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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Renedezvous Redux? Reflections on Claude Lelouch

Written by Stephen Mitchell, Artwork by Chad Glass
French Translation follows English text

When Stephen Mitchell was recently introduced to VeloceToday by Wallace Wyss, he told us a bit about himself, mentioning Ferrari, film making, and Paris. We added this up and asked him his thoughts on, of course, Claude Lelouch’s film ‘Rendezvous’. Bingo!! We pressed the right button.

Mitchell was born and raised to have a Hollywood career–literally. A native of Los Angeles, he studied sound, cinematography and editing with department heads from CBS Cinema Center in Studio City, California where Steve McQueen had his Solar Productions. Working as an extra and in small speaking parts in Hollywood films, he practically lived on the set of the television series Mission: Impossible as a family friend directed many of the show’s episodes. Obviously a film career was in the making, but instead of Hollywood, Mitchell’s film career began in France. “I went to Paris because I saw a film by Claude Lelouch—“A Man and a Woman”. It showed me exactly the kind of film I wanted to be making and it wasn’t happening in Hollywood.” We’ll let Mitchell take it from here…
While my interest in films was already well established, strangely enough my passion for cars took root while I was recovering from a head-on collision on the Ventura Freeway. I wasn’t expected to live through the first night but, in the end, my father and I both survived. I read one Road & Track magazine after another, learning and becoming excited about Ferraris, Formula One and the incredible collection of personalities that populated those worlds. It was family friend and mentor Paul Stanley, the director who issued a standing invitation to visit the sets he worked on, who told me I should see A Man and a Woman. (1966)It had impressed him and he figured I would like it, too. That was an understatement.
I can’t say what impressed me most about the A Man and a Woman because there was so much hitting me at once. The beautiful Anouk Aimée with her reserved sensuality so different from that of American actresses cast a spell on me that never went away. The scenes of Jean-Louis Trintignant testing the Ford GT40 and the rally Mustang at Montlhéry (where the Ferrari GTO s/n 3987 I would later own won its first race driven by Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez on October 21 1962) definitely raised my pulse as did the section of the film dealing with the race at Le Mans. Even the hospital scenes resonated for me having “lived’ there for a time not too long before. I loved the scenes of the Monte Carlo Rally.

Anouk in the mid 1960s

A Man and a Woman was the first French film I ever saw though I also liked films like Jean-Luc Godard’sBreathless, Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le flambour and Le samouraï along with countless Italian films including Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life) and Federico Fellini’s 8½ (Otto e mezzo) which also featured Anouk Aimée. A Man and a Woman was innovative in presenting its story in a non-linear fashion with a mix of color and black and white footage. It was almost a documentary on cars and human relations in the way it came across to me. That film set me on a path to make my own first film years later in France and in French.
I had made the decision that I wanted to make French films so off I went to France. I wasn’t living in Paris for too long before I was told of a legendary short film shot by Lelouch. Friends in Paris who knew of my fascination with Lelouch and his films asked if I was aware of C’était un rendezvous.Surprised to learn that I hadn’t heard of it, they told me the story. Claude had risen early one morning, attached a movie camera to the front bumper of his car and sped half-way across Paris running red lights, dodging cars and pedestrians and speeding down the Champs-Élysées to finally make his way to the Butte Montmartre where one finds the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It was an exciting story to hear but it would be many years before I would actually see the film thanks to the Internet and YouTube. Though the film played in cinema houses as a short subject preceding the main presentation, there was no money to be made with Rendezvous. Making it was the act of someone who loved both filmmaking and cars, which describes Lelouch very well. The fact that it also describes me very well was not lost on me.

While living in Paris, I had gotten to know Jean Collomb who was Claude Lelouch’s lighting director on some of his most famous films. Jean was introduced to me by mutual friends and, during the time I lived in Paris, I came to meet many of the people who had worked with Lelouch—Lino Ventura, Françoise Fabian, Philippe Léotard, Charles Gérard, André Dussollier, Philippe Labro, Janine Magnan and Jean Mermet but I never met Lelouch himself. One of the things Jean told me was that Lelouch was not one to apply for shooting permits preferring to just show up and film the scene, the less said the better. This approach went wrong when Lelouch shot a scene on the Champs-Élysées where an actor dressed as a cop is shot and falls to the ground just as a bus load of real CRS riot police drove by (you know, the guys with the machine guns), but that’s a story for another time. All this goes to say that Lelouch did not bother with getting a shooting permit, the obligatory retired traffic cop or any sort of crowd control. This was guerrilla film-making born of the post-war Nouvelle Vague at its best.

Dubbing a Ferrari into the soundtrack of Rendezvous was a stroke of 
genius for it added glamour and mystery. The reality was that a Mercedes similar
 to this one was used to film the run, not a Ferrari.

Lelouch set off in his Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 on a morning in August 1976. Many–including me–believed, upon seeing the film that Claude was driving a Ferrari but he wasn’t. The belief came about because someone had expertly added and matched the sound of a Ferrari to the film’s soundtrack in post production. The one concession to safety was to position Elie Chouraqui, who worked as Lelouch’s assistant director and later directed his own films, near the guichets du Louvre with a walkie-talkie to warn Lelouch as he was about to cross the rue de Rivoli if there was any traffic. Fortunately there wasn’t, because the batteries on Chouraqui’s radio were dead.

A map of the 'Rendezvous' route found on the Internet.

35mm movie film comes in ten-minute rolls which meant that Lelouch had that much time to get to Montmartre or he would run out of film. At one point, as Lelouch nears Montmartre, he begins a turn into a street that he quickly aborts–a delivery truck was blocking the way and the film would have rolled out. Improvising, Lelouch carried on and took another route past the Cimetière de Montmartre (where I shot scenes for my movie Point of Departure), across the Place du Tertre ending up in front of the Sacre Coeur to meet his date (played by his wife) all before the ten minutes expired.

When the film played in cinema houses to enthusiastic audiences, it came to the attention of the police who summonsed Lelouch to the Préfecture de Police. In his autobiographyItinéraire d’un enfant très gâté (Itinerary of a very spoiled child), Lelouch describes the following exchange with the police official. “Give me your driving license,” Lelouch was ordered. A moment later, it was handed back to him as the official told him, “I promised I would take your license, but I didn’t say for how long,’ adding, “My children love your film.
The one constant in every Lelouch film is the obvious love of film-making. Watching any of Claude’s films, one gets the sense of how much fun he had making them. This was never more evident then with C’était un rendezvous. If you don’t know his work, may I suggest Toute une vie (And Now My Love), L’aventure, c’est l’aventure (Money, Money Money), Les Misérables and Roman de gare (Crossed Tracks). What , A Man and a Woman , C’était un rendezvousand all the other Lelouch films show us is what we go through to find, be and stay with those we love—even risking jail with a high-speed run across Paris.

'Rebel Rebel' author Marc Sonnery, far left, Carrera Panamericana 
co-procucer Jeanetta Dumouchel and Stephen Mitchell next to the 
ex-Mitchell GTO, now owned by Ralph Lauren.

As a filmmaker, Lelouch has had a great influence on me and my own exploits. My late teen years were characterized by a passion for movies and cars—at 16 I bought an E-Type Jaguar, at 17 a Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso and by 18 or so, I was driving a Ferrari GTO. In an earlier harmonic of Rendezvous, I drove my Lusso from Woodland Hills to Las Vegas in two hours, fifty-five minutes though without a camera mounted on the bumper. I raced my GTO on Mulholland with ABC series actor Peter Helm and friends in an episode that was filmed and could have been inspired by Claude Lelouch. My first film was titled—Montmartre—shot in France and in French no less. Extracts of it can be seen on YouTube Watch Montmarte When Lelouch races past La Place du Tertre, I can see where a scene from my Montmartre was shot.

Claude Lelouch in the 1960s. Perhaps he'll take up on Stephen's 
offer to recreate Rendezvous in a Ferrari Italia?
Now almost 75, Claude Lelouch continues to make films in his unique style. I too am still making movies, my last was shot in Paris, Cannes, Milan, Venice (Italy) and Monaco. More recently, I shot a documentary about the original Carrera Panamericana road races run from 1950-54 Watch youtube and I continue to work on a project about the GTO. I was privileged to be a co-producer on Addiction Incorporated, a documentary produced and directed by Charlie Evans Jr. I love documentaries but soon, I will be writing and directing another movie. Paris continues to be my second home and my first love. I was just there after attending the Cannes Film Festival and I am looking into establishing a film school somewhere in France.
As for C’était un rendezvous, today it is more popular than ever—a touchstone for those who love cinema, cars, Paris and adventure. The Internet and venues such as YouTube have given a life to the legend of Rendezvous which will be shared by our children and theirs. It won’t get old; defiance never does and audacity never will.
Could Rendezvous be made today? Yes and no. Yes, we could do it. No, I fear it would not have the same successful result. Surveillance cameras would be onto us before we reached La Place de l’Étoile and a police helicopter would be descending upon us by the time we reached Place de la Concorde.
If the opportunity arose, what car would I choose to make the run? A 458 Italia, I think. I’d love to hear the sound of the tires on those Parisian cobblestones and the echo of the Ferrari’s engine bouncing off the walls of those narrow streets. Imagining how such an adventure might play out, my friend Chad Glass, who did a superb job of illustrating the poster for my documentary Carrera Panamericana (1950-54) has sketched “my” Ferrari 458 Italia as we defy the laws of physics and Parisian traffic in a re-creation of Rendezvous.
Would I really make the attempt? Absolutely and I’d ask Lelouch if he’d like to go along for the ride.
In French
Le retour de « C’était un Rendez-vous? »
Réflexions sur Claude Lelouch
Par Stephen Mitchell
Art par Chad Glass
Serait-il possible de recréer le film mythique de Claude Lelouch, “C’était un rendez-vous»? Le réalisateur Stephen Mitchell utiliserait la nouvelle Italia.
Art original pour VeloceToday par Chad Glass.
Quand Stephen Mitchell a été récemment introduit à la VeloceToday par Wallace Wyss, il nous en a dit un peu plus sur lui-même, mentionné Ferrari, le cinéma, et Paris. Nous avons additionné tout cela et lui avons demandé ses pensées sur, bien sûr, le film de Claude Lelouch « C’était un rendez-vous ». Bingo!! Nous avions appuyé sur le bon bouton.
Mitchell est né et a grandi pour avoir une carrière à Hollywood, littéralement. Originaire de Los Angeles, il a étudié le son, la cinématographie et l’édition avec les chefs de service de CBS Cinema Center à Studio City, en Californie, où Steve McQueen avait sa societé Solar Productions. Travaillant comme figurant et aussi acteur dans des petits rôles parlés pour le cinéma Hollywoodien, il a pratiquement vécu sur le plateau de la série télévisée Mission: Impossible, étant donné qu’un ami de la famille avait dirigé de nombreux épisodes de la série. Bien entendu, une carrière au cinéma était en préparation, mais au lieu d’Hollywood, la carrière filmique de Mitchell a commencé en France. “Je suis allé à Paris parce que j’ai vu le film de Claude Lelouch « Un homme et une femme ». Cela m’a montré exactement le genre de film que je voulais faire et qui ne se faisait pas à Hollywood.” Nous allons laisser Mitchell commencer à partir d’ici …
Alors que mon intérêt pour les films était déjà bien établi, très étrangement ma passion pour les voitures a pris racine lorsque que je me remettais d’une collision frontale arrivée sur l’autoroute Ventura. Je n’étais pas supposé survivre à la première nuit mais, à la fin, mon père et moi avons tous deux survécu. J’ai lu le magazine « Road & Track » l’un après l’autre et devint excité par Ferrari, la Formule Un et l’incroyable collection de personnages qui ont peuplé ces mondes. C’était un ami de la famille et mentor Paul Stanley, réalisateur qui m’a délivré une invitation permanente à visiter ses tournages, qui m’a dit que je devrais aller voir « Un homme et une femme » (1966). Il était impressionné par ce film et a pensé que je l’aimerais également. C’était un euphémisme.
Je ne peux pas dire ce qui m’a le plus impressionné dans « Un homme un et une femme », parce qu’il y avait tant qui me touchait à la fois. La belle Anouk Aimée avec sa sensualité réservée si différente de celle des actrices américaines a jeté un sort sur moi qui n’a jamais disparu. Les scènes ou Jean-Louis Trintignant teste la Ford GT40 et la Mustang de rallye à Montlhéry (où ma future Ferrari GTO s/n 3987 a remporté sa première course, conduite par Ricardo et Pedro Rodriguez le 21 Octobre 1962) ont augmenté le rythme de mon pouls au même titre que la partie du film traitant de la course au Mans. Même les scènes de l’hôpital ont résonné en moi pour les avoir vécues un moment, peu de temps avant. J’ai adoré les scènes du Rallye Monte-Carlo.
« Un homme et une femme » a été le premier film français que j’ai vu mais j’ai aussi aimé les films comme « A bout de souffle » de Jean-Luc Godard, « Bob le flambeur » et « Le samouraï » de Jean-Pierre Melville ainsi que d’innombrables films italiens dont « Il Sorpasso » (La Vie Facile) de Dino Risi et 8 ½ (Otto e mezzo) de Federico Fellini dans lequel Anouk Aimée a également jouée. « Un homme et une femme » a été novateur dans la façon de présenter l’histoire, dans un mode non linéaire avec un mélange de séquences couleur et noir et blanc. C’était presque un documentaire sur les voitures et les relations humaines à la façon qui me paraît être juste. Ce film m’a mis sur le chemin pour faire mon propre film des années plus tard en France et en français.
J’avais pris la décision que je voulais faire des films français et donc je suis allé en France. Je ne vivais pas à Paris depuis longtemps, que l’on m’a parlé d’un court métrage mythique réalisé par Lelouch. Mes amis de Paris, qui connaissaient ma fascination pour Lelouch et ses films, m’ont demandé si j’étais au courant de « C’était rendez-vous ». Surpris d’apprendre que je n’en avais pas entendu parler, ils m’en ont raconté l’histoire:
Claude s’était réveillé un beau matin, attaché une caméra au pare-chocs avant de sa voiture et foncé à travers Paris en brûlant feux rouges, esquivant les voitures et les piétons, dévalé les Champs-Élysées pour finalement aboutir à la Butte Montmartre, où se trouve la basilique du Sacré-Coeur. C’était une histoire passionnante à entendre mais il aura fallu de nombreuses années avant que je ne puisse voir le film grâce à Internet et YouTube.
Bien que ce film ait été projeté dans les salles de cinéma comme un court metrage précédant le film principal, il n’y avait pas d’argent à se faire avec « C’était un rendez-vous ». C’était l’œuvre de quelqu’un qui aimait aussi bien le cinéma que les voitures, ce qui décrit très bien Lelouch. Je ne perdis pas le fait qu’il me décrivit très bien moi aussi.
Durant ma vie à Paris, j’avais rencontré Jean Collomb qui était le chef éclairagiste de Claude Lelouch sur certains de ses films les plus célèbres. Jean m’a été présenté par des amis communs et, pendant que j’ai vécu à Paris, j’avais rencontré beaucoup de personnes qui avaient travaillé avec Lelouch: Lino Ventura, Françoise Fabian, Philippe Léotard, Charles Gérard, André Dussollier, Philippe Labro, Janine Magnan et Jean Mermet, mais jamais Lelouch lui-même. Une des choses que Jean m’a dit, est que Lelouch n’était pas homme à demander des permis préférant simplement « apparaître » et filmer la scène… moins on en dit, mieux c’est. Cette approche s’est mal passée le jour ou Lelouch a tourné une scène sur les Champs-Élysées dans laquelle un acteur habillé en flic devait être abattu et tomber au sol et, lorsqu’un bus de vrais CRS (vous savez, les gars avec les mitrailleuses) est arrivé… mais ça c’est une autre histoire. Tout cela pour dire que Lelouch ne s’embêtait pas avec l’obtention de permis de tournage, d’agent de la circulation obligatoire ou toute sorte de contrôle de la foule. Ce fut la guérilla cinématographique, née de la Nouvelle Vague après-guerre, à son apogée.
Beaucoup ont cru en voyant le film, y compris moi-même, que Claude était au volant d’une Ferrari, mais il n’était pas. Cette croyance était née, car quelqu’un avait ajouté et synchronisé d’oreille experte le bruit d’une Ferrari à la bande sonore du film en post-production. La seule concession à la sécurité fut de poster Elie Chouraqui, qui a travaillé comme assistant réalisateur pour Lelouch et plus tard dirigé ses propres films, près des guichets du Louvre, avec un talkie-walkie pour avertir Lelouch si il y avait du trafic, alors qu’il s’apprêtait à traverser la rue de Rivoli. Heureusement qu’il n’y en avait pas, car les piles de la radio de Chouraqui ne fonctionnaient plus…
Les pellicules de cinéma en 35mm étaient disponibles en durée totale de dix minutes, ce qui signifiait que Lelouch avait juste ce délai pour se rendre à Montmartre, ou bien la pellicule se terminerait. A un instant du film, alors que Lelouch s’approche de Montmartre, il commence à tourner dans une rue qu’il doit rapidement éviter, un camion de livraison bloquant le chemin, pour éviter à la pellicule du film de se terminer. Improvisant, Lelouch prit une autre route depuis le Cimetière de Montmartre (où j’ai tourné des scènes de mon film « Point of Departure »), à travers la Place du Tertre finissant en face du Sacré Coeur pour retrouver son rancard (joué par sa femme) le tout avant l’expiration des dix minutes.
Quand le film est passé dans les salles de cinéma devant un public d’enthousiastes, il a attiré l’attention de la Police qui a convoqué Lelouch à la Préfecture. Dans son autobiographie « Itinéraire d’un enfant gâté » Lelouch décrit l’échange suivant avec le fonctionnaire de police: « Donnez-moi votre permis de conduire ». Quelques instants plus tard, le fonctionnaire de Police le lui rendit et lui dit: « J’ai promis que j’allais confisquer votre permis, mais je n’ai pas dit pour combien de temps”, puis ajoutant: « Mes enfants adorent votre film. »
La constante de chacun des films de Lelouch est l’amour évident de réaliser. Il suffit de tous les regarder et l’on comprends combien de plaisir il a pris a les faire.
Si vous ne connaissez pas son travail, je peux suggérer « Toute une vie », « L’Aventure, c’est l’aventure », « Les Misérables » et « Roman de gare ».
« Un homme et une femme », « C’était un rendez-vous » et tous les autres films de Lelouch nous montrent surtout ce que nous devons traverser pour trouver, être et rester avec ceux que l’on aime, risquant même la prison pour une traversée de Paris à haute vitesse.
En tant que réalisateur, Lelouch a eu une grande influence sur moi et mes propres exploits. Mes années d’adolescence ont été caractérisées par une passion pour les films et les voitures. A l’age de 16 ans, j’ai acheté une Jaguar Type E, à 17 une Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso et à 18 ans, je conduisais une GTO Ferrari. Dans une précédente version de Rendezvous, j’ai conduit ma Lusso de Woodland Hills à Las Vegas en deux heures, 55 minutes mais sans caméra montée sur le pare-chocs. J’ai fait courir ma GTO sur Mulholland avec l’acteur Peter Helm et des amis, dans un épisode qui a été filmée et pourrait avoir été inspiré par Claude Lelouch. (
Mon premier film était intitulé « Montmartre », tourné en France et en français, rien de moins. On peut voir des extraits sur YouTube ( Lorsque Lelouch arrive à La Place du Tertre, je peux reconnaitre où une scène de mon film « Montmartre » a été tournée avec une belle Jaguar.
Maintenant, à presque 75 ans, Claude Lelouch continue de faire des films dans son style unique. Moi aussi, je tourne toujours des films, le dernier ayant été tourné à Paris, Cannes, Milan, Venise (Italie) et à Monaco. Plus récemment, j’ai tourné un documentaire sur la course Carrera Panamericana originale de la période 1950-54 ( et je continue à travailler sur un projet au sujet de la GTO. J’ai eu le privilège d’être co-producteur sur le documentaire « Addiction Incorporated », produit et réalisé par Charlie Evans Jr. J’aime les documentaires mais bientôt je vais écrire et diriger un autre film. Paris continue à être ma deuxième maison et mon premier amour. J’ai été la bas après avoir assisté au Festival de Cannes et je cherche à fonder une école de cinéma quelque part en France.
Quant à « C’était un rendez-vous », il est aujourd’hui plus populaire que jamais, une référence pour ceux qui aiment le cinéma, les voitures, Paris et l’aventure. Internet et les sites tels que YouTube ont donné une vie à la légende de Rendezvous, qui sera partagé par nos enfants et les leurs. Il ne vieillira jamais : la défiance et l’audace ne vieilliront jamais aussi.
Est-ce que « Rendez vous » pourrait être faite aujourd’hui? Oui et non. Oui, nous pourrions le faire. Non, car je crains que le résultat ne serait pas le même, ce ne serait pas aussi réussi. Les caméras de surveillance seraient sur nous avant que nous ayons réussi à atteindre la Place de l’Étoile et un hélicoptère de la police serait descendu sur nous avant même que nous ayons rejoint la Place de la Concorde.
Si l’occasion se présentait, quelle voiture devrais-je choisir de faire la course? Une 458 Italia, je pense. J’aimerais entendre le bruit des pneus sur les pavés parisiens et l’écho du moteur de la Ferrari rebondir sur les murs des rues étroites. Imaginant à quoi une telle aventure pourrait ressembler, mon ami Chad Glass, qui fait un superbe travail d’illustration sur l’affiche pour mon documentaire sur la Carrera Panamericana (1950-1954) a esquissé « ma » Ferrari 458 Italia alors que nous défions les lois de la physique et de la circulation parisienne dans une re-création de Rendezvous.
Ferais-je vraiment cette tentative ? Absolument, et je demanderais à Lelouch si il souhaite faire partie de la balade.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ferrari 250 GTE and 330 GT to be Hunted to Extinction

There is evidence that the great Woolly Mammoth met its decline and ultimate decimation from the face of the Earth not by an asteroid, comet, pole shift, molten lava, Y2K, a 2012 death ray, or nuclear disaster. It was in all likelihood simply hunted off the planet, a majestic creation of Mother Nature erased from all existence by mankind. In man's relentless domination and neediness, the pristine becomes sullied, the delicate balance disrupted. And so it goes. 

In the Ferrari community it is well known (and often despised) that perfectly good original Ferraris, their engines and chassis and serial numbers, are sacrificed every year in order to feed the fringe-esque "replica market." No small feat, the cost to create another "Ferrari" from a donor car can be as much as buying a "real" Ferrari. But that clearly doesn't matter. What does end up being done is the dreaded "recreation" or "tribute car." Very often (or most often I would be willing to bet) what results is another "GTO." Why? Because.

With the obvious cadre of tasteless and bizarrely proportioned efforts built from scratch or on Nissan Z car chassis, the more expensive specimens created from actual Ferrari donor cars (namely the Ferrari 250 GTE and 330 GT), often command higher attention to detail, feature many original Ferrari parts (including the entire engine), and can have considerable value. With enough worksmanship, artistry, and serial number provenance, some "replicas" can be quite stunning. At this level they are, at least in part, actual or virtual "Ferraris." For example, the car below is the closest you can get to having an actual Ferrari GTO without it being one: 

(above: 1964 Ferrari GTO replica on 330 GT chassis, body by Scaglietti)
"For Sale: 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO Replica by Allegretti... The word ’replica’ doesn’t always have to be a negative one. Take this 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO Replica by Allegretti for example. Back in the 1970′s a German Ferrari collector discovered three Scaglietti Series I GTO bodies at the renowned Ferrari coachbuilders Allegretti. The bodies were produced to quickly replace damaged bodies of original 250 GTO’s used in races. One of these Scaglietti spare bodies was used to build a 250 GTO, chassis number 5815GT.
The base for the project was a Ferrari 330 supplied to Allegretti by the German Collector. It features a 3.9 liter engine producing 365bhp, with two overhead camshafts, six double carburettors and dry sump lubrication. When the replica was finished in 1979, it entered the German collection, where it has remained until now. Back then, the build cost the owner more than 1 million Deutschmark or € 500,000. 
Essentially, this car is an original Ferrari 250 GTO with a different chassis and engine. With the original Series 1 250 GTO’s being the most coveted collectors car of modern times, this replica is very special indeed. Coys says the car is in excellent condition, regularly serviced despite very little use. It has EU registration documents and so can be registered throughout the EU without further costs."
Blasphemy or just history? 
I think the lines can become blurred somewhere between then and now, between a body and parts ensemble crafted by artisans and craftspeople of old (as in the above example) --versus modern rip offs and blatant sacrifice of dwindling "lesser" models. So when will it stop? Answer: when there are no more Ferrari 250 GTEs and 330 GTs; they will be hunted to extinction. Why? Because. That's just the way it is. Unless the replica market ceases to exist, certain models of original cars will simply be destroyed every year until there are no more. Desire cannot be regulated. Money buys all. 
And, lo and behold, the impetus for this article: 
"A beaten-up old Ferrari that has spent more than 30 years languishing in a garage is set to sell for £60,000."
From February 20, 2012:
(above photo: unrestored Ferrari 250 GTE found after sitting since 1975, formerly owned by Dino De Laurentiis)
We all love the "barn find" story, if not only for its archetypal sense of mystery and curiosity. There is a romantic atmosphere around the diamond in the rough, rather, the glorious diamond that once was, became abandoned, traversed decades sitting in neglect --to then be discovered, recovered, and resurrected. A vintage car's return to glory can be both a reverence to history and a recapturing of a time that many may have never experienced. A showroom-condition old car can be amazing. A vintage mint Ferrari is magical. A vintage mint original Ferrari is sublime. 

Indeed, I hope I am wrong, but instead of this: 

(above photos: fully restored Ferrari 250 GTE, chassis 4329, currently for sale)

We will get this: 
(above photo: fake GTO, body by redneck)

Behold: The Ferrari 250 GTE and 330 GT: To be hunted to extinction. Were I the reader of means and intent and passion, I would take the next 250 GTE or 330 GT barn find and sock them away in another barn. Their original state will eclipse in value and sentiment any replica they assume in their butchered form. 

Comments are always welcome. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pininfarina: When Insolvency and Death End the Romance

(above photo: Pininfarina Hyperion concept based on Rolls Royce Drophead Coupe)

Although most commonly known as Ferrari's main body design agency, Pininfarina is a diverse company whose past and present clientele includes: Alfa Romeo, British Leyland, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Cisitalia, Citroen, Daewoo, Fiat, Fiat-Abarth, Ford, GM, Hafei, Honda, Jaguar, Lancia, Maserati, Mitsubishi, Nash Healy, Peugeot, and Volvo. 

From their site: "With a history dating back to 1930, Pininfarina is now one of the major suppliers of design, product and process engineering and manufacturing of niche vehicles on the automotive scene. Backed by the experience, creativity and innovation that have always been the main hallmarks of its business, Pininfarina now acts as partner also in sectors of  product and interior design and extra-automotive means of transportation. Following the growth and internationalization of the Group, Pininfarina now has facilities in Italy, Germany, Sweden, Morocco and China. Company customers include leading auto-makers."

Certainly, the company most closely associated with Pininfarina is Ferrari. Since 1952 a total of 163 different types of Ferrari are Pininfarina designs, including the 250 GT Coupe, Dino 246 GT, Daytona, Testarossa, F40, F50, 360 Modena and the fantastic Ferrari P4/P5. 

The genesis of this alliance goes something like this: According to Sergio Pininfarina (the son), Enzo Ferrari and Battista Pinin Farina had been acquaintances for a long time, dating back to Ferrari and Pininfarina's days with Alfa Romeo before World War 2. As the 1950s began, both were very interested in working with the other. But out of vanity and ego, each refused to visit each other's factory.  

After a time, the impasse became recognizable among employees. Eventually, Ferrari sales manager Girolamo Gardini broke the stalemate by proposing the men meet halfway, between Modena and Turin in the town of Tortona. Over lunch, the two men formed the basis of the Ferrari-Pininfarina relationship that has become a mainstay of contemporary Italian culture. It was a small, intimate, affair with only two other people there: Sergio Pininfarina and the aforementioned Gardini. The rest, they say, is history.

But how things have changed since the booming, post-war 1950s: The romanticism and heyday has given way to global recession/depression and the bottom line is ever falling to an ever deepening bottom. Indeed, pretty car bodies will always command attention, with Pininfarina's place in history and relevance firmly established. In both vintage and modern form, to have the car graced with the flowing magic of Pininfarina's handiwork is a hallmark of pride and taste. It must not be overlooked that such branding began, and is perhaps ending, with the hard-won and unique labors of highly creative people, living breathing human elements whose combined forces rose to mythical and legendary status. 

Odds, adversity, resistance, can pose tremendous challenges to the entrepreneur at any stage of fiscal or social standing. In this manner, dues are forever paid. And it is often the challenges that engender the greatest moments of triumph and human ingenuity. They say (whomever they are): "It's not the kill but the thrill of the chase." And after claiming victory the prize is that much sweeter when defeat was looming near at any moment during the journey. 

As is the case with both Ferrari and Pininfarina, they began as tiny operations, as unknowns. Indeed, the cottage industry is the underdog against the faceless monoliths of the deep-pocketed competition. The well-heeled and well-funded enterprises are distant goals to the fledgling companies whose dreams outreach their grasp. And when success meets the little guy, the trials and obstacles along the journey can be discussed over drinks and dinner, in celebratory hindsight and reminiscence.

But despite all the aforementioned, it is, likewise, the human element that ultimately sows the seeds of destruction. In the case of Pininfarina, I think the already tenuous state dislodged the firm's sense of its own well being. Alas, morale in general matters a great deal to a team, and the death of Andrea heralded the end of an era. A sense of family cohesion and purity of design ethos matters in the longevity of a boutique design company. And like an athlete sustaining injuries to the body, the constitution and fabric of an organization can be compromised, bit by bit, if enough tragedy pays a visit. And then, in terminal cases, the shoe drops in finality.

Beginning of the End
excerpt from 7th August 2007:
"Italian design firmPininfarina is in serious financial trouble. The company has lost 39.1 million euros in the first nine months of this year, an increase of 22.8 million euros over the same period in 2006.

"Pininfarina has designed (and built) some of the best looking cars in the world today, such as the Ferrari Enzo, Maserati Quattroporte, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Volvo C70, Ferrari 599, Ford Focus CC and most recently, the Maserati GranTurismo.

"Pininfarina now hopes to search for new partners in its contract manufacturing activities such as its recent deals with Volvo and Ford. Surveys have found that the Pininfarina name is the biggest asset for the company, a reputation the company will surely exploit."

excerpt from 7th August 2008:

"The motor industry is in mourning today after Andrea Pininfarina, chairman of the historic chassis company which designed some of the best-known Ferraris, was killed in a traffic accident. Pininfarina, 51, was killed instantly near Turin after his Vespa scooter collided with a Ford Focus driven by Giuliano Salmi, 78, after he failed to give way and cut in front of him.

"Salmi was said to be in a state of deep shock following the accident and other witnesses said he had swerved to avoid a lorry unloading sand and an investigation was launched by traffic police."

(above photo: Andrea Pininfarina with Ferrari P4/P5, commissioned by James Glickenhaus)

Seeing the writing on the wall well ahead of time, entrepreneur, car collector, and magnate James Glickenhaus, visionary behind the P4/P5, recalls a deal he proposed with Pininfarina, a while prior to Andrea's untimely demise in 2008: 

A few years ago I sat with Andrea who had come to realise that there were big problems.

I told him there was only one way out. We'd walk into the Bank and throw the keys on the table and make the following offer.

"You take everything but the farm house a few Museum cars and the Pininfarina name for Design. I'll fund it and you get 49 percent."

Andrea told me he couldn't do that. "Jim you don't understand. My family name. I can't walk away if they say no."

I told him that if he didn't he'd lose the company anyway. He nodded and said: "We'll see...We'll talk"

If he hadn't died way too young who knows?

Do Not Pass GO, Do Not Collect 200 Dollars
excerpt from Tue Feb 14, 2012

"Italy's Pininfarina family is set to lose control of the eponymous car design company as lengthy debt restructuring talks head toward the finish line, people familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

"Pininfarina, designer of dream cars like the Ferrari FF, posted a 16.9 million euros loss in the first nine months of 2011 after closing its manufacturing operations to re-invent itself as a smaller niche design player.

"An agreement with creditor banks including Intesa Sanpaolo , UniCredit, Mediobanca and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena to restructure net debt of 76 million euros is on track and will be reached in the coming months, said three sources close to the situation.

"The debt situation is stable and the talks are not contentious, so there is no hurry," said one of the sources, speaking on condition anonymity. "The agreement will fix the capital structure for the foreseeable future.

"When finalised, the debt accord will give control of the family's 77 percent stake to its creditor banks, ending the Pininfarina family's ownership of the influential design house founded by onetime Turin carriage maker Gianbattista 'Pinin' Farina in 1930.
"Despite having its name on some of the most glamorous cars in the world, the Pininfarina family generally keeps a low profile.

"Andrea Pininfarina, the founder's grandson, died in a scooter accident in 2008, aged 51, while on his way to the company's factory in Cambiano, outside Turin."
Winds of Change
As in any death, the measure of the loss is gauged by the emotional investment. To many in the automotive community the de facto passing of a design icon is somewhat unbelievable. Pininfarina became larger than life, particularly in its seemingly mythical tale and dance with Ferrari. It is inevitable, perhaps, that everything must pass. But it just isn't any easier to accept when it actually happens. 
What guise Pininfarina assumes has yet to be seen, if it actually continues. But with the death of Andrea, the spirit and financial integrity of the original company severely compromised, it can only be, at best, a shell of its former self. The cold grip of debt and legalistic takeovers by banking institutions has apparently driven the coffin nails through the wonderful phenomenon that was once known as Pininfarina. Rest in peace to you, Pininfarina, with utmost respect.