CAR COLLECTOR WITH A HISTORY
Wherever I go, I tend to look for either a car event that concurs with my stay or for a nearby car museum worth visiting. Similarly, when I was planning my trip to Bucharest I wished there was a one-off car related place, unique for such a country. And to be honest, I was really surprised by what I have found – a private collection of cars owned by Mr Ion Țiriac. After a short research I found out that he is not only a businessman, but also a former professional hockey and tennis player with major achievements, including the the French Open doubles tittle back in 1970. And obviously, he is also a car collector…
And his collection is simply astonishing. Never in my life have I seen such a consistent and well displayed array of private cars. The exhibition building – or museum, if you like – is located within walking distance from the Bucharest Otopeni International Airport. This makes it simple enough to visit either on the way to the city or if one has some spare time before catching a flight back home. However, be aware that if you are really into cars, you would not like to leave that place after half an hour.
Inside the building there are more than 140 automobiles and motorcycles from almost every époque in car history. All of them are parked parallelly around the oval shape of the building and standing there on a polished floor, under a perfect spot-lighting, the display looks spectacular. In addition to that, each part of the building is devoted to either different car-make or the origin of a particular set of exhibits.
COUNTLESS FERRARI AND ROLLS ROYCE
First of them are Ferraris. There is a red Testarossa, F12 Berlinetta and LaFerrari, grey 550 Maranello and strikingly yellow Dino 246GT. In every other single case seeing these, one would be content and such an occasion could be called a fantastic petrolhead day. But not in this place. I took the left-hand side alley which led me alongside endless number of Rolls Royce. I cannot remember how many there were during my visit, but the museum webpage states an outrageous sixteen. My special attention was brought to maybe not the most unique of all of them but special in its details. The 1975 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow in bright brown colour was simply beautiful. The paint was wonderfully accompanied by silver elements such as the massive grillage and everything was topped off by golden touches, including the ever-famous Spirit of Ecstasy. And you would not imagine what the headlight wiper was made of! It is simply a brush, which came to me as a huge surprise.
A DEVIL AND A RALLYE DUO
Farther down the alley I passed few Mercedes-Benz including a mint condition 190SL and a Pagoda as well as a fantastic Porsche 356. Some of the cars were not displayed as all vehicles are regularly maintained so they are ready to be driven when the occasion comes. I spotted a blank spot without a car, but when I was reading what automobile usually occupies this space on a paper sign, my sight was caught by a devil reflecting in the shiny floor tiles. I looked up and there it was – a stunning Lamborghini Diablo – a car which I was not a big fan of when I was a child but all my friends loved it. I reckon it was my first time seeing it and although this was not a love at first sight for me, I think I am definitely more convinced now.
On the opposite side of the Italian Bull there were two racing legends standing next to each other. Lancia Fulvia HF 1600 “Fanalone” in racing red with a distinctive yellow stripe through the body and Renault Alpine A110 in a classic blue make for a perfect duo. Interestingly, the nickname of the first came from bigger inner lamps while compared to its more civilised sister. This particularexhibit at Tiriac Collection was equipped with additional Cibie racing lighting and a full roll cage which combined with 132 horsepower makes it truly a beast. But the Alpine was not worse. Kept in mint condition has definitely not been rallied for quite a while now. Oh, how nice it would be to see them both running, chasing each other.
The exposition was so extensive that soon I realized I would not be able to depict everything I saw. Walking into the vintage early 1930s cars zone I decided to focus on the details. A common characteristic of almost all of these cars were emblem figurines (or hood ornaments, if you prefer), crowning the huge radiators just as the icing on the cake. I particularly liked the fantastic “Helmeted Archer” on top of 1930 Pierce Arrow Model B, the winged Swan atop the 1936 Packard Super Eight and quite extraordinary Boyce MotoMeter actually serving an important role for a vintage Chrysler. These ornaments were actually thermometers allowing the drivers to check the temperature in the radiator. First introduced in 1912 such a device played a significant role until dashboard temperature gauges took over around 1930s. Last but not least, there was a shiny cat jumping off the hood of a 1959 Jaguar Mark IX – classy!
SURPRISE USUALLY COMES IN A MERCEDES 540K
I was heading towards the exit when I heard a pleasant noise coming from behind me. I turned around and I saw Mr Tiriac himself, driving in Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet “A”. The car itself was like the situation which happened to me – rarer than rare. Only 83 were built ever and this particular exhibit has a very interesting history. Originally purchased by a Dutch client, after unknown war history made its way to Massachusetts from where, after several years of use and fantastic restoration, was sold to a collector in Europe. Later, in 2000 it was acquired by the famous Ecclestone Collection. It is hard to believe that after all this car has been through, it still has less than fifty thousand kilometres on the odometer.
In a blink of an eye Mr Tiriac disappeared and the car was being parked by the staff. I shot few pictures of this beauty and then I needed to rush to catch my flight. Whilst I was planning my vacation in Romania I was not expecting any other moto-experience than driving the famous Transfagarasan. In the Bucharest suburbs however, I found what turned out to be the best private collection I have ever seen. Go and visit – you will be surprised yourself!
Text & Photos: Adam Pękala ©