The Porsche Model Club Europe does not just devote itself to taking care of the smallest vehicles featuring the Porsche Crest. It also acts as a strong bond that links many passionate collectors worldwide.
Billy, Henk, Porsche. Three names, a single passion for sports cars. And a story whose strands have been closely interwoven for many years. A central role in this story is played by Cape Town, South Africa. In 2010, Porsche had invited people to the city for the presentation of the 991 model line. The guests present included Billy Karam, a successful rally champion from Lebanon and founder of one of the first Porsche Clubs in the Middle East. Against the backdrop of Table Mountain, he met the Dutchman Henk Koop, President of the Porsche Model Club Europe (PMC Europe) since 1994. This would mark the start of a special friendship.
Museum founded, Guinness records set
Both men share the same passion – they collect Porsche model cars. However, many people have already held one of these miniatures in their hands that are the spitting image of real Porsche cars. So that is no big deal, right? Far from it. Over a period of almost 40 years, Billy has collected more than 30,000 model cars, one third of which feature the Porsche Crest. “Because I didn’t have enough space at home, I bought a warehouse in my home town of Rabieh, north of Beirut, and without any further ado just set up a museum there.” 15 rooms packed with display cabinets and elaborately designed dioramas, the exhibition area is 1,500 square metres. This was worth several entries in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Things are much quieter at Henk’s home in the Dutch town of Emmen. He chose to specialise and worked early on towards completing various collection series. For example, Henk has the complete sets of the official Porsche models at a scale of 1:43 and 1:18 on his glazed shelves. The marketing specialist also owns the world’s largest private Porsche book collection. “Over a thousand different titles dating back to 1952, with rare editions in Arabic and Chinese,” he explains with pride in his voice.
The love for Porsche blossomed during a summer holiday
Henk joined the Porsche collectors’ scene in 1978 and still exactly remembers his first encounter with the iconic brand. “I was 14 and was on holiday with my parents at Wörthersee in Austria. I saw a 911 Turbo in Jet Black Metallic in a car park – and I was fascinated from that moment on. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sound of the engine. I really wanted to have this car.” However, he was not old enough and also did not have the money, which meant that a model car was initially the only option. However, even this model car was not easy to get at the time. There were no specialist shops, no Collectors Days, no eBay. It took three months before the black 911 Turbo was standing on Henk’s desk in the Matchbox format 1:64. However, that would not be the end of it. Over time, his interest in Porsche model cars and the collection grew equally. A 911 Targa soon followed, and then the 924 and 928 models. Henk learned about the Porsche Model Club, became a member, and later was elected President. “It fills me with pride to be part of this international community. I try to attend as many meetings as possible in order to stay in personal contact with my friends from the large Porsche family. It always feels good, I can learn an incredible amount and I benefit enormously from this community – and that has been the case for almost three decades now.”
Billy won the Lebanese Rally Championship in 1986. “In the following year, I visited the Rétromobile Show in Paris and fell in love with a model of my race car, a 911 SC/RS Rothmans at a scale of 1:43. I bought it without negotiating the price – and put my name on the body by hand,” Billy admits with a broad grin on his face. The foundation stone of his collection was laid. Later on, he added all the Porsche cars in which he competed with sporting success. After a visit to the internationally renowned Nuremberg Toy Fair, Billy became the representative for model cars of the Minichamps brand in Lebanon. “I bought 800 models in one go at the time – and I could no longer hold back my collector’s mania.” He was particularly attracted to the Porsche brand, both on the race track and in the collection display case. “Our whole life is a race against time. I have always seen it as a special privilege to be able to enjoy it in these unique sports cars that make the heart beat faster.”
International Collectors Day: no journey is too far
The collections of Henk and Billy are separated by 4,000 kilometres. But thanks to the Porsche Model Club, the two men stay in close contact. “Personal contact with Porsche fans all around the world is one of the benefits that our members value the most,” says President Henk Koop. “We know no boundaries and welcome every like-minded person with open arms. Porsche brings us all together.” On the website, members can search for or sell collector’s items in the “Porsche Mini Market” section. Information is also exchanged about where in the world a certain model is available and at what conditions. The members also help each other to obtain spare parts or lost assembly instructions.
According to Koop, the most important event in PMC Europe’s annual calendar is International Collectors Day – a community meeting that focuses on Porsche model cars of all sizes, alongside books, posters, promotional items, magazines, stamps and souvenirs. And where many of the current 500 members meet in person and travel especially from Australia, Europe or the USA. “No journey is too far,” Henk explains. “We will meet up again in March 2023, at the Porsche Classic Centre Gelderland in Holland.”
Porsche model cars write stories that can be touched
Henk will naturally also invite Billy to the Collectors Day. And Billy will accept the invitation. “Being a collector means pure passion. It’s like a disease, but it’s a beautiful one. It is possible that, at some point, I will slow down the pace of adding to my collection. But I will never stop. Collecting has become part of my DNA,” says the man from Lebanon and adds: “Every day when I can’t spend a little time with my collection feels like a lost day.”
Of course, this does not apply when Billy attends events at Porsche Clubs. Like in 2010 in South Africa. Even today, he and Henk still wax lyrical about the event at the Cape of Good Hope. “That was definitely one of the best weekends we’ve had among the Porsche Clubs – perhaps the best days of our lives,” says Billy with palpable enthusiasm, speaking just as quickly as the speed at which he drives one of his five Porsche cars through the streets of Beirut. Those who experience the two men soon realise that Porsche’s model cars write stories that can be touched, keep the past alive, transcend borders – and bring people together. There simply isn’t anything better than this.