Long Islanders love their cars. Some Long Islanders really, really love their cars, and even love many of the ones they don’t even own…yet.
This is evident by the many car shows, swap meets or other gatherings of local car collectors that are routinely held throughout Long Island – from Belmont Racetrack to the parking lots where local collectors show off everything from collectible exotic cars to custom hot rods and classics of all kinds.
“I have had a love for all things automobile since the age of 5,” says Sergio Alvarez, 45, of Old Brookville, who has been collecting cars for the past five years. “I still own my first-ever car.”
That 1985 Pontiac Firebird, which he bought used in 1991, is now part of a collection that includes more than 20 cars, including 14 “supercars” and one “hypercar” – all limited and special edition models, he says. For the uninitiated, supercars are generally classified by car enthusiasts as high-end models that are faster and more expensive than most cars released in any given year, while hypercars exceed the average supercar in speed, performance and price.
He’s overcome one of the main challenges that car collectors often face: finding a place to store them all — although his 14-car garage is now at capacity. Alvarez struggled to name his favorite.
“That’s like asking which one is your favorite kid,” he says. “They are all so different and unique it’s hard to pick just one. If I had to make a choice, it would be the Porsche 918 Spyder. It is one of the world’s fastest cars in every respect.”
But still, he wants more.
“One that I missed on that I really want is the Ferrari LaFerrari,” he says. “The prices have skyrocketed, and I missed the opportunity to get one early on.”
Steve Linden, 60, of Smithtown, meanwhile, has been collecting cars and motorcycles for about 40 years.
“My father enjoyed old cars, and he got me interested,” he says. “This seems to be a common theme in the collector car community.”
Linden is “down to one car (and one motorcycle) in addition to my daily drivers” right now, he says, adding it’s “much more enjoyable to use the car that I have, rather than spend all of my spare time maintaining a large collection.”
At one time, he had about 10 cars and 10 motorcycles, and over the years he’s owned well over 100 collector cars, he says, noting he keeps his vehicles in a barn on his property now, but rented a warehouse in St. James when his collection was larger. His favorite is a 1972 Cougar convertible that he’s owned for over 40 years.
“My wife and I drove off from our wedding in it, and my son drove it to his prom,” he says. “We use it regularly, and even though it looks great, we don’t worry about parking it and leaving it.”
He cited a 1971 or 1972 Pantera and a 1956 or 1957 Lincoln Continental Mark II as the cars he longs for.
“I think that they are both beautiful examples of the market that they were intended for,” he says.
The history behind the eventual production of either of those car models could also easily be the subject of a movie, he says.
“If the opportunity to own the right car were to come along, I would probably buy it,” he says. “But, it’s been my experience that these opportunities come along when you’re not looking. If you’re looking for the perfect car, you probably won’t find it.”
At 27, Reid Branston is the youngest of the three local car collectors interviewed for this story. He’s been collecting cars for more than five years.
“I got into cars through my father, who is a huge collector,” he says.
The two of them run the exotic and classic car dealership Motorcar Classics in Farmingdale. Between the cars he and his father, Motorcar Classics CEO and founder Will Branston, own and cars they’re selling through the dealership, they have at least 70-plus classic and late model cars, Reid says.
The “coolest” model they have in their inventory now is Paul Newman’s 1978 Datsun 280ZX racecar. But the car he would most love to add to his collection is the BMW Z8, he says.
“I’ve sold a few over the years through our dealership,” he says. “But I’ve never owned one personally.”