My life seemed to be on a course that was pretty well set. I would regularly travel to England and or Italy to buy cars and sell them in Los Angeles. In between trips, I bought and sold Corvettes. I lived in one of those stilt homes on the side of the hill above Coldwater Canyon with a stupendous view of the entire San Fernando Valley. My girlfriend worked at William Morris and, inexplicably, I'd already been paid to write two screenplays though I hadn't sought the assignments. My carport covered a couple of Maserati Mistrals and the driveway hosted a Corvette and a Maserati Quattroporte. A friend made the observation that I had it all. How interesting it is to hear how another views one's circumstances. Paris was still a few years away and that would handle what I felt was lacking in my life but at that moment, I was living the life of cars.
I really liked the Quattroporte and it was usually my first choice when selecting a car to drive for the day. I bought it in Milano from Robbie Crepaldi and I loved the sound of the four cam V8 engine. It was an unusual car for the time with its sports car handling and four door body. As a sports car, it should have been faster but for a sedan it was quick enough. I drove it for two weeks after it landed on the docks in Los Angeles before I discovered where they'd put reverse in that five speed gear box--a spring-loaded dog-leg up and to the left of first gear. The Frua design was familiar and unusual at the same time. The car seemed smaller in life than in photos. It had a rich leather interior that belonged in a Rolls-Royce. I would go for long rides in the car, usually at night. Sometimes my father would tag along.
I found it interesting that my father came to like the Quattroporte because he tried to talk me out of buying it. He was with me in Italy where we'd gone to the Italian Grand Prix with Stuart and Beverly Baumgard, visited the Ferrari factory and sampled pretty much everything Milano had to offer. One night when I was under the weather, my father went out alone and ended up joining a parade that turned out to be a mass demonstration by the Italian communist party. They all ended up in a park eating spaghetti, drinking wine and listening to jazz until the sun came up. On another occasion, I told a taxi driver we wanted to go to a jazz club and we ended up in a nightclub with some spectacular looking women who all seemed to want our company. It didn't take us too long to realize the taxi driver had delivered us to an upscale maison close instead of the jazz club I had requested. We enjoyed a memorable three hour lunch with Tom Meade while waiting to see some Maseratis in Parma where we were joined by the proprietor of the restaurant. We witnessed an operatic scene in Milano's Stazione Centrale at two-thirty in the morning when a man followed his suitcase-bearing wife into the train station pleading with her not to leave him. Half-way up the monumental stairway they drew a crowd--Lord knows from whence all those people had come at that hour--cheering and encouraging her to return home with him (after much coaxing, she did). We danced with fashion models (it was catalog week) every night at the Nepenthe. We chatted amiably with the elegantly dressed Christian, an impoverished Italian nobleman-turned-car smuggler (he looked like Curt Jürgens), at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele over our afternoon coffee. We enjoyed ourselves for an entire month in Italy and maybe that is why my father came to like the Quattroporte as much as I did.
These photos show my father with Tom Meade in the distance and me with Beverly and Stuart Baumgard (who then owned GTO 3987) at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
I have been back to Milano-- shooting part of a movie on one occasion--and so much of the city is exactly as it was when I was buying cars but the circumstances have changed. It is funny how the thought of a car can conjure up so many memories.
DESIRE CAUGHT BY THE TRAIL
3 days ago