Car-ried away

Published: May 29, 2011
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Avid collector Aamir Ashfaq,  in his toy-car showroom

“I don’t know why,” says Aamir Ashfaq, “but I’m really attracted to cars and I feel extremely happy when I’m in my toy-car showroom.”

What makes his story unique is that Aamir is not a ten-year-old who is indulging a passing hobby for four-wheeled playthings. Aamir is an unassuming, functional, employed 39-year-old, and if you were to look at him once, you could never tell that he harbours an intense passion for collecting toy cars.

Based in Lahore, Aamir has managed to collect 4,189 model cars over the course of 31 years. He started collecting cars when he was only eight years old, and since then has spent one hour every day with his cars. He even has a sort of ritual — every day, he’ll pick up a different toy car, place it in the palm of his hand, and savour the moment.

Aamir houses his cars in a purpose-built room. His collection includes cars that have been imported from all around the world. Whether it is 1907’s Peugeot or a Pocher model of a Mercedes-Benz SSK, Aamir has it all.

“It may be childish,” admits Aamir, “but I never feel odd living with my cars. When I was young, toys always had a special place in my heart, and I really liked trains and airplanes too. In fact when I was very young, my parents tried to get me more interested in trains and airplanes… but I always came back to my first passion, cars.”

Aamir’s pursuit may not have gone far enough to earn him a world record, but such a collection is still unique in Pakistan. Over the years, Aamir has managed to collect model cars linked to famous personalities — he has a model of the limousine that John F Kennedy was assassinated in, and he has cars modeled after the wheels that James Bond, Mr Bean, and Batman would choose to drive. He also has a collection of 78 luxury cars, including a Bugatti, a 1974 Rolls Royce, custom-made Hummers, Maybachs and a Mercedes from 1907.

“Each of my cars has a history,” says Aamir. “Memories may fade with time… but these cars take me back to moments in the past. When I hold a car in the palm of my hand, I remember things I had forgotten about the past, and this gives me immense joy. In fact, I can’t explain it in words.”

American vehicles have always tempted Aamir, so model cars of famous brands like Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac, Plymouth, Dodge feature very prominently in his display. British, Italian, French, German, Japanese, European automobile models are also part of the extensive collection. His collection is not restricted only to die-cast modern cars, but also includes antiques, nascars, dinkies, and matchbox cars. You name it — he thrusts it into your hands with a flourish.

For Aamir, every car is equally important. When he gets his hands on a new car to add to the collection, he first sleeps with it under his pillow before placing it lovingly on the shelves.

To date, the collection has cost Aamir about Rs500,000. He hasn’t been the only one contributing to the cost: his parents, and his relatives who live abroad are more than eager to indulge his passion. “It was quite difficult to collect a large number of die-cast cars in Pakistan because of their non-availability. The last hawker I saw was around in the late eighties. It is very unfortunate that in Lahore, there is not a single shop where I can buy toy cars… so I have to rely on my relatives who are based outside Pakistan.”

Aamir, who also has three lovely daughters, insists that his toy cars do not interfere with domestic bliss. He insists that despite it all, he is a simple man with simple pleasures. “I have no big dreams… I just want to collect cars,” he says. “My love for cars never bothered my family because I know how to balance my time between both.”

“In fact,” he adds, “this room [in which he houses his cars] is like my fourth child… and my three daughters help me manage it, so it brings us closer.”

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, May 29th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • ehabs
    May 29, 2011 - 3:37PM

    Is this news? I guess it was a slow day..Recommend

  • Disco Molvi
    May 29, 2011 - 4:52PM

    Good to see a toy collector finally getting some news coverage. The only hobbies which are deemed ‘appropriate’ in this country are stamp collection and coin/ currency collection and collecting toys is seen as ‘queer’. I’m myself an avid action figure collector.Recommend

  • Waiting
    May 30, 2011 - 1:21PM

    @ehabs

    Does the term ‘Sunday magazine feature’ mean anything to you?Recommend

  • moon
    May 30, 2011 - 4:34PM

    This has brought a big smile to my face. I admire your passion of Toy Cars!Recommend

  • resham
    May 30, 2011 - 4:42PM

    Nice hobby, wish you all good luck with your cars.Recommend

  • Farrukh
    May 30, 2011 - 4:51PM

    Nice collection bro keep it up, I also love collecting cars but dont have as much models.Recommend

  • Asad Jabbar
    May 30, 2011 - 5:05PM

    Awesome collection… atleast someone made an attempt to shed light on car collectors.Recommend

  • Nabeela
    May 31, 2011 - 4:18PM

    Congratulations!Recommend

  • Khan.K
    May 31, 2011 - 4:59PM

    a very unique hobby in PakistanRecommend

  • Proud to be Pakistani
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:56AM

    Well done. Keep it up.Recommend

  • Imran
    Jun 3, 2011 - 11:23AM

    Just to say ‘Fantastic’Recommend

  • IWriteURead
    Jun 3, 2011 - 1:04PM

    How boringRecommend

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