It is the car collection that has fascinated many of us for decades. In this article we delve a little deeper into the most impressive, but (arguably) worst-kept, private car collection in the world.
Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Pictures: Supplied by @RaidBrunei
The Sultan of Brunei. Depending of what you’ve read about him and his family, the topic will stir a variety of opinions in each of us. When oil was discovered in this small country and the billions of dollars started rolling in, the instant wealth was hard to handle.
For motoring enthusiasts, this family is synonymous with one thing, and that is arguably the largest car collection in the world. Over the years some magazine articles have appeared highlighting the collection and offering some information. With the rise of social media it was inevitable that more pictures and information would surface, with both outdated and more current news on offer.
To say that the family was once one of the most notable clients of brands such as Ferrari, Pininfarina, Bentley, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and McLaren would be an understatement of note. Special, custom-built and -designed cars were commissioned and ordered from each of the manufacturers and design houses. In some cases, a handful of cars were ordered, and in other cases only one or two.
Also note that many of these cars, and the high-flying lifestyle, were associated with the Sultan’s brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, and not with the Sultan himself – although it is unclear exactly where the split lies between the two of them in terms of the cars.
As the country is run by this monarchy, understandably not many people have been able to gain access to this collection. However, several pictures have been seen over the years and now with social media, there are no fewer than three accounts on Instagram dedicated to showing us pictures from the distant and recent past of this incredible collection.
The account manager of @RaidBrunei recently informed me that he would be able to vet pictures and information that are sent to him. What is also interesting is that in a decade or two we might see a change in the politics in the country when the next generation ascends to power. Could this result in more cars being attended to or even sold?
In the past the family hasn’t been interested in selling many of its cars. There have, however, been news reports of auctions being held and one exotic car dealer in the USA has confirmed to me that he had been successful in acquiring a couple of cars from the collection. A few cars have also surfaced in the UK through specialist dealerships. However, even with some of the most alluring and exotic cars ever produced, the USA-based dealer gave me the following, sad, information: “Government officials, supposedly in charge, can be described as paralyzed by indecision. Nothing has happened or will likely ever happen until at some point a few cars are given to a few insiders and the rest are dumped in the ocean. The cars have no titles, you will never get an export permit, and after twenty or more years most are beyond saving.”
The fact that cars have not been properly maintained and are stuck in buildings, or even outside, in one of the most humid areas on earth, does not help either.
It would appear that the family is still buying exotic cars as pictures have surfaced of a Pagani Huayra, among other cars. However, it seems the days of buying five or 10 of the same model are a thing of the past.
One would have thought that the family would at least keep the most exotic and rarest cars in perfect order, but that is, sadly again, not the case. With a number of McLaren F1s in the collection, several enthusiasts have asked about the state of these cars, but it would appear that even these cars are not attended to. Pani Tsouris (on Instagram under @panitsouris), a McLaren F1 technician, confirmed the other day by stating that, “the Brunei cars have not been seen or serviced by McLaren since the late 90s”.
However, on a positive note, some cars have “escaped” the collection and always draw a lot attention when details are released to the public online.
The incredible nature of the collection is not merely because of the type of cars this family have bought through the years, but also the sheer number of examples they ordered at a time. For example, besides the handful of previously-mentioned McLaren F1s, there is an entire collection of W140 Mercedes-Benzes, rows of Bentleys a (including station wagons)… to offer just a few examples!
Most of us can only dream of ever seeing a Dauer Porsche in the metal, but this family had (still have?) three - a black, yellow and red example! These pictures also indicate that the family would often park the cars according to brand or the colours of the cars.
Talking of colours, how about a bright yellow R129 Mercedes-Benz SL (with matching yellow wheels) with a blood red interior…. There are/were several.
In one picture we can see two red Ferrari F50s being attended to, and another shows a silver and yellow example of the famous Italian supercar. However, there appears to be very little evidence of the type of serious workshop equipment (and lifts) that would be needed to maintain these types of cars.
The latest images and insights still leave us with so many questions. All we can do is hope that people in the right places can convince the powers that be to sell these rarities to new owners who will be able to properly look after them.
Oh, and what is also a little known fact is that the collection also includes several motorcycles. Two-, or four-wheeled exotics, they have them all!