Why I Love My Car: David SK Lee
Leading Ferrari collector David SK Lee celebrates his passion for the enduring appeal of the renowned Italian marque, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Chairman and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Hing Wa Lee jewelry group, he also reveals how
did you learn to drive?
I’ve driven ever since I was 16 — getting your driver’s license was a sign of freedom for my generation in the US.
And your first car?
When I was 16, the cheapest new car was a Toyota pickup truck. I saved enough with some entrepreneurial things that I had done to pay for it. I was really proud that I used my own money and didn’t need to ask my parents for help.
How did your love of cars begin?
In third grade, one of my teachers said, “Go to the library, pick up any book you want and read it.” A lot of kids were picking up dinosaur books, but I came across an Italian sports car book. It was very alluring. I enjoyed reading it and copying it — I was good at drawing. Fast forward to 16 and I had a six-foot Lamborghini Countach poster in my bedroom — alongside the Farah Fawcett poster, of course. And I said to myself, “When I get older, my goal is to buy that car.”
What was your first supercar?
I bought a Lamborghini Diablo at the age of 29. I got a good deal, but it wasn’t in the best condition and was always in the shop. So one day I’d had enough, and I drove into a Ferrari dealer in Orange County and traded it in for a F355 Spyder — that was my first Ferrari. At that point, it wasn’t a collector thing; it was just a cool car to have.
When did the collection start?
I had supercars of different brands, but it still wasn’t a collecting mentality until I went to a friend’s house and he showed me a Jaguar E-Type convertible he had found; I thought it was cool. So I researched the Ferrari heritage, all the models and the appreciation values. And because I’m a business guy, I quickly came up with this idea: what better thing to invest in than something that you can enjoy looking at, that you can enjoy driving, that you can enjoy as a lifestyle and that is appreciating in value? I thought I had struck gold. My first classic Ferrari was the 275 GTS. I developed two strategies. One was buying all the classic convertible Ferraris — like the 330 GTS, the 250, the 365 Daytona Spyder — and the other was the supercars, because I already had the Enzo.
You’re among the few people who get first option on limited edition Ferraris. How did you achieve that status?
You need to get the attention of Maranello. I decided I would be a client who only buys Ferraris, who only collects Ferraris, who only drives Ferraris and who drives them seven days a week — something really crazy to catch their attention. And it worked! I quickly moved up their client list.
You have a big following on Instagram.
The publisher of a magazine I advertise in said to me, “David, you need to get on social media — that’s the future.” I’m a marketing guy, so I could understand the concept very easily and I created the account @ferraricollector_davidlee. I was posting stuff about my interests: cars, wine, food and travel. My following ramped up very quickly and two years on, I’m at 330,000. Now that I’ve reached this state, I feel a responsibility to teach my followers about ethics and core values, and how to be a decent person — how you can enjoy the good things, but also be responsible.
How many cars are in your collection?
I have about 30 cars. There are other people who have a lot more cars than I do, but what’s special about my situation is that I have themes, a
The 1985 288 GTO is considered by Ferrari to be their first supercar. Then they produced the F40 — their first 200mph-plus car — for the 40th anniversary, the F50 for the 50th, the Enzo for the 60th and LaFerrari for the 70th. These cars were futuristic and looked cool; it’s a special category. I’m one of only a handful of people who have all five, so people appreciate that I take them to events and show them.
What makes Ferrari so special?
Ferrari does have allure — the red, the racing history, the difficulty of getting a product that’s really sought after. Money can buy the other makes, but at some point with Ferrari it doesn’t matter how much money you have. They made only 499 of the LaFerrari, but 1,500 people could afford it and wanted to buy one.
What are your favorites?
My favorite, due to sentimental value, is my 1985 288 GTO. My 1964 Lusso Competizione, with its race and rally history, is very special, as there are only four in existence. My 1967 330 GTS is just the coolest convertible ride. My 1987 288 GTO Evoluzione prototype, with only five made, is as rare as it gets. And my 1967 275 GTB/4 is considered by Ferrari collectors as the ultimate classic Ferrari.
Read the rest of our interview with David SK Lee at cdlifestylepremium.com
Ferrari collector David SK Lee.