Cars As Art At DRVN

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.

2020 DRVN Speedhunters by Paddy McGrath-25

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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Great story!
The V8 engine is a late 1960's Corvette 327 (note the chrome plated shielding protecting the distributor & spark plug wires) backed by a Muncie 4-speed. :)


Thanks for pointing out what purpose that served. I thought the routing was odd, but it's coming together now. I was excited to see a small block Chevy displayed so proudly amongst automotive royalty.


Great pictures, thanks! I wish I could visit that coffee shop regularly, especially if they rotate the displays. I wonder how often they do? This is so cool.

Sebastian Motsch

Hi Paddy,

I'm totally with you on the part that it's sometimes difficult to relay the impressions and feelings you had when visiting a place for the first time. Especially so when you have not been told what to expect. There is an element of surprise that just can't be put into words properly and has to be experienced - this is why I love traveling without a set itinerary so much. Don't worry, sometimes there is no need for a long and refined text to accompany the pictures - they can be enjoyed all on their own.

Best regards from Germany


Paddy, nice pics! I found an exotic storage facility in Warren, NJ yesterday. Morris County, New Jersey is very rich so there are a lot of really nice cars in this area. Check out Rennsport Worx in Green Brook, NJ website. They have a gorgeous shop/lounge and service/sell Porsche, Ferrari, Lambo, Audi, VW and BMW. Really nice place.


I'm assuming it was too dark in there for a polarizing filter? Or you wanted the reflections to add a layer to the composition?


That's with a CircPol, it just doesn't have much effect on upright pieces of glass.


Man those are the best displays I have ever seen
I would look at those cars for hours


>call your company "drvn"
>cars are not being driven
such cases


I hope they got the oil stains from the E type off the floor. (I own one)


Coffee Pizza and to just sit there watching the lines of those cars.
Dream come true.


They have as much right (if not more) to be there as any piece of art.

I agree that cars are unjustly excluded from a lot of discussions of art for no discernible reason, (other art is multipurpose, other art is mass-produced, etc.) and I also agree that some of these examples (specifically the 300sl gullwing imo) make particularly strong arguments on the basis of beauty alone, but dropping in "if not more" just seems lazy, and I think debates about cars as art can get derailed and their arguments deligitimized by this unnecessary raising of the stakes.
Honestly I don't even know why it's that important, because to me cars have always very clearly been toys, and that carries no negative stigma in my eyes. They are fun, useful objects - sometimes very elegant, yes - but their purpose always seems to be to get from point A to point B, and the cars on this site do that with the maximum amount of fun. I totally understand when people get frustrated by cars just sitting motionless for aesthetic value because I equate it to building an exquisite, elegant, even sculptural gaming pc and then never turning it on.
tl;dr I think including "if not more" is just a lazy writing habit, and if it was a deliberate choice then i disagree, but it's on the subject of art so, eh, it's all opinion anyways.


The type of people sitting around a 300SLR sipping coffee talking about how they are art are the same kind of people that make me vomit in my mouth when I get closer than 6 feet. It's probably the douchiest crowd there is in the entire automotive scene. Guys who aren't getting laid, can't drive a car within an inch of its life to save theirs and gentlemen who will talk to you about the great history of a brand until you want to get off your own ears. Jfc. Pass.


Cars aren't art.

Fight me!