Gina Baksa talks art, vintage cars and cuisine with Hexagon Classic Cars Chairman and founder Paul Michaels
Paul’s passion for cars began early: “It was the first word I ever said,” he tells me over coffee at his North London showroom that’s packed to the gills with gorgeous vintage road and racing cars. “My father was in the motor business selling Citroëns and Jags, so it’s clearly in my blood. “I couldn’t understand why I had to go to school – I just wanted to go and play with cars. So I did.”
Paul began his car-dealing career at Hexagon in 1963, trading out of a small mews in North London. His business nous led to him securing successful dealerships for Alfa Romeo, Lotus and Reliant and he was London’s leading BMW dealer for more than 45 years.
Today Paul still sells (vintage) BMWs, but his focus and passion is classic road and racing cars. Some 50 vehicles from his multi-million-pound collection can be seen at the Finchley showroom – coincidentally the same space that Hexagon once occupied as BMW dealership. He’s completely rebuilt the showroom and created a high-end art and ceramics gallery run by his interior designer wife Racheline.
As Paul shows me round the jaw-dropping collection (together with faithful hound Aston), it’s clear to see that he deals in classic cars at the premium end of the market. That means low mileage and no damage, with specific focus on the rarest and most collectable marques in the world. I’m lusting after vintage Porsches, Aston Martin DB4s, a gullwing Mercedes, Ferraris and a stream of Lotuses (he has an official franchise). And a gorgeous Fiat Arbarth 500F left-hand drive from 1968.
But it’s not only vintage road and racing cars that are Paul’s passion. An astute businessman, his latest vision is the creation of a destination coffee bar and restaurant next to the showroom. The restaurant will be helmed by his friend, two-starred Michelin chef Chris Kitch, who runs a celebrated kitchen in Hoxton.
‘We’ll be serving classic Mediterranean food,” Paul reveals. “A twist of Italian, a twist of French. This will be a destination for people to come and enjoy their cars, buy some superb ceramics and art, eat great food – or just shoot the breeze over a coffee with like-minded enthusiasts.”
Paul’s vision of an upmarket Ace Café for vintage car collectors and fans is well on its way to completion, while the impressive ceramics and art gallery is already up and running. What was the inspiration for combining classic cars and art?
“It just evolved,” Paul tells me. “When I moved back here I hadn’t planned anything but, the space seemed perfect for it.”
Racheline explains the concept: “Our vision for the gallery is that it flows seamlessly into the car showroom. It’s all about form and function,” she shares. “The cars are an art form too – some of these ceramics have a similar feel to the lines of the classic cars. It’s a natural progression.”
The light, open gallery space features globally sourced pieces ranging from ceramics and fine art to sculpture and photographs, with a collection of gifts from Georg Jensen and Stelton.
“We are agents for Knoll, Carl Hansen and Magis which we display alongside mid-century designs,” says Racheline.
The aim of the project is to bring together classic cars and luxury lifestyle like no other location in London, while the company’s South Kensington mews showroom – Hexagon Classics – continues to operate alongside it. Once complete, Hexagon Classics will be the first showroom in the world to feature luxury classic cars, art and cuisine – all under one roof.
‘My vision is for The Hexagon is that it becomes a real destination – a place where you can enjoy the finest coffee, the finest food and indulge in your love of the finest cars,” says Paul.
He’s a man who also likes to give back to his local community. He ran a Classic Le Mans evening recently to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. Racing legends such as Jacky Ick, Mark Blundell, Richard Attwood and Derek Bell were on hand for a Q&A, and there are plans to run more talks in the future.