David Lee’s everyday cars—to pop to the supermarket or head out for dinner —are other people’s dream motors. “I have a Mercedes S63 AMG, a Porsche Panamera, a Rolls-Royce Dawn,” says Lee, who's the CEO of Hing Wa Lee Jewelers.
But these are mere playthings compared to Lee’s collection of classic Ferraris, which is rumoured to be worth more than US$50million. Here, Lee gives us a glimpse inside his incredible garage in his hometown of Los Angeles and explains why he spent US$1million modernising a classic Ferrari Dino.
How many cars do you own?
I have a total of about 30 cars and 20 something are Ferraris. My whole strategy is that I’m a driver first and a collector second. If I have too many cars, there’s no way I’d be able to drive them all. By having 30 cars, I figure I can drive each of them at least once a month.
Because I limit myself to 30 cars, I want them all to be special. So my cars are not just regular Ferraris, they’re all multi-million-dollar, limited-edition Ferraris. I guess my collection of 30 is equal in value to people’s collection of 200 or 300 cars.
What’s the most you’ve ever spent on a Ferrari?
I would say probably US$5million. That was for the 288 GTO Evoluzione, which is a prototype, and it’s gone up in value since then.
If your house was on fire, which car would you drive out of the garage?
That’s very difficult. I really like them all the same. But for the sake of choosing, I do have one that has more sentimental value, which is the 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO, because in high school, that was the car I really wanted.
It was the first supercar in the world and it was really spectacular and I said to myself, “if I ever have enough money, I’m going to buy it.” So I feel like I’ve achieved something by buying that car.
You’ve recently modernised a Ferrari Dino, which is sacrilege to some classic car collectors, who believe you should keep the car in its original state. Why did you do it?
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Ferrari Dino and for the last 50 years, many car collectors have complained that this car was so beautiful but it wasn’t powerful enough—and I agree. So I said, "what if the car had modern Ferrari engineering in it? A modern engine, modern brakes, modern suspension?" And I did just that.
I bought a Dino and I found some folks in the UK that I was able to send the car to and together, we went on this journey to create the ultimate Dino. It’s a one-off; the only one in the world. It changes history. I just decided to go out on a limb and do something historic and I feel I got a lot of satisfaction from it. I call it the Ferrari Monza 3.6 Dino.
Is it true you might soon be helping other collectors do similar things?
A lot of people have asked me, "how did you do it? Where can I get one?" and so forth. I decided to because it was done so perfectly—I didn’t want people who would change it up or take shortcuts or put something into the car it that’s not supposed to be there. I now have an exclusive deal with the folks that did my car, so that they can only build those cars for me.
They’ve promised that they can build five cars per year for five years, so 25 cars in total. I can have them built it the same way so that I can protect the integrity of what I created with the car.
Have you taken orders for those 25 cars already?
I’ve had a lot of interest for those cars but I’m not officially taking orders until the end of summer. I’m making lists of people who are interested and I’ll get back to them. I’ll have to place them strategically because I know for a fact that there are more than 25 people who want to buy this car.
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