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The car collection belonging to the Sultan of Brunei and his family is one of the biggest mysteries of the automotive world. The claimed 5,000 vehicle collection – dozens identical to each other, many completely bespoke, many never seeing the light of day – contains some of the rarest and most valuable vehicles in the world.
Yet for such a massive and high-profile collection, there are very few photos of what lurks behind the garage doors. There have been stories of a lack of air conditioning causing the cars to melt and rot in the humid heat. Dealers, invited over the years to buy cars from the collection for clients, have been greeted by vehicles with no service history, no ownership documentation and often no miles on the clock.
The collection at one point housed a claimed nine examples of the McLaren F1, of which just 100 were built. One – not owned by Brunei – is set to become the world's most expensive post-1969 car when it is auctioned this summer for a cool £15m.
On one floor there are rows and rows of identical cars with the same yellow exterior and red leather interior. Some motorsport icons are buried there too, including Formula One cars. Other vehicles were built specifically for the Brunei royal family, such as Ferraris and Bentleys turned into estates and SUVs, which were never sold to the public.
It is reported that Prince Jefri, brother of the Sultan, spent $78m (£60m) with Ferrari coachbuilder Pininfarina, and $475m with Rolls-Royce.
For the first time in many years, a large collection of photos of the royal family's garages has appeared online. Taken in 2001 by a person visiting with the intent of viewing a car to buy, the images have been posted to Instagram with the owner's permission by a user called Taffy_C_S_145.
Writing on the Ferrari Chat forum, Taffy said: "Those pictures were taken by a friend back in 2001 when he was given permission to look at the cars that were going to be auctioned. He only spent an hour [there] and skipped many parts of the garage."
Taffy's images include two of a McLaren F1 GT 'Longtail', above, of which only two (plus one prototype) were made. There are also images of three examples of the McLaren F1 LM, of which only five were made.
Worth between £10m and £20m in their prime, the condition of the F1s is somewhat varied. There is a crack to the paintwork of one and the interior has warped out of shape due to the heat and humidity of the garage.
Damage is also seen on a bespoke Bentley, with what appears to be mould spreading across the car's steering wheel. The car was just three years old when the photo was taken in 2001, and is therefore likely in far worse condition today, 16 years later.
As well as being stored in a baking garage without air conditioning, the collection is also famous for never being driven. The three LMs, including the orange one in the image below, have never been seen since they left McLaren's Woking factory in 1996.
Another room houses at least eight examples of the Jaguar XJ220 supercar. One photo shows at least 20 Jaguar XKRs and one has the same number of Ferrari Testarossas, including convertible versions made exclusively for the Sultan. A 'yellow room' houses a collection of Porsches and Lamborghinis – plus yet another McLaren F1 – all in the same shade of yellow, some with a matching interior and even wheels.
Other examples of Ferraris made uniquely for the Sultan include estate, saloon and convertible versions of the 456 four-seater, plus six examples of the Ferrari FX and two of the Ferrari Mythos, neither of which were offered for sale to the public.
Another custom car is an Aston Martin DB5 modified to include retractable guns behind the headlights, as per the one driven by James Bond in Goldfinger.
As Brunei citizens drive on the left, the royal family had some of the cars converted to right-hand-drive. Cars like the Ferrari F40 and F50, which only left the factory in Italy as left-hand-drive, were converted by Pininfarina at vast expense. There are understood to be between seven and 10 such F40s and two F50s.
So go ahead and feast your eyes on arguably the most detailed look yet at the world's largest and most secretive car collection.