It's a cliche to say that Angelenos are jaded to exotic cars due to their omnipresence on our sun-soaked avenues, but the fact is, we ARE. When I first moved to L.A. in 1999, I was already in the habit of keeping a notebook in which I logged amazing cars I had seen on the road. After two weeks here, I threw it away...it was just impossible to keep up. Nowadays, a Mercedes SLS or McLaren MP4 is met with a resounding "meh" as it hustles past on Wilshire Boulevard. Jaded? Certainly.
So it was that we went to the Petersen Museum's Ferrari Birthday Cruise-In expecting to be underwhelmed. After all, in L.A., 458 Italias are used as daily drivers. For an enthusiast craving something authentically awesome, something with a bit of history, something more than mere automotive jewelry, would the Petersen meet have anything to offer?
Yes. Oh lord, yes.
Arriving at the Petersen's parking deck, we were greeted by the expected bevy of late-model V8 Ferraris and their "licensed apparel"-clad owners...and this: one of sixty-four 330GTSs, tastefully shot with deep, lustrous black paint and rolling on an immaculate set of Borrani wires. Getting a decent photo of the 330 was difficult, as it was surrounded constantly by a curious crowd...apparently, we weren't the only ones looking for diamonds among the rubies.
As we were trying (rather unsuccessfully, we'll admit) to line up a great shot of the 330GTS, the unmistakable rip-and-crackle of a Colombo V12 came echoing off the walls of the Petersen garage. We turned to find an incredible 250GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta wheeling into position, being tailed by a half-dozen guys bearing professional camera rigs. It's impossible not to be moved in the presence of a legendary machine like this, one that made the surrounding 360s and F430s look like so many Buicks.
Besides these titanic classics, most of the popular favorite Ferraris were on hand, including assorted Dinos, Daytonas, Boxers and even a sprinkling of 275GTBs. However, even in this heady company, we were surprised by the pull of a single fantastic 1977 308GTB. Yes, the 308 spent many years as the "entry-level" Ferrari, and the "Magnum P.I." association took a long time to shake off, but with a few decades worth of perspective, we can finally see the 308 for what it is: one of Pininfarina's best designs, and one of the prettiest sports cars ever to hit the road (at least, in Berlinetta form.)
However, if pressed to pick a single favorite from the Petersen Ferrari Cruise-In, we'd have to go with this fantastic 1956 410 Superamerica. One of only sixteen first-series Superamericas produced, this example was originally owned by Kaiser Bao Dai, emperor of Indochina, serving as his personal conveyance after an intriguing relocation to France. The car eventually wound up in the hands of American collector Tom Shaughnessy, minus an engine. As it was displayed with the hood closed at the Petersen, we don't know if one has since been fitted, but we DO know this: the car's originality and patina were a wonder to behold. Pitted, pockmarked, scratched and worn, it was exactly the sort of vintage Ferrari we'd like to spend the day dancing with on a long and winding road...hopefully with an engine aboard.
So, the Petersen Ferrari Cruise-In. Yes, it was rife with "garden variety" recent models and the fleece-wearing men who love them. But there were also enough really great cars on hand to make it a worthwhile event for the thoughtful enthusiast who prefers diamonds to rubies.