I’ve discussed the concept of serendipity before on Any Given Reason, and the adventure and discovery to be found in being lost while traveling. The best things are always unexpected, and it pays to keep your eyes open to possibility no matter how discouraging your circumstances may seem.
Recently, I was traveling through the Swiss lakes on my Vespa with the unlikely goal of reaching the holiday town of Lausanne by nightfall. My tent had flooded the previous night in Italy which meant that all of my possessions except the clothes I was wearing were packed sodden in my bags, and I was lost. I had a ferry booked on the other side of France for a 4am Thursday morning Channel crossing which I had to make in order to not miss the Goodwood Revival Meeting; it was 6pm on Monday night and I still had close to 1000km of Switzerland and France to cover. The small 125cc capacity of my Vespa meant I couldn’t ride on the Autobahn, and whilst it was tempting to give it a crack anyway, I decided to play it safe and take the slower route through the towns.
Long story short, all of those circumstances sent me on an unexpected path that saw me ride past an Aladdin’s cave called Garage Zenith, and then discover another equally impressive workshop a little further on. I really didn’t have the time to justify stopping for a coffee let alone a walk around a car dealership, but when I saw Michael Schumacher’s own factory personalised Ferrari Enzo and a 1957 Maserati 250S sitting on the showroom floor, I just knew I had to stop. To hell with the schedule.
In addition to that pair of rarities the showroom was full of your garden variety supercars, as well as some other interesting oddities.
This 599 GTO was sitting pretty on a set of ADV.1 rims, giving a subtly modified look that could just as easily pass for OEM.
A few doors to the back-of-house area were cracked open; just enough to glimpse in and wonder what else lay inside.
Tucked away in a corner on a display stand was this Ferrari V8 engine with a suspiciously familiar looking intake manifold…
… and two turbochargers. Hmm… that’s an F40 engine! At this point I realised I needed to be photographing this place for a story on AGR, so I went to ask the older chap in his office if he would approve of my camera wielding antics. To his credit he encouraged me to take as many as I like; quite amazing considering I was at the peak of my bohemian traveler phase and without a shave for three months. Due to the flood and resulting sopping clothing, I was also wearing three-day old attire that was fresh from a full 500km ride in the sun. It’s a wonder they let me in the place at all, however he went one step further: “If you like F40’s, make sure you go upstairs. Take that lift over there”.
Whaaa? Despite being granted permission to ascend it still felt like this secret passage should be off limits to penniless backpackers like myself, however I nervously pushed the button to take me to the second floor I hadn’t even noticed.
At the top of its travel the lift door opened, revealing yet more pristine examples of the Prancing Horse. It was like stumbling into Narnia.
This is the exact view that greeted me as I turned right out of the door.
Just a casual pair of F40’s, no big deal.
And a Maserati MC-12 Stradale.
With the addition of a 365 GTC/4 at the head of the queue and a sneaky 458 Challenge in the middle, this was quite the lineup.
But that wasn’t all. Sitting in the corner alongside the MC12 was this 1979 512 BB LM, freshly restored and certified by Ferrari’s own Classiche program.
It made me giddy just thinking about what this 4200cc flat 12 must sound like as it gets worked through its ratios.
Across the other side were more 599’s – another GTO and a pair of SA Aperta’s, the Spider version of the 599 built to honor Sergio and Andrea Pininfarina. The SA Aperta uses the same 493kw (at 8250rpm) V12 as the GTO and just 80 of them were built.
Alongside the pair of SA Aperta’s was this unusual 512 BB Spider wearing an oh-so-eighties shade of pearl white.
The factory never made a BB Spider, so this one has received the chop at some point in time. I personally don’t think it looks offensively bad, but it’s certainly not an improvement on the stock Berlinetta so it probably should have never been messed with in the first place.
The only non Ferrari’s in this part were a pair of original Abarth 595’s, capped off with yet another 599 GTO wearing the colours of the Nibbio Corse team.
It’s worth making the point mentioning and apologizing for the lack of any creativity or different angles in these photos. Not only was I in disbelief and slightly overwhelmed by the collection I’d chanced upon, but I was on my own and I kind of expected to be kicked out at any moment. My main goal was to simply capture and record this place as quickly as I could. It would be a shame to miss photographing something.
On the other side of the divide were yet more Ferrari’s starting with this Giallo Fly 365 GTB/4 Daytona, the perfect car to tackle the Swiss Alps I’d just crossed on my Vespa.
Apart from a 246 Dino, the line on this side was mostly formed of 90’s and early 2000’s Ferrari’s including 550’s and 575’s, a 512TR and a 456.
This 550 Maranello had been prepared for track days, and featured a leather trimmed half roll cage, huge Brembo brakes, Toyo semi slicks and what looked like a revised suspension setup.
The cooling vents in the bonnet left me questioning how the big V12 had been modified…
… and the custom made helmet hammock between the leather trimmed race buckets was beyond cool. Perhaps the ultimate gentleman’s track toy? It was a proper manual too.
Speaking of gentleman’s track toys, here I found yet another pair of 599 GTO’s, bringing the total GTO count at Garage Zenith to nine! Not bad considering only 599 were built.
Alongside the pair of GTO’s was a 575M Superamerica, the Spider version of the 575M. Featuring an electrochromatic glass roof that folds 180deg back, just 559 of the Superamerica were produced.
It wasn’t all Ferrari, and down the end of the line was an unusual BMW Z1 and an immaculate Lancia Delta Integrale that looked as if it just rolled off the production line.
It was easy not to see the midnight black Jaguar XK120FHC…
… which was nestled down in a corner housing some decidedly less expensive toys.
The backdrop to all of this was the almost Tuscan-esque vineyard, which was however loosing the attention battle…
… to the lone Alfa Romeo of the showroom, an 8C Spider.
It’s a pity that in my rush I couldn’t expose both the vineyard outside and the cars inside properly. It would have made for some staggering photos, however I’m sure you get the idea that it was a spectacular place.
As incredible as Garage Zenith was, I was conscious of how late it had become and that I had not yet found a place to camp for the night, so I decided it was best to hit the road.
After thanking the staff of Garage Zenith profusely, I continued out into the warmth of the glowing Swiss sunset and along the road to Lausanne.
Switzerland is obviously quite mountainous and it’s almost impossible to go anywhere without having these staggeringly beautiful jagged peaks lining the backdrop, often still capped with snow.
After riding for more than nine hours that day fatigue was just beginning to creep in. I did consider a ‘turbosieste’, however that wasn’t required…
… because seeing an immaculate Dino 246 parked on the side of the road just outside the town of Vevy is more than enough to jolt your attention. Here it was, pushing 8pm, darkness rapidly encroaching and the owners felt comfortable enough to leave this Dino parked on the roadside. I love Switzerland.
It wasn’t until I’d stopped that I noticed the Dino was parked outside a workshop – ‘Garage Donati’, with the signwriting in Ferrari Dino font. That must be a good clue.
The other clue to what lay inside was the fact that the workshop had sprawling views of Lake Geneva. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better placed workshop in my life – it would be a genuine pleasure working here.
Unfortunately Garage Donati was closed so shooting through the glarey windows was my only option, but the quality of cars inside more than makes up for the crummy photos. The first car I noticed was this 275 GTB/4 on a hoist.
Next to it sitting incognito in the shadows was a mostly disassembled F40. I’m not sure if it was an LM or not, but it was fitted with five spoke centrelock OZ rims.
There was a tarmac rally prepared 308 GTB sitting on the hoist closest to the window. I would loved to have had a closer look at this as it had flared guards, fat Campagnolo rally wheels painted a dusty gold colour and a full roll cage.
Sitting on axle stands was what looked like some kind of 50’s open wheeler, perhaps a Formula 1 or Formula 2 racer.
There was a freshly parked 365 GTC/4…
… and a Lancia Stratos for good measure, too.
Next to the Stratos was a white Mk1 GT40.
I’m no GT40 expert and it may have been a replica, but for some reason I don’t think it was. I’ve got no fact to base my opinion on but it just seemed like a real one.
Like any workshop working on such valuable cars there were no empty beer cans to be seen, only a small stack of empty champagne bottles in one corner. These guys know how to live!
There was a very well equipped machine shop…
… and a couple of spare Ferrari V8’s sitting under the bench.
Unfortunately the restoration shop next door was fitted with frosted glass windows, making it impossible to peer inside. But given its location, one can only imagine what was hiding in there.
This unexpected few of hours of Ferrari immersion ended up turning what was a tough and challenging day into one of the highlights of the trip. I didn’t end up arriving in Lausanne until 9pm and it took me until after 11pm to find somewhere to camp and to grab some dinner, but none of that mattered. This was an experience quite unlike anything else. Serendipity indeed.
Words and photos by Andrew Coles
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