A red Ferrari Enzo — one of only 400 ever made and worth more than $1 million — broke apart Tuesday when it crested a hill on Pacific Coast Highway going 120 mph and slammed into a power pole.
The crash did not result in serious injuries. But it sent shockwaves through both the tabloid and exotic car worlds as one group wondered if the driver was a celebrity and the other mourned the loss of a hand-built car revered by many as a work of art.
The car was certain to be owned by someone rich, if not famous. Actor Nicolas Cage owns one. And Malibu local Britney Spears has been chased in a Ferrari by the paparazzi.
But by day's end the tabloids were disappointed to learn that the demolished car had been owned by a Swedish millionaire without a Screen Actors Guild card.
Sheriff's investigators identified him as 44-year-old Stefan Eriksson, a Bel-Air resident. Officials are trying to determine whether he is the noted Swedish game designer whose firm, perhaps not surprisingly, was involved with car-racing themed video games.
Authorities said Eriksson said he was a passenger in the Ferrari, which he said was being driven by a German acquaintance he knew only as Dietrich.
One witness told deputies that the Ferrari appeared to be racing with a Mercedes-Benz SLR northbound along the coastal highway when the accident occurred about 6 a.m. west of Decker Road.
"It took out the pole, and part of the car went another 600 feet," Sheriff's Sgt. Philip Brooks said. "There were 1,200 feet of debris out there."
Eriksson told authorities that "Dietrich" ran up a hill toward the canyon road and disappeared. Brooks said detectives are far from convinced they have the whole story.
Eriksson "had a .09 blood-alcohol level, but if he's a passenger, that's OK," Brooks said. "But he had a bloody lip, and only the air bag on the driver's side had blood on it. The passenger-side air bag did not. My Scooby-Doo detectives are looking closely into that.
"Maybe the 'driver' had a friend who picked him up. Maybe he thumbed a ride," the sergeant added. "Maybe he was a ghost."
The crash left Ferrari fans anguished.
"I'm not surprised the driver ran away. He'd have been strangled by the owner," said Tex Otto, a Santa Monica graphic artist who edits two magazines for Ferrari owners.
"This will have a big impact on the local Ferrari community. This was not a car. It was a rolling art form."
Ferrari owner Chris Banning, a Beverly Hills writer who is finishing a book called the "Mulholland Experience" that will touch on the cult of sports car racing on that mountain roadway, characterized the Enzo's destruction as "a tremendous loss" to the automotive world.
"He destroyed one of the finest cars on Earth, maybe the finest. It's like taking a Van Gogh painting and burning it," said Banning, who is a leader of the Ferrari Owners Club.
Gil Lucero, a Mountain View telecommunications company executive who is president and Pacific region chairman of the Ferrari Club of America, said only 399 Enzos were at first scheduled to be assembled at the factory between 2002 and 2004, each priced at $670,000.