Friday, January 14, 2011
My first Ferrari GTO (almost)
Back when I still had my first Ferrari Lusso, I began thinking about acquiring a 250GTO. I had seen one (3987) driving around on the streets of Brentwood and it had really gotten my attention with its looks and sounds. I began my search for a GTO but there weren't many to be found that were for sale. After months of looking, I found one advertised in the classified section of the Los Angeles Times where one could occasionally find exotics. The seller had an office at Paramount Studios and I raced over to see the car before anyone else could get to it. My expectations were high but they went unfulfilled. The car turned out to be a dark blue Lusso and the seller apparently didn't know the difference.
Somehow it came to my attention that Mario Tosi wanted to sell his GTO, which I recall as being Belgian racing yellow. I don't remember whether I heard about it from Sal di Natale or if Mario had advertised it in the Times, but I arranged to go see the car at his home in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the Sunset Strip. Mario was a cinematographer who later worked on one of my favorite films, The Stuntman directed by Richard Rush. His housemate Roberto was the inspiration for the syndicated cartoon series "Love is..." that was created by his girlfriend at the time. Roberto drove a Lusso.
I brought a friend along to see Mario's car and I offered her the first ride in the GTO with Mario. Roberto and I followed in my Lusso up Laurel Canyon to Mulholland where Mario turned west. Once we were on Mulholland, there was no way I could keep pace with the GTO. It simply disappeared around the first turn and though I was very familiar with that section of road and knew how to get the most from the Lusso, it was no match for the race car. A few miles further along, we crossed paths with the GTO as it was coming back after Mario made a U-turn. Perhaps I would see my friend again!
Mario's car looked every bit the race car it was. It was not pristine and looked as thought it had done battle. I loved it immediately. I was not aware of the individual characteristics of the car about which fellow enthusiast Ed Niles would later educate me--that Mario's was originally one of the 4-litre cars using, at the time of this encounter, a 3-litre Testa Rossa motor. I just knew that it was a very sexy car and I wanted it. I don't remember why, but I didn't buy Mario's car--perhaps the timing was wrong. Instead I bought 3987 for more money than Mario was asking and spent even more on rebuilding the engine.
The photos are by Chuck Queener.
Mario and I can be seen with our GTOs in the video "Ferrari GTOs at Willow Springs &..." where Mario's car had been repainted what Ed Niles calls "Resale Red".