Barriers to a Beauty: 1969 Lamborghini Miura P400
Before U.S. importer Max Hoffman convinced Mercedes-Benz there was a market for the now famous gull-winged grand tourer, the 300SL badge was earlier applied to the company’s first postwar factory racecar, the W194 that was victorious at LeMans in 1952.
Sixty years later, at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mercedes-Benz introduced their latest iteration of the SL concept: the SL 550. To commemorate the occasion, and the original SL’s 60th birthday, Daimler restored the oldest existing 1952 300SL — chassis — and brought it to Detroit with its newest descendant. Unfortunately for the hundreds of photographers who tried to seize what was likely their only opportunity to capture such a rare and historic car, stagehands quickly surrounded the car with stanchions and rope almost as soon as the 300SL came to a halt on the stage.
How are you supposed to capture a decent photo of a car when there’s a black stripe running right in front of it? It’s like putting up a scrim with a mustache in front of the Mona Lisa.
I understand the need to protect such a rare artifact from the unwashed hordes, but remember, this was a media event not open to the general public, and presumably Daimler wanted the automotive shutterbugs in attendance to photograph the vintage car ( or maybe they put up the barrier to make the new SL550 an easier target).
I’m sure there are barriers for the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, but I’m also pretty sure they don’t obscure your view of the masterpiece. At top-shelf custom car shows like Detroit’s Autorama, exhibitors use low-to-the-ground barriers and nobody manages to trip and fall into the displays.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Mercedes-Benz racecars, so I only took a handful of photos since it was such a huge pain to get a decent shot of the vintage 300SL.
I go to many corporate auto shows, car museums, enthusiasts’ car shows and I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to some of America’s great private car collections. As a result, the list of cars that I absolutely, positively must photograph has gradually gotten shorter, but there are still some holy grails out there. Last summer, while I was shooting a Lancia Stratos at the 2015 Concours of America at St. John’s, it occurred to me that I’d never seen a Lamborghini Miura in person.
With the aforementioned in mind, you’ll understand how I was simultaneously excited and disappointed to see a beautiful, red 1969 Lamborghini Miura P400 in the Robb Report display at the 2016 NAIAS media preview — behind those infernal fabric barriers. I looked around to see if I could find a Robb Report representative. Failing that, I reconciled myself to getting the best shots I could considering the barrier.
I’m one of those people who will talk to complete strangers and I happened to voice my frustration of seeing such a beautiful car I couldn’t decently photograph to a man nearby. Sometimes it pays to open up my big mouth. The man turned out to be Andrew Romanowski, a Ford engineer who’s not only the president of Lamborghini Club America, but also the owner of that particular Miura.
Lest you be swayed by the popular stereotype of Lambo owners as narcissistic poseur douchebags being a tiny bit self-centered, Romanowski graciously offered to move the barriers for clear views of his Miura before I even had the chance to ask.
If anything, Marcello Gandini’s masterpiece is even more beautiful in person than in photographs. Conventional photography doesn’t convey how shapes and proportions work together in the same way as seeing the Miura with your own two eyes. Seizing the opportunity, I snapped off a dozen or more photo pairs with my 3D rig as Romanowski jockeyed the barriers.
You really have to seize those opportunities as you never know if or when you’ll get another chance. Yet, as fortune would have it, I did happen to see two more Miuras just a week later at Jay Leno’s Big Dog Garage.
Leno had invited me some time ago to visit his collection if I ever found myself in Los Angeles, but I’d lost the phone number he’d given me for the shop’s foreman. I was in LA to drive a McLaren, had some time to kill and realized that Leno’s facility was just minutes away from where I was staying. I decided to give it a shot.
(Leno has three other vintage Lamborghinis in addition to his two Miuras, but nothing new from that company. There are also no Ferraris, vintage or modern, at the garage, but Leno does have three McLarens: an F1, an MP4-12C and a new P1.)
Perhaps it was my winsome ways, or perhaps it was the fact that I mentioned a specific car in the collection about which Leno and I talked, but I was believed enough by the guy at the gate to get that phone number again. I got a tour that same afternoon.
I’m told that “the boss” normally says hello to tour guests, but Leno was busy with a camera crew shooting video for a couple of Jay Leno’s Garage episodes for CNBC. The subjects of those episodes were, coincidentally, two vehicles I’d seen just the day before at the newly renovated Petersen Automotive Museum in downtown Los Angeles. Outside, Leno was trying to maneuver one of the insanely long movie Batmobiles, and inside there was a Davis Divan three wheeler set up for a shoot.
Leno’s longtime employee Bob, who conducts the tours, told me I had to obey the no-photography rule in the garage. Unfortunately, as the boss was preoccupied with shooting, I couldn’t ask him to bend it.
When a cool car presents itself, carpe diem, which is why you’re enjoying these photos of Mr. Romanowski’s Miura. It’s also how I ended up driving a McLaren 675LT in Los Angeles, but that’s another story (with lots of pictures and no barrier) for another day.
Photos by the author.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS
NeilM on Jan 26, 2016
I was twenty-ish and living in Europe when the Miura appeared, landing in the automotive world like a glittering alien ship from some advanced interstellar civilization. Transverse V12, mid-engine, stunning looks! After all these years the best part is that it still looks gorgeous, as if you'd run into Brigitte Bardot on the beach at St. Tropez and she hadn't aged a day.
Corey Lewis on Jan 26, 2016
I never have cared for the Miura from the front. It's too flat, almost Porsche 928-like, though I'm aware that came later. The long and low side profile and the rear does it for me though. so purposeful and unique. I even like the wheels (Campanello?) and that's not normally a genre of wheel I enjoy. They put similars on the Citroen SM, Maserati Merak, and maybe the Alfa Romeo Montreal, and I don't care for them in those applications.
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