Behind The Scenes Of Our Fiat Topolino Zagato Shoot
Photography By Jeremy Heslup
When I think of Phoenix, Arizona, I think of a climate that is absolutely on FIRE—because the only time previous to this visit I had been there was in August. But in mid-December: I don’t think I was prepared for such a cold shoot day for Petrolicious in the desert.
Arriving early to the location as we always do, Sean Fannin and myself caught up to two tiny little red lights winding through the dark South Mountain Park. We had aimed to get much further up the path but alas, things never go as planned when you’re trying to cram a hundred things into one day.
As with many of the past subjects I’ve had the pleasure of filming, Scott was very enthusiastic with the shoot and ready to get cracking. This always makes it easier for us when they understand that we only have a certain amount of time to get the footage we need for the episode, and it’s especially critical when we are very near to the shortest day of the year in terms of light.
We began, as we always do, with static shots just as the sun is coming up. Lucky for us, we are gifted the most fire-red desert sunrise I can recall. These moments are especially crucial for the beauty shots of the car, because a magnificent sky such as the one we were working with can disappear at a moment’s notice—which is exactly what happened after just 10 mins of this little jewel being bathed in sheer beauty.
We then moved to the drone part. I like to see the drone as an extension of these films. It’s easy to get carried away with it, but only having one battery with a run-time of 20 minutes actually helps me get what we need to and be done with it. There’s no doubt about it, flying a drone is risky, and although I have full confidence in my abilities, things can go wrong so I try not to take to many risks. The Inspire 1 has been a really fun piece of kit, and the footage it can grab is really exciting.
After a packed morning, we moved to Scott’s warehouse, which houses his collections and restorations. It’s clear that his skills as a jeweler have translated over to his love of restoring cars. Many Zagato-bodied cars are here, along with other oddball collectables, filling the space in a very tasteful and aesthetically-pleasing symphony of shine. He shows us around the collection, and we searched for suitable place to conduct the interview.
The interview is always my favorite part. We always prep people ahead of time about what we’re going to talk about, but just like me, many of them aren’t necessarily the most comfortable in front of a camera. The reason I love it so much is because the way we conduct this interviews is very conversational: we’re not grilling anyone for any information, and certainly not making them talk about anything they don’t know or want to touch on.
It’s quite the opposite with Scott, his enthusiasm in the interview is carried through the film and especially with Zagato-bodied cars. The Topolino, being one of the rarest Zagatos in his collection, certainly resides at the the top for him. But as many say when they are talking about their collections, they’re like kids, you can never really have a favorite.
Scott has many other projects waiting in the wings and in certain stages of restoration. What I think sets his ethos apart from others is that he has an impressive attention to detail. When riding in the Topolino or examining any of the other cars, you get the sense that every microscopic part was thought about when these cars were brought back to life. On the flip side, the very refreshing part of the shoot is that Scott is not afraid to get out there and wheel all 17 horsepower for all they can give.
After lunch, we returned to film the warehouse and prep the Topolino to get back out on the road for round two. Hopeful for more sun-light…but there’s not much we can do but start shooting with what we have.
As we were just getting into the side-by-side shots, the Fiat decides that she’s had enough for the day. When filming the static shots, I always request that the owners leave the lights on. It’s my feeling that makes the car feel more alive in the shots.
This has proven to bring out the worst in many of the batteries in these old cars, but it’s a trade-off I’m happy to make. Feeling great about the morning, we decide to get the Zagato back to the garage so not as to risk having it fall into the possibly not too-capable hands of a tow-truck driver. With a push start and a sprint back, we call it a day and are on our way.
A year and a half ago, when I first started filming, it used to feel like we never got enough film for the episodes—and to be honest, that hasn’t changed much since then. Somehow, even with the littlest to draw from, we manage to make it work, and get to share another interesting car with the world.
No seat-belts, views for miles from the bubbled windows, a Mile Miglia pedigree and unmatched Charm make the 49′ Topolino the little jewel of Gaulthier’s collection.