When you flick through the glossy pages of a Classic & Sportscar or Octane magazine, it’s virtually impossible to avoid studying the thousands of exotic car adverts in great detail, your mind racing away on a multitude of tangents. Preferably with fresh coffee in hand, one of my favorite pastimes is to consider the adverts in front of me to arrive at a theoretical purchase decision. ‘Yes, that Gullwing is superb and could be used for Sunday drives and some light historic motorsport as well, but then again for the same price I could buy the ’64 Maserati 3500 GT Superleggera and that 996 GT3 RS too…’.
At Dutton Garage, located in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond, it’s like those very pages have come to life. You can grab a coffee from the in-house cafe and then walk around the adverts as you ponder these various purchase conundrums at your own speed. It’s a haven for metaphorical tyre-kickers like myself, but I’m guessing it makes good business sense too. A lot of these cars are here on consignment, owned by people without the time, skills or desire to properly market and negotiate a sale. The place generates a lot of foot traffic, and maybe sometimes those tyre-kickers end up buying something as well.
Whether you’re in the market or not, Dutton Garage is an essential stop. The quality and provenance of the machinery sitting on the floor is incredible, as is the remarkable collection of art and automobilia hanging from the walls.
The entrance foyer, featuring arguably the most famous wall installation in Australian motoring, was filled with air-cooled Porsche – a ’72 911 2.4E, a ’60 356B, a ’59 356 D Super Cabriolet, a ’53 356 Pre-A Reutter 1500 Super Cabriolet, a ’55 356 Pre-A Continental, an ’89 930 Turbo Cabriolet and an ’87 911 Cabriolet.
These types of places constantly evolve and change as different cars enter and leave the business, and another visit again in a few weeks would yield a completely different result. Hunting through the Dutton Garage website and it appeared that we’d only missed a Ferrari Enzo, LaFerrari, F50, Porsche 918 Spyder, the Bathurst 24hr winning Monaro and a Kremer Porsche 930 Turbo by a matter of weeks. But never fear, there was still plenty on-hand during our visit to keep our enthusiasm more than piqued.
The rare Porsche metal wasn’t just confined to the entrance foyer – in the main hall sat a ’96 993 Carrera RS Touring. The last of the air-cooled 911’s, this one-owner RHD example was delivered new to Australia and has just over 10,000km showing on its odometer.
For every significant Porsche at Dutton there was a significant Lamborghini, and no Lamborghini comes more visually shocking than one of the 30 Diablo GT-R’s built. Number 19 was on the floor at Richmond that day. It started life with an entry in the Lamborghini Supertrofeo in 2001 and 2002, and was fully restored by Reiter Engineering in 2012/13.
Popular culture impacts our lives in more ways than we realise, and often has more influence on classic car popularity and value then the cleverest of engineering or design feats do. Lately, the 25th Anniversary Countach in white has shot into the public sphere due to the 2013 release of The Wolf of Wall Street, where in a famous scene Di Caprio brilliantly highlighted the extreme ingress/egress challenges of scissor doors while under the influence of various substances. Not that the Countach was a particularly shy wallflower to begin with, but I’m in no doubt that of all the cars at Dutton Garage this is the one that the uneducated would instantly flock to.
There were various other Diablo, Murcielago and Gallardo scattered about, and that is the famous Twiggy ’69 Muira S in the background. It was custom ordered by the sixties supermodel in lime green with orange stripes and was personally delivered to her in London by Lamborghini cheif test driver Valentino Balboni. Remarkably it is in original unrestored condition, and has spent time in many worldwide collections including most recently the National Motor Museum at Birdwood, South Australia.
The ‘dream car’ question is one thrown about by just about everybody, and upon some reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that this Daytona (365 GTB/4 to be precise) is it for me. It’s not a genuine Daytona Competizione, but it was one of the last six Daytona’s built and was delivered new in right hand drive to Australia in 1973. At some point it was converted to Competizione spec for FIA Group IV racing and has been campaigned all over Europe, including the Coupe de Alpes and Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or. It’s just had $230k spent on race prep and recommissioning, but is yet to turn a wheel in anger since the rebuild.
Dutton Garage isn’t just about the cars for sale, there’s enough important motoring memorabilia on display to wow even the most cynical of collectors. Keen eyes may spot that big wheel on the wall of the cafe…
There can’t be many McLaren 675 LT’s in the country yet, and having never seen one in person before I never really understood the fuss. Surely it’s not that different to the 650S? Wrong. Having inspected it in person, there’s enough detail changes that really tweak the now familiar shape into something quite special.
The battleship grey with orange detailing works superbly on this particular car, and in person it has an almost understated presence that’s unmatched in the supercar world. Not that a McLaren has ever been described as understated before, but still.
Here’s a bit of a mid-00’s throwback, something that is the complete antithesis to the concept of being understated – a Gemballa Avalanche GT 800 Biturbo. That bodykit… those colours… the power. Gemballa represent pure excess in everything they do, and whilst I’m no huge fan of the 800hp, 997 GT2 based supercar (why not just keep it as a 997 GT2?) it certainly is a fascinating vehicle to check out in person.
An original mk2 996 GT3RS is more my style than the Gemballa. It’s funny to think how nobody wanted these old GT3’s not that long ago (in relative terms) and how they could be picked up for a bargain (once again, very much in relative terms). These days, anything with a GT3 or RS badge is solid gold and the first of the GT3 RS’ are bluechip investments. If you’d bought one of these five years ago you would almost triple your investment by selling it today.
It’s musings like this that make a tyre-kicking trip to Dutton Garage such an experience. All in the space of an hour Felix and I had chosen our favourite cars in the room, I made the decision to frame some old posters to hang in the garage, we reflected on the stratospheric price rise of anything with a Porsche badge, and had hundreds of other pointless discussions about hood ornaments and door handles and the haircuts of the baristas. I can only imagine what kind of an experience it would be to come here and combine the trash talk with the decision to actually buy a car.
It’s places like Dutton Garage (and Classic Throttle Shop in Sydney) that solve the biggest problem I find with a lot of car museums – that stuff never changes, and the cars never get driven. They just sit there and are never used and enjoyed which is surely the biggest insult to the fine people who created them in the first place.
You know that at Dutton Garage all of these cars will be gone within a few months, off to new owners to be used for the purpose they were intended. Next time I’ve got an afternoon free in Melbourne, there will be a completely new show to see.
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