There is grandeur and magnificence in every corner of the enchanted emirate of Dubai. With such a huge proportion of wealth and affluence, it isn’t a surprise to find it home to the world’s tallest tower, the only 7-star hotel on the planet and even a colossal man-made island in the shape of a palm tree. But the glittering metropolis is also widely known for its penchant for supercars and hypercars. The former is an exotic model but the latter is a rarity that is one of the top performers on the planet and which pushes the boundaries of the possible.
Hypercars are produced in extremely limited quantities meaning you hardly ever get to see them, not even on the roads of Dubai. But sitting in the middle of this highly futuristic city is F1rst Motors - a showroom filled to the brim with them.
When you walk through the doors it is an eye-widening experience. You don’t know where to look first. It’s sensory overload. There’s a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster finished in exposed carbon fibre in one corner. Only one exists in the world. There’s a Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ of which just 30 were ever built. Next to that is an ultra-rare road-legal McLaren P1 GTR while slap bang in the middle are 5 Ferrari LaFerraris in 5 different colours. There’s more; a Divo is parked next to a Ford GT which is nose to nose with a classic Ferrari F50 of which only 349 were produced. Clearly these guys mean business.
World's rarest cars
“It started as a hobby,” says CEO Ali Pacino. “My friends and I used to buy a few cars and sold them to friends.” Just over a year later, he has built up a collection of some of the world’s rarest worth over Dh735 million. Incredibly, from idea to reality it took just three months to get the business up and running. As you would imagine, you need to be exceptionally smart and business savvy for this to happen. Fortunately, Ali Pacino – who lived in Knightsbridge, London his whole life – has 2 Masters Degrees, one in International Diplomacy and the other in International Business.
“It all happened coincidentally during Covid-19 when my business partners were about to buy a Ferrari Pista. I told them to wait and I managed to source the same car for far less than they were about to pay. They could not believe it. Then they said let’s buy a few more and we started placing them in showrooms as consignments. They were selling.”
If you want to enter the game you have to either enter it big to compete or you shouldn’t bother. When people come here they are impressed. They see us on a different league.
Then they decided to open their own dealership but the young CEO was hesitant at first. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to be stuck in a showroom for 10 hours a day.” Now he loves it so much that you won’t find him anywhere else – even on his solitary off day. “I made this business my life. There have been days I have gone home hungry because of the workload and to get the business to run smoothly.”
You only have to look around the stylish outlet that can house 92 cars to see that this is true. It cost Dh20 million to design. “If you want to enter the game you have to either enter it big to compete or you shouldn’t bother. When people come here they are impressed. They see us on a different league.”
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say they have changed the game of the showroom. With around 60 staff, it comprises several different sections from a polishing and detail area, a mechanical zone, a studio for photoshoots and even a coffee lounge. “We are providing services to the maximum that we can. We are selling premium products and we are providing a premium service.”
His daily driver is a Mercedes-Benz G-Class and a Ferrari 812 Superfast for the weekends and he wanted to bring the best cars in the world first to Dubai because the emirate is all about being number one. “We needed a showroom to reflect that, and that is how the name F1rst Motors originated.”
He’s very clear what the core values of the company are and right at the top of this is ensure they keep their word. “This is very important. Whether you lose or you gain, you must honour your word. Our policy is about maintaining relationships and expanding on that through word of mouth.” He knows his high profile guests have high profile friends, so if they have a good experience with them chances are they will come back with them. “That is what is happening here. We have always kept our word and that’s why we have a very good relationship with clients. Our success is based on that.”
F1rst Motors is part of Alpago Group whose main business is hotels, real estate and luxury watches with offices in London, Turkey and Dubai. They are catering to the ultra-luxury segment and have cars here that range in price from Dh500,000 to Dh40 million. How does he come up with such figures for these cars? “There’s a market price but obviously you gain when you are buying not when you are selling. There are some cars here that are hard to let go because once we sell them we know we won’t be able to find such a spec again.”
With everything going so well F1rst Motors will soon be expanding the business. “We own the floor above and we will put more cars there but they won’t be hypercars – they will be vintage cars. From the hypercars we did it all but there is a much bigger market in the collector field.”
There are many classic cars to be found in Dubai and they can cost a small fortune – but Ali Pacino is talking about getting hold of the likes of the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR which recently sold for $143 million. “There is a huge potential where you can go, it’s limitless. We want to step it up and bring those types of cars here. We are always aspiring to be better than we can and the best we can be. There is still a long way to go but we are pushing ourselves to go as far as we can. We are in competition with ourselves, we need to set a new bar and we need to be in a different league.”
He travels all over the world to meet some of the world’s wealthiest people and gets up close and personal with the cars he is planning on buying. Every single car is selected personally by him. “I know what I want and I know what will sell. If I don’t believe in a car, my clients will not believe in it either. Taste is something you cannot buy – it is something you are born with. I’m not saying I am a stylish person and I have taste, but I am doing well here. I built a good name and it is successful.”
He doesn’t take any car in without it being thoroughly checked by the official dealers and it must have all the correct documentation too. “If we have a car from Ferrari we get a conditional report from them that the car is clean. The cars come with a certificate from Ferrari certifying that it is in good condition and all the history is there.”
With such an incredible fleet of the world’s rarest exotics, maintenance is vital and to help take care of these jewels he has enlisted the assistance of specialists from the official dealers. “Our head mechanic has 15 years’ experience with Ferrari, we have another from Mercedes and one is coming from McLaren soon.”
So that takes care of that and since there is an easier access to these cars here than abroad thanks to the unmatched security and higher standard of living we’ll see more and more of them on our roads. “There is a huge demand in Dubai unlike Europe where unfortunately there are a lot of robberies and hate crime towards the wealthy. Dubai is a hub where rich people can actually come and enjoy their money. You can come here and be free here you know you won’t be attacked, you won’t’ be criminalized. My clients are scared to expose their wealth abroad but over here they are free to do as they wish.”
Speaking of clients, Ali Pacino says they are mostly expats and mostly European. “Obviously men and women love cars but it is mostly men that come here spend money. We have people coming here with inheritance wealth, or businessmen who cannot enjoy their wealth in foreign countries, they have high taxes and they cannot expose their wealth so they come here and they live the life.”
Once they buy a car they sometimes like to customize them and based on their requirements F1rst Motors can do what they want. “You have all these guys that like to modify their cars they like to tune them or add body kits. Most common is changing the colour. We have an excellent relationship with Mansory and Novitech – 2 of the biggest luxury car modification firms in the world - and we are one of the very few companies that they certify as a dealer.”
Dubai obviously attracts a lot of very wealthy residents but not all of them have a passion for cars - some buy them just because they can and as a result he is full of amazing anecdotes to confirm this. “I had a customer who wanted us to change the colour of his seat belts of his Ferrari. I told him it will take 2 days but since he did not have another car to drive back home with, he bought another car from me!”
A-Z of services
Then there was the time he sold a Bugatti Divo in the middle of the night. “The guy came here and said he wants a Divo right now. He said the only way he will buy it is if we register it right now. We made a few calls and within 1 hour the car was registered and he drove it out.”
After a sale is completed F1rst Motors provide customers with an A-Z of services and they also buy cars back all in the name of maintaining good relations. “I like to see people as humans not as opportunities. My friends are my customers now. This place is almost like a majlis! They come here and they relax and we talk about everything.”
There have also been countless celebrities that have visited the showroom having seen the cars on social media - not that he actively seeks to attract them. “I can’t help it, the showroom sells itself,” he smiles. The biggest celebrity, literally, to visit F1rst Motors was NBA star LeBron James. “He had a private viewing of the cars but he couldn’t fit in most of them because he was too tall!”
Lamborghini Veneno Roadster Carbon Fibre
McLaren P1 GTR
Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+
- Project coordinated by Santu Dev, Acquisition Manager; Saquib Moosa, Product and Acquisition Manager.
- This article is in association with F1rst Motors