David Lee’s Ferrari Collection Will Make You Stay in School
Photography by Luke Wooden
Ferrari collections come in all sizes and flavors, and no two are ever the same as each collector has his or her own distinct collecting style. David Lee’s collection is perhaps one that appeals most to the younger generation of enthusiasts, featuring all the supercar Ferraris from the ‘80s to present, as well as some of the most beautiful examples from the ‘60s.
After taking the reins of his family’s jewelry business established by his father, a master jade craftsman, the younger Lee transformed the business to a retail powerhouse, representing all the high-end, limited production watch brands. He sees many similarities between the watch and automotive industries: it’s about the quality of the engineering, the branding, and image, which is “why there are a lot of partnerships between car and watch companies.”
While he started borrowing car books from the library as a child and learning to sketch Lamborghinis and Ferraris, he eventually worked into a position where he could enjoy the real thing. After dabbling with Porsches and Lamborghinis, an encounter with a Jaguar E-type made him re-evaluate his focus, choosing to collect only classic and supercar Ferraris.
Following is a brief interview with Lee about how his collection evolved, family, and how he established Morning Octane, a local monthly car gathering.
Q: Your collection speaks for itself, how did you get here, from an automotive perspective?
A: My first real sports car was a 911 C2, then a 911 turbo, then a Diablo VT, then just a variety of cars…
I wanted the holy trinity—the best from Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche. So I bought a Carrera GT, Diablo 6.0, and an Enzo. Then one day, I was going to a Christmas party and a friend told me that he had something to show me, he opened his garage and there was this E-type. I looked at it and it was just so cool.
It turned me on to the world of vintage cars.
From there I started researching and it opened up a whole new world for me. I talked to lots of people, and looked into and wound up getting a ’65 Ferrari 275 GTS. Because of the process—the research, learning, understanding the heritage, Enzo’s role—it opened up the floodgates. It’s what sparked my interest and the collection. I wound up selling all the other, newer cars so I could focus on Ferrari supercars and classics.
Q: What made you focus on Ferrari?
A: I really like the history and I don’t think other brands have the range of models and variety that Ferrari has. I picked a certain direction and strategy, I prefer the supercars from the 288GTO through the LaFerrari, but also some of their icons of the ‘60s. And I also like driving something dependable everyday, which is my 2014 Ferrari FF.
Q: Let’s talk about your incredible collection: are they garage queens or do they get driven?
A: I think I’m a rarity in that I drive a Ferrari seven days a week. I don’t drive anything else. Most of the time I drive the FF, but on weekends or special occasions I pick one of the others in the garage. I believe in driving them, a lot of times when I buy a car, they haven’t been driven and need to be tuned up for regular driving. So I do that and then drive them. I get a sense of nostalgia, of what the world was like back then, it’s like a time warp, I enjoy that feeling.
Q: If you had to give them all away and only save one, not necessarily as a daily driver, which would it be?
A: I would have to say either the F40 or 288GTO, the turbo cars. Maybe it’s the era, I remember them going against the Porsche 959, and I was in high school and really engaged in thinking about cars. So maybe that’s why I just love them.
Q: Does your family share your passion?
A: Well my wife is supportive and she enjoys the cars, but she likes the classic ones more. And my son is fifteen years old and in the past he just wasn’t into cars but now he’s really starting to get into cars. I took him to Monterey this year and he’s beginning to understand what the community is all about.
I remember in high school, there was this girl whose father drove her to school everyday in a Ferrari 308. And everybody thought it was so cool and that she was so cool. And I thought, “damn! I wish my dad had cool cars and drove me to school and I’d get to ride in them, man it would be cool!” And now, I can do it for my son and a lot of times he says, “no don’t drive me in the Ferrari, dad!” It’s too much attention for him.
Q: Can you also tell us about the events you’re putting on?
A: What I put together is an event called Morning Octane, it’s once a month. We’ve held it at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena City Hall, and my store’s parking lot. Everyone knows Supercar Sunday, which is a San Fernando Valley thing, Cars & Coffee, which is an Orange County thing, but there was really a void in the San Gabriel Valley.
And because I know a few other owners in the area I was able to call them and invite them, and now people have really embraced it. We’ve been doing it over a year now and there are a lot of different cars, and all ages, different eras, but it’s really to facilitate the passion for cars. That’s why I’ve been doing it.