that he came up with an idea that would lead him on a frustrating but rewarding odyssey to Maranello.


The 275 GTB/4 needed restoration. ‘But rather than take it to any old classic-car repair shop, I thought of taking it to Ferrari HQ directly. What better place to get the best and most original restoration than at the Company who built the car?’


On his first trip to Ferrari HQ, the staff told him to turn around and go home. Undeterred, Maruyama wrote letters, some addressed directly to Enzo, and kept going back each year. After six trips, Ferrari declared that Scaglietti would borrow the 275 GTB/4’s mould from Pininfarina and that would be given to the coachbuilder Vignale to do the work in a two-year timeframe.

Keen to get his 275 GTB/4 restored, Maruyama's persistence eventually paid off
Keen to get his 275 GTB/4 restored, Maruyama's persistence eventually paid off

Maruyama turned 32 around this time. To celebrate, he bought the car he’d always wanted, a 250 LM. Why wait until his 32nd birthday? ‘They only made 32 of them.’ Once again, a milestone in Maruyama’s life meets a milestone in Ferrari’s history. The same pattern appeared when he turned 40. An F40.


So is the 275 GTB/4 his last classic Ferrari? ‘Not on your life. I have one more dream to realise. I want to buy a 250 GTO, one of the most outstanding Ferraris ever made.’ That model also just happens to be one of the most expensive classic cars today, with one example being sold at auction recently for $38million (€34.4m). ‘Yes it’s expensive, but I will find a way to get my hands on it, and within the next four years.’


What does he think about Ferrari’s 50th anniversary in Japan? ‘I was born when Ferrari opened its doors. I was mesmerised by a 250 LM in 1963. I bought a 275 GTB, convinced Ferrari to restore my cars, bought an F40 on my 40th birthday, owned a dozen Ferraris altogether and now I am waiting to cap that off with a 250 GTO in a few years.


‘And during that 50 years, I only have one regret, that I was not able to meet Enzo on that first occasion. But I made up for that nine years later. In honouring his memory, I wish Ferrari Japan success for the next 50 years.’