A ‘Super’ Ferrari Collection Downshifts Into Motor Classic

It’s a lifelong passion that began humbly enough. David SK Lee was a 3rd-grader in Whittier, newly arrived to the United States from Hong Kong, when a teacher trooped everyone into the school library. Pick a book, any book, she said. Find something that you’re really interested in.
“A lot of my friends wanted to get the dinosaur books,” Lee, a San Marino resident, said recently. “But I got this Italian sports car book. It had Alfa Romeos, Maseratis, Lamborghinis. That got me very interested. I learned how to draw and I was drawing [cars] all the time.”
The hook was set. In high school, he unfurled a Lamborghini Countach poster across his wall, and was mesmerized at how the car was “so outrageous, so cool, so futuristic-looking,” and he resolved to own one someday.
Over the ensuing years, the sights were adjusted a little bit, but the passion didn’t diminish in the slightest. Lee went on to USC’s business school and began working in the family jewelry enterprise, Hing Wa Lee Group — where he is now chairman and CEO — and soon had the means to indulge his childhood fantasies.
They’ll be on gleaming display at the San Marino Motor Classic on June 12 in Lacy Park. This giant of the retail jewelry industry has systematically collected five modern gems in the Ferrari line, and will present them as a matched set in a roped-off exhibit area at the Motor Classic.
“I think it’s great that he wants to do that,” said Aaron Weiss, founder and chairman of the Motor Classic. “For our aficionados, it’s exciting to see those five super cars in one place at one time, owned by one guy. It’s a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to see them.”
The sports cars, all painted a brilliant red, are not from Ferrari’s classic era of 1958 to 1972. Rather, they are more recent models, built from 1985 to present. Many are limited-edition cars, in most cases corresponding to an anniversary year of the iconic Italian company, which came into being in 1947.
Enthusiasts visiting the Motor Classic will be able to gawk at Lee’s 288 GT0, F40, F50, Enzo F60 and LaFerrari F70. Not many collectors possess all five, and Lee will be there to talk about their heritage, their racing history … and what it feels like when one of these beasts pins you to your seat at full throttle.
San Marino’s vice mayor, Dr. Richard Sun, has known Lee for many years and hopes the enthusiasm of this collector might pique the curiosity of the community’s Asian residents.
“Most of us Chinese don’t have that much knowledge about these classic cars,” Sun said. “A lot of people know his jewelry shop. If we can draw more Chinese-Americans to the Motor Classic, that’s good. It raises a lot of money, with the majority of the proceeds going to the Pasadena Humane Society and the San Marino Rotary Club. In turn, it does a lot of good things for the community.”
Lee’s philosophy about collecting cars has evolved over the years.
Just out of USC, he set a goal of owning a Lamborghini by age 30, and just did make it, settling in behind the wheel of a Diablo at age 29. Next came Porsches and Ferraris, mostly newer models.
But just a few years ago, he was at a Christmas party in San Marino when the host conducted him to the garage. There was a classic Jaguar E-type convertible from the 1960s. Lee’s eyes popped. “I never thought a classic car could be so cool,” he says today.
He caught the classic-car bug, but in his case it reflected his early fascination with Italian sports cars as a 9-year-old schoolboy. He began researching the heritage and racing history of Ferraris, and then began collecting them like bracelet charms.
The businessman in him was pleased to discover that it was also a savvy investment strategy, because with a limited supply and a growing global market, the value of these cars did nothing but climb.
Lee also decided early on that he didn’t want to possess museum pieces — cars that sit shiny in a garage or an exhibit but never see the road.
“I bought a car and owned it for a few years, but I was so afraid the value would go down, I drove it maybe 150 miles,” he said. “What I missed out on was the enjoyment of experiencing the car. I barely knew it. So I said, ‘I’m not going to do that again.’ The cars I buy, I feel I can drive and it’s going to be OK.”
A case in point occurred about a month ago. Lee took two of his 20 Ferraris, the 288 and the LaFerrari, to Sonoma Raceway for an event hosted by Ferrari, in which professional drivers took cars for a spin — and a few clients were able to get out on the track, too.
Lee was one of them. This raises the obvious question: OK, just what did he get it up to?
“The raceway is known for a lot of turns, not a long straight,” he said. “But that being said, I still got it to 180 [mph] on a straight for a short time. But these cars, because they accelerate so fast, you can get there pretty quickly.”
Just how quickly? In a test of the LaFerrari, Road and Track magazine got it from a dead stop to 100 mph in 4.7 seconds. On its website, it has audio of that — no video, no music, just the sound of that V-12 engine opening up.
Sometimes, taking the cars out in public has its down side. Two years ago, for San Marino’s Fourth of July parade, Lee rolled out one of his classics, a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS. Sun settled into the shotgun seat and they headed along the parade route.
“I don’t have that much expertise in those kind of cars,” Sun said, “but the reaction I could see from people who know about cars, their expression, they were very excited, with two thumbs up.”
And yet …
“There were kids on bicycles, going before us, on the sides of us,” Lee said. “And you know kids: They were all excited. I didn’t notice anything, but at the end of the day I saw a scratch on the side of the car. Somebody’s handlebar or something like that. So I had to fix that.
“I know collectors who would just die. But for me, OK, it’s bad, but it’s not the end of the world. If I didn’t take the car out, I couldn’t enjoy the whole situation, with Richard, with the whole San Marino community. It comes with the territory.”
And now he’ll bring five magnificent pieces of automotive machinery to the San Marino Motor Classic, displaying them in the same park where his kids grew up and where he goes for exercise.
“I think people will see that I’m very passionate about it,” Lee said. “That’s why I do it. It’s coming from the heart.”

Leave a Reply