Includes rare Rolls-Royce models and vehicles previously owned by Elton John and Bernie Ecclestone

Collecting automobiles has become an increasingly popular hobby among the wealthy in recent decades. Based on auction data, it started to become a trend in the 1980s and it went mainstream in the 1990s. Over the last two decades, the value of classic cars has gone through the roof, with 1960s and 1970s sports and race cars fetching millions of dollars.

This expensive hobby has spread all over the world, with famous personalities amassing huge and impressive garages in the United States, Western Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. Notable collectors include Wyclef Jean, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, fashion mogul Ralph Lauren, and Jamirquai front man Jay Kay. Russia’s Dmitry Lomakov displays his collection in a museum, while Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani, India’s richest man, is said to own nearly 200 cars.

Then there’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who owns some 7,000 vehicles, including one-off and concept cars commissioned from Ferrari, Porsche, and Jaguar. In the U.S., we have Ken Lingenfelter and his 40,000 square foot building in Michigan for a garage and Jay Leno, who put together an awesome show to talk about his rare automobiles. Of course, we can’t forget about the Jerry Seinfeld, whose passion for the Porsche brand is impressive to say the least.

But, while all of the personalities above are known the world over, there are collectors that aren’t exactly famous beyond their native country. At least not for the rare and expensive cars they own. One such man is Ion Tiriac, a Romanian businessman and former professional tennis and ice hockey player who owns about 250 historical vehicles and displays some of them in an exhibition on the outskirts of Bucharest, Romania’s capital and largest city. While 250 cars might not sound like much compared to what Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld have in their garages, Tiriac’s collection stands out by being the only one the world with six pre-1972 Rolls Royce Phantom models and for including automobiles that previously belonged to celebrities such as Elton John, Sammy Davis Jr. or Bernie Ecclestone. Keep reading to find out more about that and take a virtual tour of the exhibition in our photo gallery section.

Continue reading for the full story.

The Man Behind the Cars

A Virtual Tour of the Tiriac Collection, Romania's Largest Classic Car Exhibit
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Image: http://www.tiriaccollection.ro/

Born in 1939 in Brasov, a city located in the central Romania, about 103 miles north of Bucharest, Ion Tiriac is most famous for his professional tennis career. He first appeared on the international sports scene as an ice hockey player on the Romanian national team at the 1964 Winter Olympics, but switched to tennis as his main sport shortly after that, turning pro in 1968. Tiriac became famous after winning the men’s doubles in the 1970 French Open with fellow Romanian Ilie Nastase and reached the Davis Cup finals several times in the 1970s. He reached his highest ATP ranking at No. 8 in 1968. Tiriac retired in 1979 with 23 titles and served as coach and manager for players such as Ilie Năstase, Guillermo Vilas, Mary Joe Fernández, Goran Ivanišević and Marat Safin. He also managed tennis star Boris Becker from 1984 to 1993. In 1998 he became president of the Romanian National Olympic Committee and currently owns the Madrid Open tennis tournament held annually in Spain.

He became a successful businessman in the late 1980s and founded the first private bank in post-Communist Romania. Tiriac also owns several insurance, leasing, and auto dealerships and is credited for bringing the Mercedes-Benz brand to Romania in the early 1990s. He became the first Romanian to enter Forbes’ List of billionaires and for many years was the richest man in Romania. His passion for automobiles began at an early age and purchased his first luxury car, a Mercedes-Benz 280S, in 1969 with his first earnings as a professional tennis player. He now owns more than 250 classic cars and several modern-day vehicles, most of which are displayed at the Tiriac Collection museum near Bucharest.

Where Can You See It?

A Virtual Tour of the Tiriac Collection, Romania's Largest Classic Car Exhibit
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The Tiriac Collection is located in a small town called Otopeni, a few miles from Bucharest, Romania’s capital city. The museum is just across the street from the main entrance of the Henri Coanda International Airport which makes it easy to find even to those visiting Bucharest for the first time. You can get there by car or bus, the latter from City Center. Getting there will take at least half an hour due to the city’s heavy traffic. The Tiriac Collection is opened to the public Friday to Sunday from 10 AM to 8 PM local time. Tickets cost around $3.80 or €3.30, but students and senior citizens can access the exhibit for only $1.90 or €1.70.

Collection Highlights

A Virtual Tour of the Tiriac Collection, Romania's Largest Classic Car Exhibit
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The Tiriac Collection includes a wide array of vehicles from over 30 brands. The oldest vehicle is a 1899 Hurtu 3 1/2 Quadricycle, one of only seven examples known to exist in 2016. The newest car on display is a 2014 LaFerrari, which sits alongside eight other Prancing Horses, including a 1987 Testarossa, a 1972 Dino 246 GT, and a 2009 F430 Scuderia Spider 16M.

Tiriac also owns an impressive amount of British sports cars and grand tourers. Notable nameplates include a 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda, a 1937 Bentley 4 1/4 Liter, a 1962 Bentley Continental Park Ward, 1962 Bentley S2 Continental by Mulliner, a 1973 Jaguar E-Type, and a 1971 Jensen Interceptor. These are joined by no fewer than 16 Rolls-Royce models, including nine Phantoms — one of which is a pink one that used to belong to Elton John.

Mercedes-Benz is by far Tiriac’s favorite brand, with 19 models on display. Highlights include both the extremely rare 600 and 600 Pullman, a 1937 540K previously owned by Bernie Ecclestone, and a SLR McLaren Stirling Moss Edition.

The former tennis player is also a big fan of American cars, owning several muscle cars in two-door coupe and four-door sedan styles. His collection comprises four generations of Lincoln Continentals, four Cadillac Eldorados, three Chevy Corvettes, three Ford Mustangs, several Chryslers, a Cord 812 Custom, a 1936 Packard Super Eight, and even a 1930 Pierce-Arrow Model B. Some cars have interesting stories. The 1970 Mustang Mach 1, for instance, was purchased after Tiriac played the Davis Cup final in Cleveland in 1970s. It was sold a few years later and bought back about three decades later, in 2003.

The race car section includes a 1969 Lancia Fulvia, a 1993 Lancia Delta Integrale, and a 1986 Ford RS 200. The massive collection is also home to four motorcycles, including a 1943 Indian Scout 741 and a 1979 Harley-Davidson FLH 80 Electra Glide. All told, the Tiriac Collection is a museum worth visiting if you’re in the area. Until you get there, take a virtual tour of the exhibit in the photo gallery section above.

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