Paris is a ghost town at dawn. At its quietest hours, under the blue-pink sky, its streets look as though they silently yearn to be disrupted with the sound of screeching tires. In Claude Lelouch’s 1976 short film C’était un rendez-vous, the French filmmaker takes this opportunity for uninterrupted flight mode. The eight-minute film is shot from the bumper of a Ferrari as it speeds through Paris at daybreak. The car neglects all traffic laws, going so fast it seems to hover over the cobbled streets as small flocks of doves hurry to get out of its way. The sound-track of the film is the hypnotizing whine of the car’s engine, punctuated by occasional gear shifts. At the end, the true incentive of the joyride is revealed. The car comes to an abrupt halt at a curb in Montmartre, and the driver gets out to embrace a woman who waits for him as the bells of the Sacré-Cœur toll in the background. It was all for romance.
This is what one imagines car dealer extraordinaire Arthur Kar must dream about at night. As he testifies, automobiles themselves can inspire their own kind of love affairs: “The best time I have is when I’m driving the cars. Any car. Even if they’re ugly from the outside, they’re still fun. And I love to go fast. I used to race cars for fun. The cops literally hate me.” Starting out as a teenage car washer at a dealership, Kar’s passion for mechanics progressed continuously until it manifested itself in his company L’art de L’automobile. “I have just as much respect for the guy that changes the tires, the oil, that washes the car, as I do for the guy that sells or drives the most beautiful car in the world,” Kar muses, “They’re all the same people, because they all have the same passion and essentially, they do the same work. I was that 16-year-old guy washing the car. I still am.”
Born in Beirut, Arhur’s full last name, Karakoumouchian, seems to have been given to him as a prophesy from the automotive gods. The collector of obscure vehicles now operates between Paris and Los Angeles, and considers his automobiles to be “useable art.” He has become known for fusing his love for cars with the fashion and art world. “Fashion as a craft inspires me to want to evolve the world of cars in an expressive sense. Car culture can
be creative too, like fashion. They attract the same kind of people,” he says.
In his Parisian catacombs that smell of fuel and leather, Kar consults his clientele, who trust him for his discretion. Kar’s workplace requires steady temperatures and little light, which is why his offices stretch out into vast underground spaces stacked with vintage Porsches, limited edition Ferraris, and remodeled Rolls Royces. His lair is what adrenaline looks like – a balance of chaos and tightly-wound order.
For the ultimate driving experiences in the world, Kar recommends the California coast and the German Autobahn.
Text: EVA KELLEY
Images: L’ART DE L’AUTOMOBILE