Text by: Lita Geynna
Photo by: Dinie Muhd Nor
“Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and above all don’t let anyone limit your dreams.” Donovan Bailey.
This quote, was probably what fired Elvin Chew, 41, the inspiring Ipoh-born and the owner of The Car Art Gallery to open up his collection of wonders back in 2016.
For a start, there are probably one in a thousand person in Malaysia who are willing to mortgage their own house as a start-ups capital for his now dream project that exhibits collections of antique cars and model aeroplanes worth up to RM500,000.
Recognised as Malaysia’s first car model museum, Elvin now owns hundreds of scale model cars worth RM200,000 at his gallery in Concubine Lane, Ipoh.
“It started about 20 years ago when I realised my passion in antique cars and puzzles, after completing the assembly of my first model kit – a 1:24 scale Tamiya kit of a Mercedes-Bez 500 SEC.
“Since then, I have been started reading more about the car and the brand’s history and developed a passion to collect other related models,” he said to Suara Perak.
Elvin however took his time in becoming an engineer for metal fabrication company here in Ipoh for nine years before quitting and became a tutor for Mathematics and Science subject in one of the international school for another four years.
He said, after his late father’s passing, he decided that it is finally time.
“You only live your life once, it’s cliché but it is the truth. One day, it just came to me, all the ideas and plans to open up a museum because it has never been done before in Malaysia. So I guess, why not now?
“I took up the most daring decision to sell my house, and all of the money were used to open up my dream project now, and never a day I regretted my decision,” he added.
Humans and Cars
Elvin, who came out in several articles by the local newspaper said that starting up a business on a sole journey is far than easy but that what’s fuelled him the most.
Interestingly, Elvin explains that his passion in cars’ details fall into places after he realised the significant relation of the automotive industry in our daily life.
“You see, cars are like humans, it came in different design with various types of engines, all by their own international and local manufacturer, and sometimes it’s cheap and somehow it is pricey, yet we still used it every day for our daily usage.
“Just like human, who comes in different forms, with different backgrounds and different purposes in life,” he chuckled.
The Car Art Gallery definitely will brings you back in time with historic memorabilia related to the automobile world hung around the museum’s wall.
In Elvin’s case however, it is proclaimed with his purchases that eventually amounted to the installation of a museum.
An alumni of St Michael Institution, Elvin said like many youngsters, his collection started modestly with model-kit cars he put together and painted.
“I loved model cars, assembling puzzles and building things, it is always within me but in this museum, I wanted to do more than just to show people about miniature cars.
“With the magazines and books I’ve collected, I’ve succeeded in introducing an educational element as well,” explained the founder and manager of the museum.
At Dream Big World, his prized possessions include models from the makers of Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Lamborghini. The museum comprises a cornucopia of the best of the auto industry, and what is quickly apparent is Elvin’s attention to detail in having as many models as possible within each car make.
More than 500 cars, worth around RM500,000, are contained in this fascinating museum, and while he loves them all, some stand out.
Among the highlights are a 7kg model of LaFerrari which changes colour and a model of the first car ever made, complete with its patent certificate.
For instance, his RM10,000 resin model La Ferrari is the apple of his eye. Only 30 were made, and his is serial numbered at No. 11.
With online retail and auction sites now in full bloom, purchasing methods have evolved, with Elvin reaching out to hobby stores in Japan for more collections.
There’s framed information explaining the cycle of a four-stroke engine and iconic cars like the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle, as well as original early sketches of the Bugatti Veyron.
Elvin’s collection mainly consists of Lego sets, die-cast models (AutoArt, Maisto, Bburago and Hot Wheels) and resin model kits (Tamiya, Fujimi and Revell).
The display area is divided into many sections. While there’s a whole glass rack for Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz models, other racks shows miniatures of Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, BMW, Audi and Porsche.
And that’s not it, another glass rack displays a bunch of mixed JDM cars; a line of Imprezas, Honda’s Type-R machines, a few Evos and Skylines as well as Toyobaru’s (Toyota and Subaru) GT-86 and BRZ.
The collection covers a wide variety of cars in terms of brand and era. The European, Japanese, and American as well as the earliest automobile – the Benz and the Daimler – and those from the 1960’s, 1970’s up to the most recent ones.
I was definitely intrigued by one of the education sections about how the first car inventor, Karl Benz decided to stop his mission in building a car after his test drive to the public failed, twice.
“It was his wife, who decided to take the car into a full 90 kilometre drive from one town to another, accompanied by her two sons to visit her mother.
“Back then, there was no petrol station, and she is not equipped with any driving skills yet her action has created and boost out the first car in the world back in 1888, now that is an inspiring, marketing-minded lady,” Elvin added.
Of the collection, I was attracted to a blackened exhaust manifold of a McLaren P1 to showcase the hot component and several of Michael Schumacher’s winning Ferrari Grand Prix cars with some “wear” on the tyres and weathered panels.
“There will comes a time in your life, I believe where you sort of wanted to do things, finally for yourself because if not now, then when?” he asked.
Advise for Car Lovers in Malaysia
A meticulous, and well versed in automotive languages, Elvin said that he hopes that Malaysia will abolish the mentality of evaluating a car’s performance based on their price tag alone.
“In Malaysia, people always think, for instance, Volkswagen is a top notch brand when it is actually the most mass produced vehicle in China, and it’s their taxi.
“I am not saying that this brand is not good, I loved it so much but we need to start looking into its function, durability, and purposes, it is for daily use or solely for satisfaction purposes because remember, expensive does not equal to prestige ,”he added.
Around The World in 80 seconds?
Sticking to the hand-crafted theme, the museum also features an “Around the World” exhibit, which displays foam board models of several iconic global structures throughout history.
The models include the Coliseum, the Taj Mahal, the Petronas Twin Towers and the Burj Khalifa.
All of the models were built by Elvin himself, who gave great attention to the details including the decorative artwork to the information cards on each display.
Automotive obsessions aside, Dream Big World also has an aviation section, with a variety of airliners on display, from the Boeing and Airbus stables, among others.
A trip to the museum caters to a visitor learning about car engine operation, physics, history, geography and his own special area of interest – rotary engines.
And with a RM5 price of admission for adults and RM3 for kids (three to 12 years old), Dream Big World has made itself quite a must-see attraction in Ipoh.
The Car Art Gallery is located at No. 7, Level 1, Lorong Panglima @ Concubine Lane, Ipoh. Since the space is off the beaten track, visitors may find it easier to locate a bakery and dessert shop under the gallery. For more inquiries, call 012-5163924.