Decoding the 'car collector syndrome'

One is one too few says the victim of the car bug

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Thu 9 Mar 2023, 5:26 PM

There are many a car lover, among us. In every circle, there is either a friend, an uncle, or a kid cousin obsessed with cars or car-related subjects like performance stats, design, or the engineering behind them. And if it wasn’t for this ‘little thing’ called money, most of these auto paramours would have not one or two vehicles in their garage, but several. You can look at it as a kind of car flu that affects people with a certain genetic disposition, what one could call the ‘Car Collector Syndrome’.

Besides the utility of a car, i.e., for the purpose of commuting between two points that are too far apart for the feet to travel, they also have several other functions. Cars are often seen as an expression of freedom and of individuality. Some say you are what your drive. They can also be pieces of history, tangible evidence of the way of life that once was. And contrary to consensus, they can also serve as investments if one has the eye and patience for it. In fact, a select few models appreciate with time, either thanks to scarcity, rarity, or previous celebrity ownership. And these vehicles may fetch from a few thousand to millions of dirhams over their original sticker price.

Celebrity car collectors

And how much more can this point be validated than by the lives of the people with the moolah, like actors and socialites, the front pagers who can afford to live this dream?

‘The Tonight Show’ host Jay Leno, who is known for his love for the automobile is said to own close to 180 exotic cars. And some 160 motorcycles. He also reviews vehicles on his YouTube channel ‘Jay Leno’s Garage’ which has about 3.5 million subscribers. He couldn’t stop at one and neither could the rest of them.

Rowan Atkinson, the actor extraordinaire who plays a ‘serious’ individual in the comical Mr Bean series, would seem like an unlikely car collector. But besides steering a vintage MINI on the show, he owns several special rides in real life including a purple McLaren F1, the once fastest car in the world, which according to sources has been crashed twice. He is also said to own a 1989 Lancia Delta HF Integrale, a 1993 Mercedes 500E, and a 2002 Honda NSX, amongst others.

Jerry Seinfeld, one of the wealthiest actors of all time, who was the main talent in the ‘show about nothing’ popularly known as Seinfeld owns close to 150 cars or so. He is known to drive around other celebrities, especially those within the entertainment industry for his YouTube series, ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’.

Reality TV star and fashion icon Kylie Jenner is also known to be part of more than just family drama. Sources say she is the owner of a Bugatti Chiron, a Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta, a Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster, and a few Mercedes-Benz and Range Rover SUVs.

Famed fashion designer Ralph Lauren also has a love for driveways as he does for runways. And he has previously used some of his vehicles as props for his runway collections. He is said to have the keys to a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, one-of-four Bugatti type 57SC Atlantic cars, a Lamborghini Reventon Roadster, one-of-three 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK roadsters and not one, but two Porsche 918 Spyders.

And arguably the most famous car collector of them all is the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkia. The Sultan is said to own thousands of vehicles including a few hundred Roll-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris, and a few concept cars as well. The estimated value of these vehicles in totality is in the billions, apparently.

Join the car collector’s club!

For most, the car collector’s syndrome starts with one, the one commuter, probably from college days that took him or her places reliably and efficiently. And while it may be a ‘banality-bound econo-box’, as some may call them, the sentimentality binds the owners and the owned for even a lifetime. Then they may even go on to purchase supercars, custom builds, rally and F1 cars, and even unique examples of engineering that barely qualify as cars.

And for that discerning antiquary who loves wheels, there is a ripe collection of cars available in the UAE to add value to their home and hobby. For example, the Jaguar Classics Continuation programme is giving motoring enthusiasts an opportunity to own these rare classics. Wheeled beauties from the 1950s have been brought back to life in their original specifications and are now available for purchase. The two cars that were showcased in Dubai were the iconic C-Type, which in 1951 became the first Jaguar to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, shattering every speed and distance record in its maiden attempt, and the legendary D-Type, which from 1955-57 won three consecutive 24 hours of Le Mans endurance races. On request (and payment), these recreations will be hand-built at the TATA-Motors-owned 14,000m2 state-of-the-art facility Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works in Warwickshire. Each C-type Continuation is a reflection of the 1953 Le Mans-winning car specification, and includes a 3.4-litre straight-six engine with triple Weber carburetors, producing 220bhp and the then-revolutionary disc brakes. As for the Jaguar D-type, buyers can choose between either a 1955-specification Shortnose or 1956-spec Longnose bodywork. And only a handful of these vehicles will be available globally. As for the price? An expectedly steep GBP 1,50,000 for the C-Type continuation and GBP 1,75,000 for the D-Type. I had the privilege and the pleasure to view these cars in the flesh and all I can say is that these aren’t just expensive pieces of machinery they are also to be viewed as essential pieces of art, which makes all the difference.

For most, these exotics may seem out of reach, but there are more affordable ways to add colour to your collection. Let me remind you that the production of the much-loved Toyota FJ Cruiser has been discontinued since December 2022. But there is hope for the FJ aficionado. The Japanese company has revealed the 2023 Final Edition, which is limited to just 1,000 units. It adopts a single-tone beige colour for the exterior, upholstery, and centre cluster trim to keep it distinctive. It also gets a blacked-out grille, bumpers, exterior mirrors, door handles, and spare tire cover; 17-inch aluminium wheels and side steps are also included. More importantly, it comes with a Final Edition badge, a coveted indication of exclusivity. You can have a piece for about Dh174,900, a tad over the usual asking price, but you can expect resellers to upsell them. Even if you don’t see it as an asset, the sheer joy of driving a 270 bhp 4.0 V6 endowed SUV with a usable offroad chassis and a washable interior makes it a must-have.

And if these don’t fit your fancy, you can also scope through the multitude of websites that showcase special supercars, vintage pickup trucks, and luxury vehicles or visit the many distributor and private showrooms lined up on Sheikh Zayed Road to check out their inventory in person.

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