This Filmmaker Acquired A Ferrari 250 GTO In 1968

This Filmmaker Acquired A Ferrari 250 GTO In 1968

Known as @n3actes on Instagram and fond of sharing his exotic car ownerships, filmmaker Stephen Mitchell owned a great number of notable cars through the years. One of them is the Ferrari 250 GTO s/n 3987GT…

My name is Stephen Mitchell and I like Ferraris. I came to appreciate them after I survived a head-on collision on the Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles and spent a month in the hospital with a very few television channels, a record player with some Elvis 45s and as many car magazines as I could get my hands on. I wasn't yet old enough to drive but the articles by Henry N. Manney lll, Denis Jenkinson (or DSJ as he signed them) and David E. Davis in which the European racing scene, exotic sports cars of the time and the chicanery of the Machiavellian Scuderia Ferrari were detailed and, perhaps, romanticized to a degree, captured my imagination.

First encounters

Too young to drive, my fascination with Ferrari focused on their design aesthetic, the legendary nature of Ferrari himself, his designers and engineers and the epic results they were enjoying on the race track. When I came of age and was old enough to drive, Trevor Hook, a salesman at Otto Zipper's Ferrari dealership in Santa Monica offered me my first ride in a Ferrari--a 250GT/E 2+2. That did it!

One day, I was riding in the family Cadillac--still too young to drive at this point--when I see what I recognized as a Ferrari 250GTO going the opposite direction. It looked and sounded fantastic, was red and had two orange pit lights on the roof like one sees at Le Mans or Daytona. I wanted that car!

A few years later, I bought my first car, a gorgeous canary yellow Jaguar E-Type coupe which nearly bankrupted me with repairs. I sold it and bought a Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso that, ironically, I could afford to own and drive.

Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso

Photo: Barbara Day

Insurance money from the accident and some part-time movie work made it possible. I was in my element. Everything about the Ferrari made perfect sense to me and the way it drove was a vast improvement over the Jaguar. The design was sublime and it offered all the performance I could ask for. I was 17 years old.

Seeing the 250 Breadvan

Ferrari Breadvan

Photo: Gary Wales

One evening, I attended my first Ferrari Owner's Club dinner in Santa Monica. I'd never seen so many Ferraris together in one place and during the course of the evening, encountered two 'forces of nature' that would become intertwined with my life as I grew into adulthood--Matthew Ettinger and the Ferrari Breadvan. For reasons best known to himself, Matthew was dressed as an Arab sheik and was being pushed by his wife at the time in a wheelchair and with plaster casts on both his legs. A drunk driver drove onto the sidewalk as Matthew was changing band names on the marquee of his nightclub knocking him off his ladder and into the hospital.

After dinner, in the parking lot, I discovered the Ferrari Breadvan, still owned by film editor Asa Clark at the time. It was an interesting car with more history than I could have imagined at the time. That night, there was no hint of how both of these encounters would shape my future with some extraordinary adventures and lead to my inclusion in Marc Sonnery's wonderful book Rebel Rebel: Breadvan: The Most Recognizable Ferrari in the World decades later.

 Ferrari Breadvan

Photo: Matthew Ettinger

So much for the backstory. As much as I loved the Lusso, I had never forgotten the sight of that red GTO on San Vicente Blvd. as it went by. I decided to see if I could find a GTO to buy. It wasn't easy. Some producer at Paramount Studios listed one in the classified section of the Los Angeles Times. I went to look at it but, inexplicably, it turned out to be a Lusso. I kept looking.

Buying the GTO

Eventually, I found an ad for a yellow GTO owned by Mario Tosi who was a cinematographer living in the Hollywood Hills above the Sunset Strip. I drove my Lusso to his house and followed Mario along Mulholland Drive as we went for a road test. "Don't try to keep up with him," Mario's friend who also owned a Lusso warned me, "You won't be able to."

I didn't buy Mario's car (which can be seen in 'resale red' in the Peter Helm film I edited and narrated titled Ferrari GTOs at Willow Springs &...). For a number of reasons that I couldn't put my finger on, it wasn't the right car for me. Extraordinary reaction, given that finding a GTO was not an easy task.

And then the mountain came to Muhammad, so to speak. I received a call from my mechanic, Sal DiNatale, who tells me he has a GTO in his shop for repairs and the owner wants to sell it. Instinctively, I said to Sal, "Tell him it's sold." I didn't even ask about the price! I jumped in the Lusso and raced to Sal's shop to find that the GTO was the very same one with the orange pit lights on the roof I'd seen on San Vicente Blvd. so long ago. This was entering into the the metaphysical...

Ferrari 250 GTO

Photo: Larry Crane Photography

The 'repairs' to which Sal referred was a complete engine rebuild. The owner, who I was informed was a music producer for Sonny & Cher, had cooked the engine when an oil line leading to the oil radiator failed. For reasons I cannot adequately explain, this didn't deter me. I bought the car but it would be nine months before that GTO left Sal's garage under its own power. I paid $7K for the car and an additional $3K for the rebuild and having the paint taken down to the metal and re-sprayed.

Ferrari 250 GTO

Photo: Larry Crane Photography

Written by Stephen Mitchell.


  • Timothy Hunold

    RIP Stephen, I miss those weekly dinners with you, Ettinger, and all the old racers.

  • John Andrews

    Mitchell – YES, it is me !!! Still kickin’ breathin’, and sometimes complainin’ !
    And I am well aware that no-one pays attention or gives a S_ _ t either way!
    I also hope this brief note finds you in good health and spirits but l am worried
    about your memory. I don’t seem to recall your ever driving my Lamborghini
    Miura which you mentioned In one of your recollections about when you were
    Nite-crawling with Matt Ettinger. You In the GTO and Matt in the BreadVan !
    As I remember we 3 were in Ice Canyon coming down hill – you first, me next,
    AND – wait, no Matt ? He had spun out, and the loose battery in the B-Van
    disconnected ! So, no power, no lights, just pitch black !!! And we found that
    Matt had stopped about ONE-Foot! Short of a drop into a 300ft deep canyon !!
    Just another nite of driving great cars when you’re young and gas was cheap ..
    Them days are just memories now!! STEPHEN, please call me, my cell number
    Is (951) 455 – 6376. I’m still in Calif. Maybe we can do some coffee ? – John
    P.S. I don’t do e -mails


  • Patty Ewald

    Stephen Hi! So glad to find you here. Hope you are well. Would LOVE to hear from you, catch up from where we left off re GV, et al. He got married, BTW! I am in Connecticut, writing full time. Please reply to my email: Or text or call, 917 817 8042. Same details you probably already have. I tried an email I had for you, think last you were in Paris, but no reply. So, perhaps you have a new email. This is a great site! All Best, Anon, Patty

  • Christopher C Eisenhart

    It was 1970, and I already owned a Bizzarrini, when an ad appeared in Competition Press and Autoweek. A GTO #3223 was for sale in York, Pa., for 7K. George Sterner. George was a real wheeler dealer. Years before he snatched a one off 250 MM, that I was eyeing. His GTO was on jacks and in primer when I saw it.. He supposedly got it from an impound lot in Baltimore for $2500! I verified the serial number and with check in hand, I was ready to by it right then. He refused, saying a deposit had been received. I asked him if a whole pie was better than a slice. Wouldn’t budge!

  • Stephen Griswold c un

    I enjoyed your story especially paying 7 K for your car. I paid 13,k USD for mine…. 3387 GT and then had to totally restore her in my workshop. The nex GTO 4091 was a steal at 100K and it too needed full restoration.. As for a competition 250Lusso it is now in NH. It had arrived from South Africa with Howard Cohen. I got to restore her as well. Lovely cars. Stephen Griswold

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