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During this lockdown what are we doing if not dreaming? Here’s a dream garage that exists in reality
The Bren garage is why I got on to Instagram. “Want to check out the first 911 R in the country?”, asked my good friend Manik Bhardwaj when I dropped in at Racetech in Bangalore three years ago. Racetech is the flying doctor for the majority of sportscars and supercars in the country and an avid user of Instagram. I’d just spent the last hour telling him how the smart guys, the people who read, the people who write, are all on Twitter while Instagram is for the, erm, the Arabs.
“So it is safe to assume you haven’t heard of the Bren Garage,” countered Manik. I had not. And I could not believe what Manik showed me on the @BrenGarage Instagram feed. “All of this is in India! In Bangalore!” yelled Manik before we jumped into his car to trek across Bangalore to meet Boopesh Reddy to check out the first and only 911 R in India.
What followed blew me away. Outside his lovely home in Bangalore was an Evo X with a dustbin-sized exhaust. “That’s not his,” said Manik. “That’s not Bren Garage material.” You’d usually dismiss that as crazy talk except the basement garage was unlike anything else I’d seen in India. Now remember I was here to check out the 911 R, the 2016 evo Car of the Year but parked alongside was the Ferrari 458 Italia and Cayman GT4, the 2014 and 2015 evo Cars of the year. Three eCOTY winners, together. What a story that turned out to be.
“I remember, it was the first article of mine ever in a magazine,” says Boopesh when I caught up with him, virtually, on the #evoConversations Instagram Live session during the lockdown. “Those are memories which I carry with me. I still have the magazine, about 8-10 copies with me.”
Since then the Bren Garage has been in the pages of evo India quite a few times, and thrice on the cover. The first was when we gathered together five limited edition Porsches at the MMRT race track — Boopesh drove down in his TechArt GT Street R based on the 911 Turbo S while for the story he let us have the GT4 and the 911 R. A year later I took an early morning flight to Bangalore and caught up with him waiting outside the airport with the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, the first in the country. And the third time was the craziest, when we took the 488 Pista to the Rann of Kutch — where we didn’t just do static shots but Boopesh drove his heart out, putting pedal to metal, drifting it, and once we were done, we drove from the Rann to Ahmedabad to meet with enthusiasts.
Clearly the cars in the Bren Garage aren’t showpieces. In fact, it was just before the lockdown that I met Boopesh, at the Cannonball trackday at the BIC, where he’d rocked up in his AMG GT R and GT2 RS, taking driving tips from professional racer Aditya Patel and showing me how the big AMG is different from the mad ’2 RS. Now, of course, we are all in lockdown — as good a time as any to talk about the journey of the Bren Garage.
“The Aston Martin was the first car I bought because I was a big fan of James Bond,” says Boopesh about his DBS. “I just thought if I can't buy any other car, let me buy this one car for my garage since my older house had just a one-car garage space. But I had a lot of difficulties in terms of taking it down the ramp and bringing it out, as [the garage] was not designed for a sports car.”
Which is why before buying another car, Boopesh first designed and built what would become the Bren Garage, complete with a lift for taking the cars down. “It is designed for 12-13 cars. I wanted to avoid the ramp so now I needed 12-foot-high ceilings. It took me a while to design the lift, because I have a portico above the garage. It's a little complicated, but I enjoyed every part of it. Today I can see the fruits of it. For me, this a temple, a place for meditation. This is something that inspires me on a day-to-day basis to go out there, work hard, and get back here.”
If you notice the Bren collection, almost all of them are track cars. “I bought the GT4 to learn how to drive on a racetrack. I'm not a race driver. I'm an enthusiast. I have loved supercars from childhood. Now the racetrack is the place to drive such cars because on the roads you need to be safe. There are speed limits and safety does matter a lot. So it was important for me as I would need to go to a playground where I can play with my cars. I'm thankful to my brother-in-law Bharat Reddy who took me to the race track for the first time on a bike and I just enjoyed myself on the bike. Then I said, okay, let me buy a sports car which is meant for the race track and that’s where I got the Cayman GT4. I've always loved manuals. I’ve grown up with manuals and I have done a lot of kilometres because I used to drive for my father for almost 8-10 years when I used to work with him.”
The GT4 was Boopesh’s second Porsche and that was the start of a love affair with the brand. “After the GT4, I bought the Turbo S. So now we had three Porsches. Then I bought a Cayenne. I'm a good customer to Porsche. When Pavan Shetty [head, Porsche India] called me up and said, ‘I want to allot you a car because you've been a Porsche enthusiast, which is a 911 R, would you like it?’ I said, who would say no to such a thing!”
The first time Boopesh took it out to the track was for our cover story (July 2018 issue). “You don't go out fast because it's a limited edition car. You enjoy it and you maybe do about 6-7 laps. You know Porsches don't break, but you need to be careful with your cars, especially these ones.”
It is obvious the 911 R is treated with care — it is a collector’s car, the only one in India and one of only 991 in the world. But you’d be floored to hear of his daily driver, the GT Street R. “I saw the TechArt when I was on a business trip to Munich. When I came back I spoke to Manik [of Racetech] and said I need a kit on the Turbo S. Everybody is surprised that I bought the [TechArt] kit before the Turbo S. Everybody was surprised, ‘Why is he buying a Turbo S where you know he's got a 911 R’. Once I got the allotment for the TechArt then I said, okay, let me buy the Turbo S and that's how I got the Turbo S. After that it took 6-8 months for me to get the kit and Manik to install it and all those things. It's a fun car. Absolutely.”
Fun is a bit of understatement. The GT Street R does 0-100kmph in 2.7 seconds, 0-200 in 8.5 seconds, 0-300 in 23.3 seconds. “It beats every car on the drag strip. It's so easy to launch that, you just go on, keep launching, and just enjoying that rush, like it is a roller coaster. It is also a very comfortable car because I did not adjust the suspension. I kept it so I can go on the highway, enjoy the speed, listen to music when I want to. It's like an all-rounder.”
Boopesh likens Porsches to a comfortable pair of jeans. “You have a full closet but you still go after the same pair of jeans again and again. That's like Porsche for me. They are very comfortable and very easy for me, that’s why I like driving them. Maybe my confidence level is better as I started with them, with the Carrera S. And they’re built like tanks.”
Any serious car collector has to have a Ferrari and Boopesh’s first Ferrari, the 458 Speciale, is an absolute beauty. “I had gone to Germany with my father and on the way back we had a day off and went to the Frankfurt Motor Show. I saw this car and said, wow, but looking at the dealership situation in India, I didn’t think I'll ever get it. And that's when my dad said, ‘You will get it’. I don't know why he said that. Maybe his blessings. After a few months Navneet Motors in Mumbai got the dealership and I ask will they give me a special car? I had to show my profile, my business, my contacts, prove that I am not a reseller, so it was a hard thing to convince them.”
Of course he did get the allotment. “I said I wanted it exactly like how I saw it in the Frankfurt Motor Show, the same spec because that's like a memory and I need to remember it. So that's why I didn't change any spec except the wheels. The interior and radio option was deleted. It's really something like a dream come true.”
Want to hear of Boopesh’s more “regular” cars? “It is a regular Huracan, so I said it has to be special. That's when I got the Vorsteiner Novara kit, Novitech race exhaust and it became the Brenacan. The name was given by enthusiasts who followed me.”
The other Lambo in the garage is the wildest of the range right now. “I wanted a V12 Lamborghini and I didn't want to rush to buy an Aventador. I've already got a Huracan, so let’s wait for the best. Sometimes you need to have patience and wait for the best.”
Of course the SVJ is a completely different kettle of fish to drive from the Porsches. “It makes it more exciting when it's not so easy to drive. How do you tame the bull? That's the biggest thing. That's where the real excitement is. You need to see how you can play. It was difficult at the initial stage, but I am telling you that it is full of thrills. Lots of fun adventures. It's crazy. The only problem is it can't do more than six, seven or eight laps unlike the Porsche, which goes on for 20, 30, 40, comes back into the pits and it says, ‘Okay, I can do it again’. The Huracan is in a way better, but the SVJ about six, seven, eight laps, and then it says, okay, I need to go to the pit lane to rest, calm down and start all over again.”
The AMG GT R is another track-focused car in the Bren Garage, which Boopesh took to the BIC last month for the CBC track day. “It's a muscle car, a German muscle car. People don't really understand that everything is not speed. Everything's not about, you know, what goes fastest. The way it behaves on the racetrack, it behaves like a peach. The weight moves and the entire car slides and drifts. The more you let it loose, the more it swings. There's a lot of fun.” And Boopesh is getting better on the track, assisted by race drivers like Aditya Patel. “I call it chasing happiness. To explore the best of skills, but not crossing the border because I'm not a racer. I do take assistance because I cannot have the kind of experience a race driver has, but he can share. Some corners, I find it difficult. Aditya Patel has been my trainer most of the time and is a great race driver and a great enthusiast. So he corrects the lines and it has improved my driving. That's how I started thinking about what helps me to be better on race tracks.”
Race tracks are one thing. At the other end is the vast, flat expanse of the Rann of Kutch where we took his 488 Pista. “When you called me and said you wanted to take the Pista for a photoshoot, initially, I thought it's just going to be a photoshoot. When we took it there and we saw the terrain, it was like a playground, and I said, ‘How can I not let the car play?’ I should thank you and the evo India team for arranging the entire trip.
Every new adventure, I'd want to try, there's nothing wrong in trying. And this is our country, which I have not explored. Maybe cars will make me explore my country.” I ask him about the one car he regrets not buying? “I think whatever was offered to me, I bought, except the Phantom Drophead Coupe which was the option when I bought the Aston Martin. Also the SLS AMG Gullwing is such a special car.”
We end with his rationale for buying, registering, using and keeping his cars right here in India. “I was born and made my life in India. So I need to be here, right? Whatever money I make, I need to give it back to my country. So that's the way it is.” That, in fact, is the reason why after the 2014, 15 and 16 eCOTY he didn’t add the 2017 eCOTY, the McLaren 720S. “I would love to have a McLaren. They did offer me one but I had to buy it abroad so I told them if you’re launching it in India, I will buy it. I’m waiting for the dealer to start in India.”
Last question. The next car that will be added to the garage? “It’s going to be a special Ferrari. I did get an allotment for an SF 90 and right now I was to be in Italy speccing it. But we are in lockdown.” Our lives have been thrown out of gear with the lockdown but one thing is for sure, whenever the Ferrari does come, it’s sure to blow up the Bren Garage Instagram!