I spent a lot of time in a showroom at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and 26th Street in Santa Monica. It belonged to Otto Zipper and featured Ferraris that held me spellbound for hours at a time.
On the occasion of my first visit, there was a silver Berlinetta Lusso showing its profile to passers-by and behind it in an array was a 250 2+2, a 330 GT America and a 330 GT 2+2 (quad headlights)–a very generous offering for someone who had never seen a Ferrari up close. My only previous exposure had been to see Jill St. John’s Lusso in the paddock at Riverside Raceway through a pair of binoculars, which was pretty impressive, I have to say. Seeing these cars close up where the nuance of the design was highlighted by optimized lighting was like seeing your favorite paintings in the Louvre.
My host on those occasions was Trevor Hook, an Englishman’s Englishman, always well-presented and perhaps better suited to a Rolls-Royce showroom, he had aristocratic manners in the best sense and spoke in an impeccable ‘brochure’ vernacular referring to Pininfarina as the Maestro. It was Trevor who offered me my first ride in a Ferrari. I suppose he figured I’d invested enough time staring at and studying these cars that I should be accorded the privilege of a more dynamic experience. He selected the keys to a Bordeaux colored 250 GTE and off we went up Wilshire to a street that ran behind the Brentwood Country Club and featured a ninety degree right-hander that allowed him to demonstrate the Ferrari’s flat cornering capability at speed which, along with the seductive sound of the the V12 with its timing chains and canvas-ripping exhaust note (sorry about the cliché, but it’s how Trevor would have described it), was an unforgettable, landmark experience for me.
It would be awhile before I bought my first car which wasn’t a Ferrari but a Jaguar E-Type but that didn’t stop me from returning again and again to Otto Zipper’s to see what was new in the showroom. When I acquired my Berlinetta Lusso, it was to his shop on Wilshire that I took it for service. I remember developing a rapport with Mrs. Zipper who thought I should buy a Porsche 904 that they owned or was for sale by a customer. She was quite knowledgeable about the car and was convinced it would make an ideal street racer. As much as I liked it, it wasn’t Italian and didn’t have twelve cylinders.
When I bought the GTO, I wasn’t surprised to find that it had an Otto Zipper provenance. He had owned it when Richie Ginther raced it at Riverside where he finished fifth overall in the Times Grand Prix in 1964. One day, as I was waiting to collect the Lusso after some routine maintenance, I saw Otto standing in the far end of the shop in deep contemplation of what I think was a Porsche 906 parked in the corner. I was reminded of this quiet moment a lifetime later when I snapped a candid photo of Jim Glickenhaus in his shop in quiet reflection as he gazed at his cars. I’ve heard people say that “it’s just a car” but I could never think in those terms. Cars, like the people who get involved with them, give us a lot to think about.
[Source: Stephen Mitchell; photo courtesy of Bill Diller who can be seen as a young man standing with Otto Zipper]