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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Inside Dubai’s Tomini Classics car collection

This weekend sees the International Motor Show Abu Dhabi land for its second year in the capital. But an hour along the highway in Dubai, Tomini Classics could convert the hardest modern-car fan into a lover of older metal. Located just off Umm Suqeim Road, on the dividing line between Al Quoz and Al Barsha, since October 2014, the showroom has played host to many of the finest classic cars ever seen in the UAE.

Assyl Yacine, Tomini’s flamboyantly mustachioed head of classic car division, sometimes refers to the space as a “gallery”, which is very much in keeping with its ethos: a natural-light-bathed display with its “exhibits” given room to breathe.

“If we wanted to, we could sardine cars and put 50 out here, but that defeats the object,” Yacine says. “In a way they’re art, and if you go to the Tate, you wouldn’t have all the art works with one centimetre between them. So we like to keep a low density for the general feng shui.” Click through our gallery to see some of the best examples currently in the collection.

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“It’s a themed collection: it’s post-war European two-door sports cars, predominantly Ferrari, then Porsche in second place and a smattering of other brands,” Yacine explains. “They’re all privately owned by our chairman. That is an ingredient to why it’s one of a kind in such a large radius. So all the cars are privately owned and driven very regularly and enjoyed, but at the same time it is a business.”

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1970 ALFA ROMEO MONTREAL

Do you have a personal favourite car?

Assyl Yacine: “It depends on the mood, what for and for how much time. If it’s for life, it will be the Alfa Romeo Montreal, a 1970 car. It’s everything I love about an automobile. The question-and-answer session, the back and forth, the listening to the car, when you reach that state of mind where it’s not longer just an experience to get from A to B. It’s almost a meditation. Everyone has their own type of meditation, and I think for classic-car people, that’s their meditation. It’s amazingly relaxing, but you’re concentrating extremely hard at the same time.”

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1973 PORSCHE 911 RS 2.7

Assyl Yacine: “Another great car is the 2.7 RS Porsche. It’s a sublime machine to pilot. When a car weighs nothing and it has 200hp, it feels like 400hp – it’s a wonderful machine, no holds barred. It’s not a car that you’re going to drive to Abu Dhabi [from Dubai] and it’s not a car that you’re going to go on a first date on, with bucket seats, and you can hear every single stone chip underneath it, but is’s a fantastic automobile.”

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1971 MERCEDES-BENZ 280 SE 3.5 CABRIOLET

How vital is it that these cars are driven regularly?

Assyl Yacine: “It’s critical for the whole reason that these cars were built to be driven, built to be enjoyed, built to be shared with people, especially in Dubai, because you don’t see them. And the second reason is if you let a car sit for too long without running it, without driving it, without exercising it, then you’ll potentially do more harm than good. The oil seals will start to crack, start to leak. The more complicated the car is, the more it actually needs to be exercised. Some older automatic Mercedes, if you leave it just sitting, you essentially need a gearbox rebuilt after a year and a half, so they definitely need to be exercised. Tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.”

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1975 FERRARI 308 GTB

In terms of the car’s prices, is it a case of if you have to ask, you don’t have enough money?

Assyl Yacine: “Ultra high net worth people come in all shapes, sizes, colours – but the majority of them are wealthy for a reason, and that reason is buy low and sell high. So no, every single client that will come in, the price is important. No matter how wealthy one is, one doesn’t want to not be on the receiving end of a good deal or an honest deal.”

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1958 FIAT ABARTH 750 ZAGATO “DOUBLE BUBBLE” COUPÉ

Is the “average” classic-car buyer harder to spot in the year 2017?

Assyl Yacine: “There’s no such thing. Well, stereotypical yes, but in reality, no. A stereotypical car collector, in mind at least, has white hair, is in their 60s/70s, well-spoken, well-dressed, but not in a flashy manner, but it’s not the case at all. Our first client came in with shorts, flip-flops and a camera round his neck. Our biggest client is a relatively short chap. We have another client who’s gargantuan and works in the oil-and-gas industry. It varies enormously.”

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1968 TOYOTA 2000GT (LIMITED EDITION OF 351 CARS)

Are there any cars you hope to add to the collection in the future?

Assyl Yacine: “I have a Microsoft Excel document, which is my own personal wish-list, which has hit US$100 million [Dh367m] already. McLaren F1s; some of the Zagato Aston Martins – special machines. Alfa Romeos – I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m a bit of a fan of Alfa Romeos.”

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1976 LANCIA STRATOS HF

Are the cars sourced from all around the world?

Assyl Yacine: “All over the place. People sometimes ask us: “Is there anything you’re looking for at the moment?” And the answer, essentially, is: “No.” When something falls onto our lap that we like, we’re happy with the price and it’s in keeping with the collection, then we go for it. Be it in the UK, Germany or the United States.”

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2005 FERRARI 360 CHALLENGE STRADALE

Assyl Yacine: “You had a few catalysts to the growth of the [Tomini Classics] collection. The first was [the company chairman thought]: “I’m enjoying driving these cars.” The second was: “I’d like more of these cars.” The third was this can also be a business opportunity as well as a hobby, and when that catalyst came in, that’s when the idea of having a gallery or showroom came to life. Then we also have the other half of the ground floor dedicated to storage, be it sold cars or cars that we’re not putting on the showroom floor.”

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1961 PORSCHE 356 B ROADSTER

Assyl Yacine: “The main goal now is to change the idiosyncrasies of the local market. We want the people who collecting and buying all these high-end exotics – your limited McLaren P1s, LaFerraris, [Porsche 911] GT3 RSs – we would like to see [them make] a cultural move towards classics. Not only because it’s to our benefit, but it’s to the benefit of the city and the country. It shows taste, it shows enthusiasm for history, where we came from and what donated to us being where we are today. The first baby step – which would actually be quite a big leap – would be for people over here to appreciate and understand the post-war collectables a little more.”