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Until he was 42, Tefft Smith happily took the train to his office at Kirkland & Ellis in downtown Chicago. That is, until the fateful day that his then-13-year-old son asked him, “Dad, are you a real lawyer?” “I said, �Yeah, I’m a real lawyer.’ And he said, �Dad, don’t real lawyers drive cars?’ ” Smith recalls. Instead of brushing off his teenage son’s challenge, Smith decided to buy a car. But not just any car — a “real” car. After first test-driving a Porsche 911 that just “didn’t sound cool,” he remembered being impressed at Brown University when a classmate’s father roared up the street in a red Ferrari. So, he and Tefft II drove out to Hindsdale, Ill., to test-drive a 1985 Ferrari 308 GTS (made famous by actor Tom Selleck in the television show “Magnum, P.I.”). “I turned to my son and said, �I’m buying this car,’ and I went instantaneously from being a geek to being an awesome dad,” says Smith, who says he was sold on the sound of the engine and the feel behind the wheel. The Kirkland senior litigation partner, who founded the firm’s Institute for Trial Advocacy in 1985 and heads up the firm’s antitrust practice, has four passions: family, the law, squash, and Ferraris. But of all those passions, only Ferraris have become something of an obsession for the 60-year-old. In fact, since that original purchase, Smith has gone a little Ferrari crazy. In his 11th-floor office just steps away from the White House, the tall, athletic, and tan-in-January lawyer decorates his office with Ferrari model cars and memorabilia. But the size of his collection is not completely his fault, he says: “Whenever anybody wants to buy me a gift, they buy me Ferrari-related stuff.” The man even uses a Ferrari back pillow on his office chair. But Smith also fuels the Ferrari collection. After all, the garage at his Hilton Head, S.C., house is bright red, with the Ferrari emblem painted on the floor. For Christmas last year, he gave his 2-year-old granddaughter, Alexandria, a Ferrari rocking horse. Overall, Smith and his wife own four Ferraris, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and a Jeep they’ve nicknamed “Jefari.” ALL FERRARI, ALL THE TIME For the interview, he’s dressed to the nines in what could be described as office-appropriate Ferrari attire. In place of the pinstripes on his custom-made navy suit, a tiny vertical white script repeats the words “Tefft Ferrari Harley” — in other words, his name, the car he loves, and the motorcycle he loves — again and again. To finish the outfit, Smith is wearing a pair of Ferrari cufflinks and a Ferrari watch. Since buying that first Ferrari, he’s gradually added to his collection. In 1994, he had his eye on a 1989 black Ferrari Testarossa (think of the car on “Miami Vice”) that happened to be in Phoenix. So, he asked his son to spend spring break with him, driving it to California. “That was so fantastic,” says Smith of the bonding experience of driving the car by the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and over to San Francisco. This was more than just another Ferrari. The Testarossa (which in 1985 retailed for about $94,000) was originally owned by Olympic track star Carl Lewis. Lewis received it as a gift from Enzo Ferrari, who wanted to promote what he considered the world’s fastest car — owned by the world’s fastest human. Since then, the obsession with cars has grown into a family affair. Both Smith and his wife-turned-navigator, Nancy, participate in the annual Ferrari Challenge Rally. The rally, which is a three-day event covering 110 miles each day, is an organized course in which drivers must cross checkpoints at specific times. A win at the Ferrari rally has eluded them. In 1998, Chicago-born Smith — who also happens to be an avid squash player ranked second nationally in the 55-and-older category — and his wife relocated to the Watergate in Washington, D.C. His son, an animator, now lives in Los Angeles and houses one of his Ferraris. That way, Smith can drive one when he is at Kirkland’s L.A. office. Smith continues to represent several high-profile clients, including Chiquita Banana in its antitrust case with the European Union; Dow Chemical Co. in the Department of Justice criminal investigation into alleged price fixing in the plastic additives industry; and Allstate Insurance Co. in its litigation connected to Hurricane Katrina. In 2000, soon after he and his wife moved, Smith was immersed in representing baby-food distributor Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. against the Federal Trade Commission, which opposed a merger between Beech-Nut and Heinz. At the time, Smith was taken with a yellow 1998 Ferrari 355, which, like Formula One cars, sports paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel that allow drivers to manually upshift and downshift. He told his wife that if he won the case, he was going to buy the car. But before the judge ruled in the case, Smith’s Ferrari dealer called him to come test-drive the car. “My wife and I test-drove it, and I said, �I really hope I win this trial,’ ” says Smith. In that case, said his wife, she would buy the car for him if he lost the trial. Instead, they decided to buy it immediately. Smith is certainly not the first lawyer to invest in a car fetish. Expensive passions usually come with salaries that can top seven digits. The late J. Stanley Mullin, a founding partner of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in Los Angeles, was well-known in the 1950s for racing sports cars at California’s Laguna Seca, Monterey, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara raceways. Unlike many collectors who don’t want to put miles on their cars, Smith says he probably puts about 20,000 miles on all the cars each year and spends at least $20,000 a year in upkeep. He doesn’t seem to be complaining. “The big thing about Ferraris is they are like women; they are high-maintenance,” he says jokingly. “It’s my worst nightmare to have all four in sick bays.” He often parks on the street in downtown Washington and allows people to borrow a car for charity events, as he did on a recent day at Walter Reed Memorial Hospital when vets could take a spin in one of his Ferraris. “I’m just a steward of works of art that I can share,” says Smith, who has never had a problem with someone breaking into or damaging his cars. ON THE ROAD Driving on an unseasonably warm January afternoon, Tefft comfortably moves the red Superamerica with a camel-colored leather interior onto the George Washington Parkway, maneuvering around cars. He’s relaxed behind the wheel, talking freely about his excursions. Twice, after swiftly maneuvering around cars, he checks to make sure I’m comfortable. The Ferrari receives its share of stares on the highway. And when Smith takes the car along Constitution Avenue on the drive back to the office, a few pedestrians snap quick photographs. Twenty minutes later, Smith is late for a meeting, and he’s a little disappointed that the heavy traffic prevents him from showing off the power and speed of his exotic ride. The Superamerica, the rarest car in his collection, is a 2005 limited-edition Ferrari. Only about 200 were sold in the United States. And because each dealership was allocated just five cars, Smith knew it was a long shot to get one. “I said, �Oh my God, I have to have this car,’ but it’s going to be limited production for the Jay Lenos and the Michael Jordans,” says Smith. “So I tell all the people I know, �I will do anything to have this car.’ “ Although Smith put a down payment on the car in January 2005, the dealer told him a couple months later that he wasn’t going to get it. Then in June, the dealer came back and told him he’d have it in two weeks. He decided to surprise his son. Smith remembers that when his son walked out to the parking lot and saw the Superamerica, he had just one reaction: “Dad, you are a real lawyer.” Although Smith says he’s probably done buying new Ferraris, he couldn’t help longing for a vintage car that could help him finally win the Ferrari Challenge Rally, which ends in Washington this year. Because the car would be in the vintage class, it would face fewer competitors and less-experienced racers. Two weeks ago, Smith got his wish. He bought a red rebodied 1961 Ferrari 250 GTO. Now, all he needs to do is wait for the rally in September.
Anna Palmer can be contacted at [email protected].

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