Speaker at the SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS: Eli Solomon on Classic Cars
Eli Solomon is the publisher of a renowned motoring magazine in Asia called Rewind Magazine. He tells us how he got involved with classic cars.
- Eli Solomon is the publisher of a renowned motoring magazine in Asia called Rewind Magazine, that strives to provide in-depth and up-to-the-minute information on motoring heritage. We speak to the man himself to find out how he got involved with classic cars and get his thoughts on the motoring scene in the region.
How did the passion for classic cars come to you ?
- I was born into a family of car people so the interest in automobiles old and new came from a very early age. My parents weren’t particularly keen on my interest in historic motor racing or my obsession with tearing old cars apart and putting them back together again. I fear they felt they went horribly wrong in my upbringing.
What challenges do classic car collectors face in Singapore ?
- It’s a question with heads of a hydra. Asian collectors and motoring enthusiasts have it hard. Cheap labor for years meant the DIY culture never took off. Ask the average classic car owner if he or she has ever dared tune an SU or Weber carburetor and you’ll be met with a blank stare and glazed eyes. That’s just one of the myriad of issues we face. Our bank of classic car mechanics …there’s a formula we have…the number is inversely proportional to the number of old cars on the road.
- Our stash of spares has evaporated so as owners, we’re also stockists for oil filters, gaskets, and every imaginable part that is unobtainable here. Everything comes from abroad – right down to special paints and tools. My office has shelves and shelves of spare parts. Soon we’ll have our own Forex and hedge fund department to hedge against currency fluctuations. And we haven’t even started talking about the environment and its effect on paint and metal and engine internals.
Do you agree with Warren Buffet that buying a classic car is the wisest investment of all, on the (very) long term ?
- Wise? It’s a no-brainer. If a stamp or coin or book was produced in very small quantities and there’s more than one person interested in it, what do you think will happen? In the very long term our old cars may end up confined in storage hangers but I’m not going to be around when that happens. My interest is in driving and using these objects as they were meant to be used. You can’t drive a manuscript – maybe you can look at it once a week and admire the watermark, the foxing and fading ink but that’s about it.
- I asset-swapped some unpublished letters of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles 15 years ago for a pair of race cars and I have never regretted a moment of it, even when the engine of one of the race cars blew up in spectacular fashion in a race a couple of years ago.
- Don’t collect if you don’t have a passion for something. They won’t be there with you on the lonely walk to meet your maker.
Which of these is your favorite Concours d’Elegance: Villa d’Este, Pebble Beach, Goodwood, Chantilly or Bund Classic ?
- My preference is for historic motor sports events. Many combine both displays and racing or tours. Monterey’s Holy Week in August has to be the place to be for anyone and everyone interested in classic automobiles. It is where everyone and anyone in the business congregates for 10 days, culminating at Laguna Seca Raceway, The Quail – A Motorsports Gathering and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Goodwood’s Revival ranks high up as well – a perfect blend of fashion and classic motor sports. Chantilly – perfect venue, great company. Pity too many events in Europe and England coincide over that same weekend.
Any interesting classic car rallies in Southeast Asia?
- None that I have been aware of, outside of the Tour de Cebu in the Philippines. Actually there isn’t much going on in our part of the universe, outside perhaps of the Philippines. I’d much prefer circuit racing than road rallying over potholes and plantations. Maybe Heart Media (publisher of Luxuo) should organize one in Malaysia? I’ve had to go to Japan, Europe and the US for my fix of long distance driving. Or to Australia and New Zealand for historic car racing.
You have classic cars collector friends in Malaysia? In Thailand?
Thailand, yes of course. Very passionate collectors there. There’s a strong base of real enthusiasts in the Philippines and Indonesia. I’m sure there must be a few good ones in Malaysia.
What’s your favorite classic car of all time?
I don’t have favorites. Some were cantankerous old dogs, some were so underpowered they didn’t have the juice to untie a shoelace. Whatever I have now are my favorites. There are two that I fondly recall for very different reasons – my two Lancia Montecarlos and my Lamborghini Urraco. If you really need an answer…it is a toss up between my Lancia Fulvia RS Coupe and a Lancia Montecarlo S2 Spider I had a few decades ago. I suspect my Jaguar XK150 will soon take over that spot – once I’ve achieved what I want to do with it.
What are some of the classic car(s) you own? Why those car(s) in particular?
I like the good spectrum of engineering in what I have – a V4, straight 4, twin cam 4, straight 6 twin cam, V8 monster, V Twin… each has its own idiosyncrasies, its own strengths and weaknesses, its own wonderful exhaust note. And of course I love the designs – Touring of Milan did the Jensen Interceptor, Piero Castagnero at Lancia’s Centro Stile designed the Fulvia, Pininfarina had a hand in the final design of the MGB GT and of course Malcolm Sayer and William Lyons for the elegance of the Jaguar/Daimler Sovereign and the XK150. The race cars are another story entirely.
What would be the most important advice you would give to a new/young classic car collector ?
Eli Solomon will give talks at the SINGAPORE RENDEZVOUS – October 20-23 at Raffles Marina