When ANCX first spoke to Kenneth Cobonpue about his collection of vintage cars, we only got to see a couple of his uber cool toys—a 1956 Jaguar XK140 and a 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS. Back then, the garage of his Cebu residence was still undergoing renovation. But we saw him take his two babies for a spin, anyway, with fellow vintage car collector, Jay Aldeguer who, for his part, took out his 1964 Porsche 356C and 1989 Porsche 930.
In that interview we did for our Masters and Mentors feature, the world-renowned furniture designer shared that his fascination for vintage cars started when he was still a student in New York. Kenneth studied industrial design at the Pratt Institute in the late ‘80s.
“I remember my teacher had a black Porsche Turbo. He’d always be dressed in black—in New York, artists [commonly] wear black,” remembered Kenneth. The image of his teacher coming out of his sleek, stunning vehicle left an impact in the young creative, until owning a Porsche became one of his motivations to work harder in life.
So when the time came Kenneth could already afford the Porsche, he asked Jay—then already an owner of a couple of Porsches and quite known in the collector circle —if he could first sit in one before he makes the purchase. “Jay was very generous to say, ‘Just borrow it for a couple of days,’” Kenneth recalled.
The designer could still summon the joy he felt when he first turned the car’s ignition on. Getting to drive it brought incredible pleasure. And that was how his love affair with vintage cars started.
How he picks his cars
In a recent episode of Executive Class on ANC, we finally got to see the other vintage cars that make up Kenneth’s well-curated collection, housed now in two spacious garages in his hometown Cebu.
Kenneth collects cars from the ‘50s to the ‘70s—most of them two-door sports cars. “How I choose them is—first I go with the beauty, and then the sporting heritage,” he tells David Celdran, Executive Class host.
Shape and design are his major considerations when selecting a car that will earn a spot in his collection. This explains why he says he has a few items in his roster that might not be very popular, like the BMW 3.0 CSI he is currently restoring.
Yup, this furniture designer restores his own cars. He does this so he can restore them the way he wants to. “It’s important to leave some things untouched. We call that the patina,” he says. “I don’t like a car that’s all perfect, all shiny. It should also have signs of use. I think that’s what makes a car fascinating.”
Another reason he wants to participate in the restoration process is because he wants to keep the machine pure—meaning, as faithful to the original as possible. But more importantly, he wants to make sure the cars are drivable and road-ready. He pays attention to the things that you can’t see—the brake upgrade, for instance—to ensure safe driving. Because his ultimate goal is not simply to put the cars on display but to actually enjoy driving them.
His being a purist doesn’t extend to the car paint, however. Here, he trusts his designer instinct. “I try to look at the car and see what color brings out the shape and then I choose that color,” he says.
For his BMW 3.0 CSI, he picked inca orange, a color in vogue during the ‘70s and one which adorned other BMW models of that period.
In the Executive Class episode, he gives David a peek of a latest acquisition in his workshop—a BMW E9 which, according to the host, has racing pedigree and has won a number of motoring championships over the years.
“I’ve always loved one,” Kenneth says of the BMW E9. “When I was studying in Germany, I saw this and this really spoke to me.” The designer loves the simplicity of its shape. “I think it’s a classic Coupé,” he says. He got it in the US and not in a very good condition. But therein lies the challenge. “Like I do with all my other cars,” he says, “I strip it out and make it as perfect as possible.”
What’s next on his wish list? A Lamborghini Countach from the ‘80s.