“Hey, lady, this is private property!” yells a guy in a powder-blue Porsche 911 as he pulls into the collector-car-studded building I had entered minutes earlier. Clearly in the wrong place, I apologize and retreat, glancing one last time over my shoulder at the gleaming lineup of vintage Porsches, Ferraris and the like.
As I soon learned, I had wandered into one of Jerry Seinfeld’s garages. It was an honest mistake. I was meeting with a nearby car restorer, who had told me to text when I arrived. I did — and when the roll-up door opened, I pulled in, assuming I had found him. (Sorry, Jerry, I swear I don’t remember the exact location.)
From hangars at the Santa Monica Airport to unmarked buildings like Seinfeld’s, the secret car lairs of L.A. are under the radar and plentiful. There are known places like Jay Leno’s sprawling hangars full of audacious sheet metal and Petersen Automotive Museum Vice Chairman Peter Mullin’s space in Oxnard dedicated to his pre-war French car collection (the public can enter by reservation). But most of the car-crazed celebrities, athletes, musicians and “normal” folks in L.A. who own more than one or two not-daily-drivers face the challenge of housing their mechanical playthings.
For such square-footage-challenged hobbyists, there’s a solution coming. It’s called Westside Collector Car Storage, and it‘s the brainchild of Matt Farah.
Originally from New York, Farah started out as a photographer who ran a car-detailing business, moved into exotic rentals and eventually hit pay dirt with his automotive videos, and now podcast, branded “The Smoking Tire.” Along the way, Farah has been amassing an impressively quirky collection of his own, including a 1987 Porsche Keen Project Safari 911 with city bus fabric lining the interior (no kidding) and a 1988 Lamborghini Countach 5000 QV.
“In 2015, I wrote down the most annoying things about owning a sports car in L.A. — and I realized I wanted to be my own customer,” he tells me as we stand in his nearly finished, state-of-the-art, 14,000-square-foot facility in Playa Vista, due to open this spring. It’s one-third Pantheon, one-third Batcave and one-third Fort Knox.
His list also included: having to negotiate steep driveway angles; not knowing a trusted and affordable shop for storage and service; not being able to legally wash/detail your car in your own driveway for environmental reasons; and being forced to choose between sheltering toys/bikes/surfboards and your precious ride in your home garage.
So Farah set out to solve it all. He spared no expense: digging a poured concrete basement with an 18-inch, double-rebar-enforced ceiling to support 18 car-stacking lifts, each of which holds four cars, on the floor above (the basement, with 15 tandem spots for 30 cars, represents half the construction costs as a result).
According to Farah, no one has ever put that many quad-stackers indoors, let alone over a basement. When full, it will be like walking into a vertical car show. And each slot will have its own dedicated charging hook-up to keep batteries healthy. There’s also a drive-through for flatbeds, which can offload cargo under cover and drive straight out —no angles, no turns.
“It’s pretty rare to have a purpose-built facility like WCCS,” says Doug Cohen, president of the Newport Hotel Group and a longtime collector and hobbyist. “He’s got tremendous passion for the details and has thought of everything, all the way down to the drip pans. I told him ‘cathedral’ or ‘temple’ should be in the name.”
In all, 160 truckloads of concrete were needed to erect a building designed to withstand a massive earthquake. The foot-thick walls, the door to the quad-stacking area and the windows overlooking it are all two-hour fire-rated. The industrial exhaust evacuation system can handle 20 vintage cars purring at once with no degradation to air quality. More than five dozen security cameras will keep watch over all 130 vehicles when the place is full. Customers may not post photos to social media, and no media will have access after the official opening. “Security is a chief concern,” says Farah.
Farah prefers not to quantify the investment he’s made in WCCS, which was done with the help of his father, Roger Farah, who has run or helped run the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Tory Burch and is chairman of the board of Tiffany. They decided to build the storage facility the right way — and hope the investment pays off with customers.
“Farah’s hit a gold mine in that collectors not only in L.A. but from around the world can store their wheels close to LAX and really drive their cars in a culture that celebrates them,” says Joe Molina, an L.A.-based automotive PR guru who has owned 158 cars over 40 years. “The facility is like the Death Star for collector cars.”
There are plenty of storage services in Greater L.A., which range from cheap (located far away without many concierge services or quick access) to nosebleed (Beverly Hills/West L.A. locations that are convenient but pricey or equally expensive full-service delivery from a distance). Farah’s prices sit in the middle. And proximity to LAX makes his rates attractive because of the ease of access.
Another differentiator is an app that allows clients to schedule services, from airport pickup/drop-off to detailing and off-site maintenance. When a member’s car is checked in for storage, Farah’s staff will snap photos of the car and its mileage — and store that information to the cloud via the app.
There’s a social component, too, including a first-floor reception area and coffee lounge. Upstairs, a race simulator awaits members, as does a bar with wine and whiskey storage lockers, cigar humidors, and a coffee table with a Bentley W12 engine as the base. Farah also installed a soundproof studio where he’ll tape his “Smoking Tire” podcast.
With all the A-list automotive celebs Farah interviews for his podcast, housing his recording studio at WCCS will be an extra incentive for car guys to sign up in order to rub elbows with the greats. And then there’s Farah himself.
“Who wouldn’t want Matt Farah, one of the most knowledgeable car journalists in the world, presiding over your car storage and care?” says Spike Feresten, host of “Spike’s Car Radio” and an L.A. car-scene insider. “He’ll even smoke a cigar with you in the lounge.”
Info: See westsidecollectorcarstorage.com to contact for rates