CBS Creator Shows Off His Rare-Car Collection — and the Auto "Condo" Where They're Stored

Joe Schmelzer
"Each car is personal and has a story," says writer producer Peter Lenkov of his collection, which includes the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing he’s sitting in front of, and a 1958 black Porsche Speedster (right).

"The machines are like art," says Peter Lenkov, whose hits include reboots of 'Hawaii Five-O,' 'Magnum P.I.' and 'MacGyver,' of his iconic Mercedes Gullwing and other rare models that are housed in a storage space running $500,000 to $3.6 million: It feels "like you're in a cool museum."

Peter Lenkov enjoys the psychology of cars. "If you pay attention to the details, cars can represent their characters," says the Canada-born showrunner, whose lineup of CBS hits — Magnum P.I., MacGyver and Hawaii Five-0 — encompassed 67 hours of the network's schedule this season. "For a Navy SEAL like [Five-0's] Steve McGarrett, it makes sense for him to drive a big pickup, where he can load his gear and go. It's in his personality."

Lenkov, whose personal car collection took about 20 years to amass, owns a dozen-plus classic motorcycles — from a 1922 Indian to a 2017 Zero Engineering — in addition to his rare and vintage vehicles, such as a 1958 Porsche 356A Speedster, a 1961 Alfa Romeo Autotutto Romeo 2 Minibus, a 1972 Series IIA Land Rover and a "very, very rare Porsche PAM sled." These vehicles, minus the sled, can shuffle between his house in the Valley, where he lives with his wife, four kids and three dogs, to his car condominium at Westlake's Finish Line. "I bought one of these condos very early on," says Lenkov, who paid about $400 per square foot for 2,000 square feet in 2016. "This place has great security, and it's a community, not just a place to store your cars," he says. Tony Principe, founder of Finish Line, describes the benefits of owning a car condo: "In Southern California, residential real estate is very expensive and your garage is limited to three or four cars. Once you put in your daily drivers, bikes and family stuff, the last thing you want is to put your collectible car in that space. What makes us distinct is that this is also a social environment where you can hang with like-minded collectors."

The garage, which comes with concierge servicing and maintenance, stores a recent acquisition of Lenkov's, one of the most iconic cars of all time, a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing (the model starts at $750,000) thought to have been owned by My Fair Lady actor Rex Harrison. Only 1,400 of the coupes were built between 1954 and 1957, and at the time they were priced at the princely sum of $9,000. "As a kid, I had a picture on my wall of the 300 SL — that's the unicorn," says Lenkov. "I saw this one, in a color I'd never seen before, and in a condition I thought was immaculate. This is something that I never thought I was going to be able to buy. When the hammer went down and I got the car, I felt fear — and perhaps a little joy at having landed my white whale."

High-end car storage companies in Los Angeles include AutoConcierge, with three climate-controlled sites, including locations in West L.A. and the South Bay, which offers collection curation and legal services in addition to maintenance of clients' vintage, racing and hypercars. Monthly rental fees range from $850 to $1,500, depending on the customer's needs — for example, it costs $25,000 to ship a car overnight from L.A. to Dubai. Matt Farah, star of YouTube show and podcast The Smoking Tire, plans to open his West Side Collector Car Storage this fall. "I've seen $5 million town houses in Venice with a two-car garage and no driveway," he says. "If you're a car enthusiast, that's awfully limiting." In the case of Finish Line, which is building an Orange County location near John Wayne Airport to meet demand, owners can choose to custom build to their personal specifications. Says Principe: "Some put in kitchens — it's really unlimited what collectors can do."

Lenkov, who considers himself a conservative collector because "I live in a business that can change overnight," says of his choices, including the 1958 Porsche Speedster that he purchased a decade ago: "These are good investments. They are a great way to park your money and enjoy it at the same time."

Ferraris also hold an emotional resonance for Lenkov. His $50,000-plus Ferrari Mondial T Cabriolet, bought in 2017, was his "I made it" purchase, long after he saw Michael J. Fox in 1991 "getting into this beautiful red Ferrari Mondial and thought to myself, 'One day, one day …' " The producer also owns a 1964 Ferrari 330GT, with hopes of additional acquisitions. "Ferrari is part of the Magnum mythology and is built into the canon of the show — the 308 in the original and the new 488," says Lenkov. "I'd love to own both of those cars someday."

As for the condo space, Lenkov wanted to decorate it in a manner commensurate with the cars it stored. "I designed it all myself," he says. "I didn't want it to look like a conventional garage. I wanted it to be a laid-back, homey space, and not what you expect — there's a car sitting on a Persian rug!" The producer describes the storage area as "my art studio — the machines are the art, like you're in some cool museum."

This story first appeared in the May 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.