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Chasing Exotic Cars Is Their Pursuit

A youthful crew of enthusiasts stalk the Westside, filming high-end autos. After the Ferrari crash in Malibu, CNN called.

May 17, 2006|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

Spyder Dobrofsky, his younger brother and four friends tumbled out of his mother's Ford Explorer on a recent Sunday morning in Beverly Hills, sprinting down Rodeo Drive with video cameras in hand.

They were on a reconnaissance mission, and it didn't take them long to find what they were looking for.

"Oh, Turbo! Porsche 911 Turbo!" said Spyder, 14, lifting his camera to film the sports car.

Then another boy shouted from behind, "Bentley! Bentley! Flying Spur!"

Before they could capture the four-door luxury sedan, another member of the team spotted a dark gray Aston Martin Vanquish heading east on Little Santa Monica Boulevard. The gangly boys in baggy T-shirts and matching buzz cuts ran to follow the $240,000 car and found it parked on Rodeo Drive outside an eyeglass store.

They surrounded the vehicle, each boy holding a camera small enough to fit in his palm. In total silence, they paced around the automobile, bending down to catch the car's grille, its rims, the lights and even the winged emblem on the hood signifying the famed British automobile maker.

At that moment, the car's owner -- a young man in dark sunglasses and a white polo shirt, clutching a set of keys -- came across the scene. After a quick double take, Jacob Abikzer, 31, smiled, and the boys continued their filming as if he wasn't there.

"They remind me of myself when I was their age," Abikzer said.

Spyder and his young cohorts have become leading chroniclers of the Westside's exotic car world. Here, the finest European sports cars -- Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches -- can be found in abundance, thanks to a critical mass of celebrity, glitz and free-spending men in the throes of midlife crises. Some of them cost over $1 million and require down payments of around $400,000, and that's only if you're lucky enough to make it to the top of a waiting list.

For most car watchers, the hobby is about snapping a few photos with their cellphone cameras. But Spyder and his friends shoot videos and post them on car-watching websites like and where enthusiasts offer their latest sighting of a $1.4-million Bugatti Veyron.

Until recently, the exploits of Spyder and his crew were only known within the world of car-spotters, where they have many admirers.

But then in February, Swedish businessman Bo Stefan Eriksson crashed a rare Ferrari Enzo on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, making international headlines.

Spyder became part of the story. He had videotaped Eriksson and other parts of his exotic car collection weeks before the crash. And he and the crew were in Beverly Hills in April when police pulled over Eriksson's wife in a rare Mercedes and confiscated the vehicle. His footage suddenly became hot property.

"CNN and others called and asked for Spyder," recalls his mother, Tippi Dobrofsky. "And I said, 'This is his mom.' They were like, 'His mom?' "


It started with a video game, Sega GT, a racing simulator in which gamers can get behind such cars as an Alfa Romeo or a Lotus. The boys learned to appreciate the exotics from there. Then they'd sit on Spyder's porch in the Dobrofskys' cozy one-story Santa Monica home and shoot digital photos of the fancy cars going by. At first, a Corvette would suffice. But in this neighborhood, even Bentleys are a dime a dozen.

Now, "we only film it if it's worth over $200,000," said Spyder's 9-year-old brother, Dash.

Spyder remembers the first time he caught one of his favorite cars, a Porsche Carrera GT, a 600-horsepower monster of a two-door sports car that costs around half a million dollars. "Last summer. It was nighttime," he said like he'd seen the love of his life.

He and Dash knew they were hooked when the family was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge during a vacation and saw a rare Porsche going the other way. They demanded that their parents exit on the other side of the freeway and go back across the bridge in hopes of catching the exotic (they turned around, but never found the Porsche).

With Paul Bogosian and another longtime friend, Brandon Nelson, the brothers will climb trees on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood to film cars from above.

They'll study a driver's routine and ride their bicycles to a different location the following days to capture the same car from a different angle. They once waited four hours for a Porsche Carrera GT to appear at Montana Avenue and 14th Street.

"We'll be in math class and I'll laugh because we hear a car go by and Spyder will turn around and say, 'S430,' " Mercedes-Benz, said Paul, 14, a member of Spy-der's crew, which calls itself and a website the group's designed, "Car-parazzi."

Tippi Dobrofsky and her husband, Neal, quickly came to embrace their sons' passion -- in large part because it was something that they and their sons could do together.

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