The UAE's collectors: rare cars fuel novel cafe concept

Rashed Al Fahim's family have amassed more than 100 priceless motors, which are stored in four separate locations

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“The love for cars was inherited, not acquired,” says Rashed Al Fahim, founder of DRVN Coffee.

In the 1950s, Sheikh Zayed, the UAE's Founding Father, asked Al Fahim’s grandfather to start importing cars into the country. “He would bring them in by ship and as the cars landed on the sand, the owners would come with their cash, drive their cars off the boat and take them home,” Al Fahim says.

From those early endeavours, the family business now sells 10,000 cars a year and operates distributorships, showrooms, service centres, parts warehouses and retail outlets across the UAE, with facilities spanning nine hectares.

In 1969, Al Fahim’s father acquired the first car in a collection that is now 100 strong and stored in four separate locations. “That’s how the whole DRVN concept started," he adds. "We had all these cars, which were always hidden, and I wanted to bring them out so people could share the passion.”

Al Fahim opened the first DRVN Coffee on Abu Dhabi’s Airport Road, combining artisanal coffee, top-quality food and a little slice of automotive history in a single space. Its third outpost opened a year ago in Dubai’s Bluewaters Island, in partnership with Porsche. Presented in rotation and encased within glass boxes are some of the most historically important cars produced by the German manufacturer.

“A Porsche lover could think of the most iconic cars Porsche has ever built, and they have come through here. We have had the GT1, we’ve had the Moby Dick, we’ve had the first Porsche ever made, we’ve had the 959, we have another 959 on display right now," he says. "If you close your eyes and imagine all the iconic Porsches, they’ve been here. At one point, we had something like $400 million worth of cars in the space.”

Al Fahim took over management of his father’s car collection in 2015. “I decided that I was going to start picking cars based on value, quality and desirability," he says.

“We figured that in the past 10 years, classic cars and rare cars had gone up in value significantly; we’re talking three-figure percentages. So we needed to start being more strategic in terms of what we acquire and what we keep and what’s worth maintaining.”

One particularly significant addition was a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. “To me, it is probably the most iconic car ever built. A car built in 1955 that goes over 260kph and drives the way it does and wins the amount of races it did, is just amazing.”

Al Fahim was previously a pilot for Emirates, and on a trip to Houston, Texas, visited a Bugatti and Lamborghini dealership. “I found a Gullwing in there. Someone had traded the car in for a Bugatti Chiron," he says. "I offered them something and it wasn’t accepted and then we ended up going back and forth for two years until we came to an agreement, and we acquired the car. That was and still is the centrepiece of the collection.”

Patience is the most important virtue of any collector, he says. “Don’t rush in thinking you need to complete a collection. Always go for what you love and screams your name. And no car, no acquisition, should take food from the table.”

Updated: November 12, 2022, 7:26 AM