It should always be said that cars are best appreciated in person.
First, let me go back in time briefly. It’s February earlier this year, we’re in Abu Dhabi on the morning of MADE, which is taking place approximately an hour north in Dubai. COVID-19 is most definitely a thing, but wouldn’t hit this region in earnest until the following week, so things were pretty much as we remember them; our old normal.
My friend, Sultan Al Qassimi, is playing the role of probably the best host you could ever imagine. I had only landed in the region the night before, but had already been exposed to some impressive car culture at his shop, and when we went for food later that evening. Still, I was pretty eager to hit the road for the second annual MADE show. You can never have too much cars.
Before we took to the highway, Sultan wanted to grab a coffee. I figured we were on our way to the local Starbucks, but the man had other ideas in mind. Surrounded by car dealerships such as Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti and Lexus, DRVN Coffee is pretty unassuming from the outside, a wall of reflective glass partly obscuring what’s inside.
I was happy to wait in the cool air conditioning of Sultan’s car (I’m not a coffee drinker), but he insisted I join him, and to bring my camera…
It was immediately obvious as to why he was so insistent. Inside, the coffee shop is a large open space smartly decorated with comfortable-looking furniture and featuring a mix of polished concrete floors with neat metal detailing on the walls and fixtures. There’s a staircase leading up to another seating area, with a V8 motor showcased beneath it.
Also, there were glass display cases featuring three iconic Mercedes-Benz models: a CLK DTM, a 190E 2.5-16 Evo II, and a 300SL Gullwing. Unsurprisingly, it was these three that really caught my eye.
What impressed me the most, was not just the cars themselves, but how they felt so right in their placement. So often, people try to integrate automotive-related themes into their homes and businesses, but they nearly always come off as being a bit kitsch or gimmicky. Rarely does it feel as right as it did here.
Before you bemoan that cars shouldn’t be locked inside a glass case, and instead should be driven, don’t worry, the collection is regularly rotated. I was told that these three cars were replaced with Paganis the following week, and a curt look at DRVN Coffee’s Instagram page shows an Aston Martin, Jaguar E-Type and a Shelby GT500 in place amongst others.
While Sultan enjoyed a coffee, I couldn’t help but continue to explore the premises while trying to capture the essence of the shop as best as I could. The light pouring through the glass front of the building, combined with the variety of materials and surfaces made it a fascinating place to shoot.
While working around the reflections in the glass was challenging, it was as equally rewarding, with the recognisable shapes of the cars emerging beneath layers of other sources of colours, shapes and light.
I’ll readily confess that there isn’t much substance to this story, but that’s because it’s sometimes quite difficult to relay the impact a situation like this can have on you. You can simply become awestruck at the simple allure of it all.
This is a celebration of the often overlooked beauty of cars. Why shouldn’t cars like this be featured in traditional museums around the world? They have as much right (if not more) to be there as any piece of art. That they can be both beautiful and functional, while also exhilarating us with their sound and speed is remarkable.
While this was just a brief visit, it was a particular highlight of the whole trip and really stayed with me months and months later. I would love to visit again in the future, and maybe next time I might even try a coffee. Well, maybe not, but I did hear that DRVN’s Neapolitan pizza is pretty good.