In 1949, Pope Pius XII honored a Brazilian philanthropist named Francisco Scarpa for his charitable contributions, making Scarpa a Count. His son Chiquinho… well, he marches to the beat of a very different drum. Chiquinho also donned the “Count” title and himself is fabulously wealthy, earning billions in the mining, brewing, and investment industries. But “philanthropic” isn’t the first word that springs to mind when describing the Brazilian billionaire’s activities. He has been known better for his oddball habits and eccentricities. Of particular note was how he decided to get rid of his $500,000 car.
He wanted to bury it.
Scarpa’s car, the Bentley Continental Flying Spur, is pictured above next to its owner and what was built to be its final resting place. It’s a gorgeous, high-end luxury vehicle — and also one of Scarpa’s prized possessions, perhaps second only to his $20,000 cockatoo, pictured here (with Scarpa and, of course, the car). Scarpa loved it so much he wanted to take it with him — to the afterlife.
He had recently watched a documentary on ancient Egypt and, from there, learned that Egyptian pharaohs were regularly entombed with their favorite things. The theory was that these tombs acted as homes for their eternal slumbers and the trinkets sealed within ensured a regal life on the other side. Scarpa wanted to do the same, and posted the photo linked to above (the one with the cockatoo) to Facebook, announcing his intention to hold a funeral for his new car. When people doubted him, he posted a follow up picture — the one above, displayed shovel in hand, and car grave already in the process of being dug.
This of course inspired outrage. The Daily Mail, for example, quoted a number of incensed people who saw Scarpa’s dream funeral as a mix of wasteful lunacy and unencumbered selfishness. Other reactions followed the same trend, with many wondering why a man with so much would not follow in his father’s philanthropic footsteps. Unperturbed, Scarpa posted another image, this time of him operating a backhoe positioned in front of a much larger hole (and corresponding dirt pile) — and then he went on TV to talk about his rather outlandish burial plans. To show he meant business, he decided to hold a formal burial ceremony, inviting the press to his home two days later.
When the press arrived, Scarpa was there with the Bentley and the rather large hole in the ground. But Scarpa didn’t bury the car. Instead, he explained his true intentions for gathering them. He was announcing the start of Brazil’s national organ donor week and the whole stunt was an effort to draw attention to the cause. As Scarpa told those gathered, “I didn’t bury my car, but everyone thought it absurd when I said I would. What’s absurd is burying your organs, which can save you many lives. Nothing is more valuable. Be a donor and tell your family.”
Bonus Fact: If you’d like to drive a Bentley (or in this case, a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Aston Martin), go to Dubai and join the police force. As the New York Daily News reported, the Dubai PD has a fleet of very high-end cars — to make sure criminals can’t outrun them.
From the Archives: De Grote Donorshow: The reality TV show where the winning contestant gets a new kidney.
Related: A much, much, much cheaper Bentley, but still strangely expensive for what it is.