Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Model Citizen

Something is afoot on the leafy, well-kept streets of Weston. Hidden in plain sight, beyond the guard gates of a quiet community with stucco homes all painted in soft caramel, is a stash. An obsession. A col lection—one of the biggest in the world, according to Guinness World Records. It’s where Argentina- born Sergio Goldvarg keeps his 17,000 scale-model cars; 5,000 of which are on display at home. Ninehundred are at his Wafeworks restaurant in Hollywood. And, oh yes, you might spot him at the local Publix in his original 1966 Batmobile, sometimes dressing his 6’5” frame in an exact replica of the original Batman costume (even Adam West was impressed), with his wife, Mariana, as Batgirl.

“Collectors have two things in common: obsession and possession,” says Goldvarg, with the smile of someone who lives this truth. His overriding passion can be seen in every family photo datingback to his Buenos Aires childhood. Each has one thing in common: a model car is clutched in the young Goldvarg’s hand. “He didn’t noticeme when we frst met. I wasn’t a car,” says Mariana, Goldvarg’s wife of 30 years.

To say that Goldvarg lives, eats, breathes and sleeps model cars—all cars, really—is
an understatement. Walking into his home sparks sensory overload; it’s like Pee-wee’s Playhouse for car and memorabilia buffs, and it’s the real deal. A Shakespeare bust from the Batman set is front and center. Open the head to flip the switch and open the wall to Batman’s Bat Pole (theoretically, that is—Goldvarg hasn’t added that yet, but he did eliminate his wife’s weight room when she was out of town to expand the garage for his awe-inspiring vintage car collection). A wooden sign by the door reads “Gotham City: 14 miles.” Memorabilia lines the floor and every shelf. The brain literally cannot comprehend all that the eyes see. Perhaps this is why frst-time guests stop in their tracks, slack-jawed, and turn 360 degrees to absorb the magnitude of the collection.

Custom-built glass-walled cases line every room (and fll more than one) to house Goldvarg’s 5,000 model cars, which are built in two different scales—1/43 and 1/18—and mostly related to Formula One, sport prototypes, rally cars, historical cars, fre engines, police cars and buses from all over the world. It’s a walk through time to see presidential motorcades (including that of John F. Kennedy), Pope Mobiles, ice cream trucks and promotional vehicles for Lufthansa, Orangina, Knorr and more, including British-manufactured models that were made in the 1930s before the factories were destroyed in WWII.

“I started collecting 1/64 size [model cars] when I was 4, would keep them in their mint-condition boxes, take them out and build a little town with houses, a gas station and a store out of my mom’s cardboard pasta boxes. There I would park the cars,” says Goldvarg about hours spent with his beloved mini masterpieces. “Every birthday, I would receive 30 more cars from family and friends. By age 10, I had 300. I still have them, and I know when each was acquired and from whom.

Goldvarg’s passion for collecting led him to manufacturing when he couldn’t fnd models that represented cars he adored, and thus he became the founder, creator and manufacturer of the frst South American factory of white metalscale model cars in 1/43. The Goldvarg Collection became prized by afcionados for their authenticity, detail and all-metal design. When Goldvarg and his family moved to South Florida in 2002, he relocated his manufacturing plant to England, and he still produces the masterpieces in 1/43 scale. He’s currently making the 1956 and 1960 Mercury, and a few Fords, including the 1961 Country Squire and a 1965 pickup. “What I love is to manufacture the cars,” he says. “They are all handmade and use original paint chips from that time.” His factory makes limited editions of 300 each, and he chronicle the process of designing the prototypes on his website to show fellow model car buffs each stage of the fascinating behind-the-scenes process.

As an expert and afcionado, Goldvarg was the frst South American journalist to write about scale-model car collecting in Corsa and Palabrisas, and later, Classic Wheels magazine, and he still writes today. His home is flled with framed Formula One racing posters and signed 8×10 photos he’s taken with legendary drivers, including Michael Schumacher, Mario Andretti and Juan Manuel Fangio, who were all friends. “Since the time I knew cars existed, I was fascinated,” says Goldvarg. “There is a strong car culture in Buenos Aires and I went to races with my father, a physician, who didn’t particularly enjoy the sport but took me because I loved it.” Goldvarg became immersed in all things auto, and in the late ‘90s was the Vice Director of the Argentine Formula One Grand Prix. In 2011, he authored a book about Carlos Pairetti, one of Argentina’s most famous race car drivers. In 2014, he was inducted into the Diecast Hall of Fame in Las Vegas for his dedication to the scale model car industry .

Tempted by the beauty of model cars, Goldvarg acquired his own collection of some of the world’s rarest and most desirable vintage cars, which he takes out in rotation every weekend: a 1965 powder-blu  Renault, a 1964 mint-colored Mini Cooper, a 1958 orange and yellow BMW, a cream 1962 Volvo from the movie The Saint with Roger Moore, and a 1963 red Alfa Romeo from the manufacturer’s ofcial team that Goldvarg frst saw being lowered from a cargo ship by crane at age 5; then fortuitously acquired 40 years late.

His hands-down favorite, though, is the 1966 Batmobile, used in the original Batman television series and autographed by Adam West and Burt Ward, who included personal dedications to Goldvarg on the dashboard. “I was 10 years old the frst time I saw Batman,” says Goldvarg about the cult classic. “I saw the Batmobile and said, ‘Someday that car will be mine.’ I acquired it 25 years ago in 1993 and at the time it was the only Batmobile registered outside the U.S.,” he says.

It’s the Batmobile that stops trafc, and Goldvarg not only uses it for Publix runs, but in community efforts organized by the Broward’s Sheriff’s Ofce and Hollywood Police Department, including Toys for Tots and Night Out Against Crime. “I show up in full regalia and it helps the cause,” says Goldvarg with a twinkle in his eye.
His mobile phone rings.
Zock. Pow. Biff! It’s the Batman theme song!