GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Monday, October 15, 2012

GTO 3987 and the Ferrari Breadvan

The photo above is the starting grid of the 1962 1000km de Paris at Montlhéry. It was GTO 3987's first race entered for Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez by Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team. It can be seen on the front row of the grid and it won the race. Also on the grid is the famous Ferrari Breadvan, Count Volpi's Ferrari 'hotrod' that did the GTO one better by being lighter, lower and having the engine further back in the chassis to improve weight distribution. Though it had to make do with the 4-speed gear box of the underlying SWB 2819GT, the aerodynamics were, no doubt, an improvement as the car's frontal aspect had been reduced. It was driven by Ludovico Scarfiotti and Colin Davis (son of the legendary 'Bentley Boy' and Le Mans winner Sammy Davis) and finished third behind the GTO of John Surtees and Mike Parkes.

This is particularly interesting to me as it was not the last time GTO 3987 and the Breadvan spent time in each other's company. For a number of years, my good friend Matthew Ettinger owned the Breadvan and it was during the time I owned 3987. We spent a lot of time speeding along southern California highways together at all hours of the day and night and our adventures with those two cars could (and will) fill a book.

(Stephen Mitchell with Matthew Ettinger taken last week at the Elysée Wednesday gathering.)

When I first owned the GTO, I wasn't conscious of its racing history other than to know that it had raced. Also, I had no awareness of the Breadvan's rich history, of how it came to be and who had created it out of a short wheelbase Ferrari Berlinetta. It was much later that I learned that Giotto Bizzarrini--the father of the GTO, if you will--had transformed it for Giovanni Volpi into a GTO substitute.

If nothing else, auto racing is a consideration of longevity. Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez and Ludovico Scarfiotti were killed in racing accidents. Mike Parkes was killed in a road accident. Giotto Bizzarrini's relationship with Ferrari--the company and the man--came to an end in November 1961 when he was part of the legendary walkout in support of sales manager Girolamo Gardini. Gardini had been summarily fired by Ferrari along with Scuderia Ferrari manager Romolo Tavoni and chief engineer Carlo Chiti.

The memories of these two cars and the events surrounding them persist and the cars themselves have become mythic--icons of a Golden Age, you might say. That Matthew and I remain friends after the passing of decades is significant and our love of Ferrari automobiles continues unabated. An uncommon longevity.

The video I originally included in this post of the two cars at the 1000KM of Paris no longer exists on YouTube, so I am replacing it with some footage Peter Helm shot of me in the GTO with sound...


Vic said...

Another great story on your GTO! I enjoyed the video you included as well. Too bad the folks who created it didn't edit it with some period music as the projector sound, although a nice touch at first, sounded like a jack-hammer after a few minutes.

If invited, I would one night like to make the drive out to the strip and meet you and your band of merry men (and ladies) at Elysée Wednesday.

Stephen Mitchell said...

Thank you, Vic. I lowered the sound after the first minute!

You are most welcome to join us any Wednesday!

Vic said...

Thank you, Stephen. I will take you up on your kind invite and join your Wednesday gathering, hopefully sometime soon, rather than later.

Mike Gulett said...

Very cool - love it!

Anonymous said...

very good!