Dressed in dark graphite, the windowless single-story structure sits on a street corner in Culver City, Calif.; its exterior could be easily mistaken for any Department of Motor Vehicles building, only with less flair. But just like an oyster, the nondescript shell hides precious beauty from prying eyes. In this case, it’s a rare assemblage of 14 high-performance cars—nearly all one of a kind—owned by collector, and member of Robb Report’s RR1 club, Edvin Ovasapyan.
Appearances are like politicians; they are often deceiving. At first glance, one could be intimidated by the muscular man festooned with tattoos, but soft-spoken Ovasapyan is the very definition of affable, and his default demeanor is a calm that’s contagious. Invited to meet him and view his exclusive enclave for the first time, I am warmly greeted by the gregarious owner with a double-handshake and broad smile that most would usually reserve for the closest of friends or family. He’s wearing a T-shirt paired with fashionably ripped jeans, and if you saw him on the street, the only hint at his measure of means would be the $700,000-plus Richard Mille watch on his wrist. But while his individual style is understated, his field of four-wheelers is not. As I’m guided through the automotive display, his penchant for personalization also becomes immediately apparent.
“I want them to be my own. When you buy from the manufacturer, even if only 100 were made, that means 100 people have the same car as you do,” says Ovasapyan. “Sometimes I go through six different wheels on a car before I like it. When I’m sitting in it, the car is me. That’s what I want.”
His tailored approach is found on already limited-run models, including the Ferrari F12tdf (presented in colors of the Italian flag) and a Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series (a car he considers the most intimidating to drive). For his orange McLaren 720S, Novitec provided a special suspension (lowered by 1.5 inches) and an engine tuned to tout an additional 80 hp on top of the 710 horses the model runs with stock.
And then there is the one-off Shelby Cobra he had built to his exact specifications, including the color and trim combination of black and silver with red pinstriping. A few, however, remain factory-fresh, such as the Ferrari F40 that is colored, of course, in rosso corso. “It’s the most iconic Ferrari, I think, to own,” Ovasapyan opines. “The Pininfarina design is just unreal.”
To have each vehicle carefully crafted to taste takes patience, a quality Ovasapyan has to spare. While I’m there, he accepts delivery from the team at Brabus on a new Mercedes-Benz G550 4×4. He has been waiting on it for 14 months while the specialty tuner basically took the car apart and rebuilt it to order. The only component that had not been perfected was the ultra-high-end German sound system which, as yet, was not completely calibrated. That remaining detail was enough to keep Ovasapyan from taking the wheel, choosing instead to hold off until the technician could come by in a few days to make the final adjustments.
It’s also an example of how important music is to the man, an avid fan of the band U2. Bono’s refrains waft throughout the facility, and one of the group’s song titles, “Where the Streets Have No Name,” is fittingly fashioned on a wall in neon. “I want to try and make it to Dublin for the final show of their current tour,” he tells me. When it comes to his passions, whether automobiles, watches, or music, Ovasapyan is all in.
When asked what advice he has for aspiring collectors, Ovasapyan answers pragmatically. “Fall in love with it, but always be ready to let go of it; don’t be fully attached. Everything comes and goes in life.”
He’s clearly a better man than me. Upon leaving, I look back one last time at the cars and feel a growing emptiness. The separation anxiety is already setting in.