My First Ferrari

Story by Stephen Mitchell

Ferrari 250 GT/LThe first time I saw a Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso was at Riverside Raceway where I was attending the Times Grand Prix. The Mecom team–which earlier had campaigned a GTO I would later acquire–was there with a one-off special named the Hussein for A.J. Foyt to drive. At one point, I noticed an interesting shape in the pits and used my binoculars to get a better look. It was a Ferrari Lusso and it was gorgeous. As it turned out, the car belonged to the actress Jill St. John who I would later encounter on the 405 freeway towing a cabin cruiser on a trailer with her Lusso.

When I bought my first Ferrari, it was a 250 GT Lusso I’d found in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was silver blue with French blue leather–an interesting combination that suited the car well. After having a Jaguar 3.8 E-Type, the Lusso was a revelation and the free-revving V12 made sounds and delivered performance that were inspiring to say the least. I think it could be said that I enjoyed the car to the maximum extent possible getting far more than just daily transportation from it.

Occasionally, my father would ask to borrow the car. I was in my last year of high school at the time, so this was a twist on the cliché of asking Dad for the keys to the car. He frequented jazz clubs in various parts of Los Angeles having been a jazz man from before the war. Often, I would go with him though I was underage. When I couldn’t go because of homework or some similar nuisance, I’d let him take the Lusso to complete his evening’s fun. One night on his way home, my father was stopped at a red light two blocks from home. Another driver ran the red light, hit a car that had right-of-way and they both caromed into the Lusso. My father wasn’t injured but the Lusso’s grill opening and the left front fender were damaged.

It was in this condition that my father and I drove to Las Vegas in the Ferrari 250 GT Lusso and took part in an all-Ferrari parade lap for the Stardust Grand Prix. The sight of the damaged Lusso attracted the attention of Henry N. Manney III whom I was pleased to meet as I was an avid follower of his writings in Road & Track magazine.

After the trip to Las Vegas, the Lusso went into the body shop where it was stripped to bare metal and resprayed Ferrari red. The interior was changed to black. I did this because the silver blue kept fading and I had already resprayed it twice. I can honestly say that it felt like the Lusso gained twenty horsepower with the color change.

I would not have sold the Lusso but for the chance to buy a GTO. Sal di Natale–who worked on the Lusso when it needed servicing–called to say he had a GTO in the shop and the owner wanted to sell. I never noted the Lusso’s serial number and it would be fun to be able to track its history both before and after I owned it. For the record, the California license plate was RSN915 should this help anyone to identify the VIN.

[Source: Stephen Mitchell; photo credit: Tim Scott / Fluid Images]

Show Comments (10)

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  1. Stephen,

    I think I know a bit how you feel. my first experience with a Lusso was as a child, Matchbox #75, in green. Even then I knew it was totally wrong for a Ferrari.

    Back in 1985, I bought my first, and only Ferrari, a 1980 GTSi. In five years I drove it 75,000 miles. It was literally my daily driver. I loved driving it so much. Even though I don’t know my driver’s license number, I remember it’s VIN, 34047. Would love to know where it is now.

    This is a long shot, not knowing exactly how long ago you owned your Lusso, but do you have any paperwork left somewhere, relating to its registration or title? If so, it should have the VIN.

    Great story, hope you’re able to track it down. You must be the only person who bought a 250 GTO before he turned 20.

    Richard Truesdell
    Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler Magazine, automotivetraveler.com

    1. Richard,

      I remember seeing an emerald green Lusso with red leather once and thought it was very striking!

      Unfortunately, no paperwork remains, however, yesterday I received an email from someone who may now be in possession of the car. He is checking a few detail but the car came to him painted red and the interior had previously been light blue. It seems likely.

  2. Stephen, it’s been many years since we first met at various FOC events.

    My first encounter with a Lusso was shortly after I arrived in L.A. in the Fall of 1967 to attend grad school at USC. Very shortly thereafter, I went to Zipper’s place on Wilshire and had to park my VW on the street one block south of Wilshire. Guess what was parked nearby — a silver Lusso which (as was required in those days) had a registration certificate strapped to the steering column showing the owner as “St. John, Jill” — I was blown away!!

    Yes, those great days of the FOC were forever etched in my memory. The gatherings (Christmas parties!) and outings were terrific; but, meeting all the great people like you, Helm, Niles, Culp, Ettinger, Queener, Ramlose, Bloomer, etc., etc. really made the whole thing incredible.

    One of my all-time regrets was not stepping up to the plate and buying your GTO in 1970 or 1971.

    In any event, thank you very much for sharing your Lusso experience with all of us — “keep the cards and letters coming!”

    George Carrick.

  3. George,

    So Jill St. John introduced us both to the Ferrari Lusso! I spent many hours in Otto’s shop at 26th & Wilshire looking at his inventory. In fact, it was his salesman Trevor Hook who gave me my first ride in a Ferrari–a 250 2+2 and I’ll never forget it.

    Speaking of Ed Niles, he recently accompanied me to San Marcos to interview Sharon Baker who prepped cars for Bill Stroppe for my documentary about the Carrera Panamericana.

  4. Stephan, thanks for your story on the Lusso and I look forward to your works on the GTO. I just got back from the Cavallino Classic. There were two Lussos on hand, but no GTOs this year. I am sure that with the resources within this forum, we can find your old Lusso out there somewhere. All the best to you too, George. You have a few stories of your own to tell. I hope Jill is out there happy and well also.

    Best regards
    Clem Simmons.

  5. Stephen, when you commented, “At one point, I noticed an interesting shape in the pits and used my binoculars to get a better look.” — was it really the Lusso or Jill? We’re all human!

    George.

  6. Thanks for sharing your memories – just curious to know if you had a bad experience with the E-Type as you seemed to have little to commend it ?!

  7. Ha – I spotted this post after doing a GTO search because my father had worked on one owned by Gordon(or is it Bud?) Culp. It’s nice to have spotted his name. I don’t remember meeting you, but I’m quite familiar w/ Ed Niles, Peter Helm and Culp. I also remember that Lyle Tanner was the guy to get parts from for quite a while. I doubt you remember me, I’d have been 3 years old in ’67.

    In addition to the ’59 LWB California, Bob went on to own a ’67 GTB4 and a ’79 308GTS (the later two I got to drive on occasion).

    Dan Ramlose (Bob’s youngest, Dinny’s only)