From Barn Finds To Gleaming Restorations, The Universo Marx Collection Is A Vintage Oasis In Brazil
Photography by Alvaro Pinzón
Aside from my visit to the Formula 1 calendar’s stop at Interlagos and a visit with a very special 356, my time in São Paulo also included a stop to see a good friend and an amazing collection of classic cars he’s amassed with his family. Together with his sister and two brothers, Mauricio Marx has maintained and built on the legacy of his father and grandfather, collecting and restoring vintage European cars.
The first thing I did was visit the shop of cars for sale, and they had a nice mix that spanned BMW Isettas to VW Kombis, Ferrari to Mercedes, and a few Americans thrown into the crowd in the form of some old pickups and ‘Vettes.
If I lived closer I could see myself coming over here for a coffee or a beer pretty often, as the atmosphere is just so inviting and jovial, and the spread of cars offers plenty of conversation inspiration. Unfortunately I only had a day and a half to spend, but I had the chance to see every part of the collection from the pristine restorations to the shells that teeter on the brink of being savable, as well as some time to talk with Mauricio about his family’s collection.
Alvaro Pinzon: How did this all begin?
Mauricio Marx: My grandfather was the one who started buying vintage cars in the family, and in fact I still have a Jaguar XK120 and an Austin Healey 100/4 that were his cars originally. Then my father started buying similar cars in his teens, and he only stopped when he died in 1998. He was a great visionary I think, and had a knack for picking good ccars. Since the 1960s, he started to buy competition cars and cars eligible for various international concours. At that time, there was really no one in Brazil that was doing this, and if they were they were typically buying mostly American cars. My father was called crazy to buy what he did: Alfas, Delahayes, Maseratis, Ferraris, many others, and now we have in our collection more than 230 European cars!
AP: How did you and your siblings enter the picture?
MM: With Dad’s death, my brother and I continued the collection and haven’t stopped since. About four years ago, I opened a showroom selling old cars, and today we are the largest antique car dealer in Brazil. Since I was a child, I accompanied my father in races, rallies, and concours contest, so I know the majority of Brazilian collectors, and I have a long history with this industry and its players. I’m relatively young but people respect where I’ve come from. My store is different too. We have a bar in the middle of the shop for example, and collectors can come to the store with their old cars to talk for fun or for business, and during the latter we negotiate as friends than rather than dealers and customers. Nowadays I have my collection, a repair shop, and my car shop.
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The next day Mauricio took me out in his Renault R8 to visit his repair shop and his collection that’s been amassed in the same warehouse, and when we arrive I am blown away by the vision of hundreds of cars wedged into the admittedly large space to begin with. Some rooms were full of unrestored Alfas and other cars under a few decades of dust such that it felt like walking in on an amazing barn find of a forgotten collection.
AP: What are some of the most significant cars you have in here Mauricio?
MM: We have in our collection a barn find 1938 Lancia Astura 1938 (much like the one that won pebble beach last year), an Alfa Romeo Villa d’Este, a Delahaye Figoni et Falaschi, a Maserati 4CM, a Lagonda LG45, an Allard J2, a Cisitalia, a 1961 Porsche 356, among others.
Most interesting about some of these cars is that they’ve remained exactly as they were since the time my father bought them, and who’s to say how long they sat untouched before he bought them the first time around?
AP: What will happen to these cars? Do you plan to maintain them as they are, as products and victims of time, or will you restore some of them?
MM: Not that I don’t love them in a certain sense as they are, but yes, we will try to restore them all at some point, going one by one. My father spent decades hunting these cars and chasing them all around the country, so we’re going to be patient in our restoration as well. Some of these were old and rare and socked away, and some were simply left to rot on the street.
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I then went to look at some old photos of Mauricio and his sister Maya when the family went to some of the concours, rallies, and track days at places like Interlagos; moments and places where they shared all the best memories with their father and mother. They are a family of true petrolheads, the young hearts and minds in these old photos already given over to the world of cars.
While they were showing me these photos and telling me the stories that went with them, like when Maia went with his father on a rally, or when Mauricio first drove in the Hispano-Suiza, or the story of the old Porsche 356 that happens to be the first imported to Brazil after receiving their permission card to drive on the streets here.
It’s great to see some glimpses of how this family legacy began, and I certainly enjoyed spending time with the latest generation to bear the torch.