The red Ferrari was going at least 100 mph when the driver lost control and struck a power pole, investigators said. The car — one of only 400 made — shattered, with its engine coming to rest on the highway and its wreckage scattered.
Sheriff's investigators identified the owner as Stefan Ericksson, 44, of Bel Air, who escaped the wreck with only a cut lip.
"For $1 million, you get a very good passenger-safety system, and apparently in this case it did work," said Sgt. Philip Brooks of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities said Ericksson told them he was a passenger and the driver was a German acquaintance he knew only as Dietrich, who he said ran into the nearby hills. A three-hour search failed to turn up anyone, and officials said they were skeptical of the account. Only the driver's side air bag deployed, Brooks said.
"He destroyed one of the finest cars on earth, maybe the finest," said Ferrari owner Chris Banning, a Beverly Hills writer who is finishing a book on the cult of sports car racing along winding Mulholland Drive.
"It's like taking a Van Gogh painting and burning it."