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SO FAST, SO FURIOUS MILLION-DOLLAR AUTO HAD HIT 120 MPH BEFORE HITTING POLE.

Byline: Josh Kleinbaum Staff Writer

MALIBU - A million-dollar top-of-the-line Ferrari - a cherry-red masterpiece that rockets from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds - sat in pieces early Tuesday on Pacific Coast Highway.

Nearby was the owner, a Swedish playboy with a bloody nose. Authorities said he had alcohol on his breath and told a wild tale about a German named Dietrich who crashed the Enzo Ferrari, splitting it in two and proving that the car was made not only for speed but for passenger safety.

By the end of the day, police were still trying determine who was behind the wheel of the car - which uses racing technology and is designed to withstand high-speed crashes - and why it was speeding down PCH at 120 mph before it crashed at 6:15 a.m.

At the center of their investigation is Stefan Eriksson, 44, a disgraced electronics executive who police believe might have used the streets of Los Angeles as his personal Formula One course.

``It's all beginning to come together,'' said Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Philip Brooks. ``Pretty soon, we'll have it all figured out.''

Eriksson told authorities he was riding in the passenger seat, and that a man named Dietrich was driving, when the car went out of control and hit a power pole near Decker Road. Dietrich bolted into the underbrush, Eriksson said, leaving him to deal with police.

``When we got there, we were searching for the German,'' Brooks said. ``As far as we're concerned, the driver is still outstanding.''

But police are also pursuing the theory that Eriksson spent Monday night and Tuesday morning drinking with friends at a Beverly Hills house when they decided to drive to Malibu to race the Enzo against a silver Mercedes SLR, a sports car with a top speed of 208 mph.

``Once the Ferrari crashed, the driver of the Mercedes took off,'' Brooks said. ``We haven't found the Mercedes yet, but my investigators are working on it. They're very good.''

Aside from Eriksson's story, there was no sign that there was more than one person in the car, Brooks said. Eriksson suffered a bloody nose, and the only blood in the car was on the driver's side air bag - not the passenger air bag.

Also, Eriksson's blood-alcohol level was .09 percent, just above the legal limit of .08 for drunk driving, and police found a gun at the scene, Brooks said.

If detectives determine that Eriksson was behind the wheel, he could be charged with drunk driving, lying to a police officer and other violations, Brooks said.

It wouldn't be the first time he's run into trouble with the law.

He was convicted of fraud and counterfeiting in Sweden in 1993 and 1994, and has been linked to a group known as the Uppsala Mafia, according to authorities.

Whoever was behind the wheel of the Enzo was driving Ferrari's top-of-the-line car, named after the company's founder, Enzo Ferrari.

Only 399 Enzos were manufactured between 2002 and 2004, with one more made for Pope John Paul II in 2005. The Catholic Church auctioned that car off for $1.275 million to benefit charity.

The original sticker price was $643,330, but the Enzo usually resells for about $1 million.

``This is the pinnacle of Ferrari automobiles - and just about any automobile produced today,'' said Dustin Troyan, who hosts car shows every Sunday at Village Coffee Roaster in Woodland Hills.

``This is the best. It has incorporated a lot of Formula One technology into a drivable car. This is a work of art. With one less, the value of every other Enzo just went up.''

Like F1 race cars, the Enzo is designed to be able to withstand high-speed crashes, experts said. Tuesday, it performed just as advertised - the carbon fiber body disintegrated around the cabin, totaling the car but leaving its passenger nearly unharmed.

``To cut it in half like that is a very significant impact, and to have people walk away, it shows how safe these cars really are,'' said James Del Pozzo, general sales manager at Ferrari of Beverly Hills. ``It's very sad. It is just a car, but at the same time, it's a very special car.''

A list of Enzo owners looks like a who's who of the rich and famous - entrepreneur Steve Wynn, actor Nicholas Cage, musician Eric Clapton, clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger.

The car goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 217.5 mph. It has gull-wing doors and sits 3.9 inches off the ground, with a special button on the steering-wheel mount that allows the driver to lift the front suspension a few inches more. Then there's the V-12 engine that cranks out 650 horsepower.

``If you're riding with somebody who knows what they're doing, it is an experience like no other,'' said Carbon McCoy of Ferrari Market Letter, a newsletter for Ferrari owners. ``The braking, the acceleration, the handling, it's phenomenal.

``The car is the complete package. Nothing compares.''

Josh Kleinbaum, (818) 713-3669

josh.kleinbaum(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

4 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) In this image from TV, above, a firefighter looks at the front end of a Ferrari split in two in a crash on Pacific Coast Highway on Tuesday morning. Left, sheriff's Deputy Jim Mulay carries part of the car's rear section. The owner of the car, a Swedish playboy, says someone else was driving the car, but investigators suspect that the owner was not only driving, but was racing another car.

KCAL

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer

(3 -- color) Sheriff's Deputy Jim Mulay picks through the brush where an Enzo Ferrari crashed into a power pole alongside Pacific Coast Highway near Decker Road on Tuesday morning.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer

(4 -- color) no caption (Enzo Ferrari)

Box:

THE ENZO FERRARI

Sources: Crain's Detroit, Edmunds.com, MSN Autos
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 22, 2006
Words:985
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