Haute Monde Mechanic

Doodling along the Internet and come across, "Bobileff Motorcar Company is internationally known for their expertise in fine automobiles and their ability to restore cars to the highest state of perfection." Then I espy the words, "Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati," which causes me to seize the telephone instrument and dial a number in Mira Mesa. Gary Bobileff answers. I want to know what the deal is.

"We specialize in Ferrari and Lamborghini service and restoration," Bobileff says. "We do some sales. Our clientele is global...."

"How did you get to be where you are, and where are you?"

"I own the company," Bobileff says. "I worked for the Ferrari U.S. importer many years ago and was hired to be a general manager at a Ferrari place in Santa Ana back in '76. Came down to San Diego and opened my own place in '79." Bobileff, mid-50s, is married and has a 16-year-old stepson. "I've been working on these cars, hands on, my entire life."

Where should I start? "Let's say -- please let's say -- I've bought a Ferrari for $100,000. What's the first year of service going to cost?"

"Okay, let's speculate you buy something from the later '90s, something with 10,000, 15,000 miles on it," Bobileff says. "If you decide to put 7500 miles a year on it, you might anticipate putting on a set of tires every year. Drivers tend to be aggressive, and the rubber is very, very soft, but they're very aggressive tires and handle tremendously. So, for a set of tires you better budget $1500 every year. You also have your services, routine tune-ups. Budget $4000 or $5000 a year for that. Then, you need to factor in money for expendables such as clutches, water pumps, that sort of thing. Maybe add a couple thousand dollars to your maintenance budget on that account."

I dropped out at the $1500-set-of-tires mark. "What's the most expensive Ferrari?"

"Ten, $15 million," Bobileff says, "and some are a good bit higher."

"Are you kidding? I thought you were going to say $450,000, $500,000."

Bobileff says, "I had a customer recently who spent $11.5 million on a Ferrari, an all-cash deal. That car went into his collection, one of many cars. He bought a 1962 250 GTO. The older cars -- ones that have significant competition history or were unique -- are escalating in price by leaps and bounds."

And yet my Dodge truck loses value while I'm on the phone. "Okay, say I own one of those $10 million cars. Where do I find a mechanic?"

"There are a number of people who have their own mechanic working for them eight hours a day, five days a week, just to maintain their vehicles. I have a customer who ships his cars out from the East Coast whenever one needs service. We do the service, put the car back on the truck, and ship it back to him. He just bought the 250 GTO; we haven't seen it yet."

My truck has lost another 20 bucks. "How many people own a $10 million Ferrari?"

"Hard to say," Bobileff says. "Some people get involved with these cars for investment. They may buy five or ten cars and put them away. You never see those cars on the road. You may never hear about the owners."

"Does anybody in San Diego own a huge collection?"

"San Diego has very little of that. I don't know why. The collections here may total six, eight, ten cars. There are other parts of the country where you'll run into collectors with stables of 20, 30, 40 cars. I have one customer in the L.A. area who rents a couple of hangars at the Santa Monica airport, and they're filled with his cars. And he keeps buying and buying and buying. Occasionally he'll weed out something from his collection that he regards as less desirable and replace it with something more desirable."

"Are these people nuts?"

"Yeah. It's compulsions and obsessions," Bobileff laughs, "to be polite. I have a customer in Pennsylvania who called me; he has a problem with his Lamborghini. I'm flying back next Saturday. I'm going to go to his house. I'm going to do some minor work on his car and come back to San Diego on Sunday."

"He's purchasing your time, the owner of a successful, high-end..."

"That's a normal part of this. I've had customers send me overseas to look at cars they might want to purchase. I was in France a few weeks ago looking at a couple cars for one customer. Spent ten days there. I'll put together a six-page written report and give an opinion. 'Is the car worth it or is it not?' Sometimes they listen to me and sometimes they don't."

"What do you charge?"

"Domestically, $1000 a day. Internationally, it's $1500 a day plus expenses."

Cheap. "How often?"

Bobileff produces a long, tired sigh, "I try to limit my travel to once every three weeks."

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