PLANET LORBEK OPENS

MASSIVE FACILITY GETS THE ULTIMATE HOUSE-WARMING PARTY

WORDS GUY ALLEN * PHOTOS STEVE NALLY

L orbek Luxury Cars in Port Melbourne has opened giant new premises boasting nearly two acres of space.

The company hosted a big evening event for the occasion, timed to coincide with Grand Prix week, with a massive guest list of industry and competition luminaries headed by former F1 World Champion Alan Jones.

Another among the many worthy of note was Lorbek’s first sports car customer, Tony Gasparini of Gasparini Transport in Mt Gambier. He bought a Datsun 240Z . That’s something of a contrast to the hordes Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens lined up on the night.

The opening punctuated over 30 years in business for principal Srecko Lorbek, who recalls far more humble beginnings.

“I started in Lord Street Richmond, which is a little one-way street, it was a little Volkswagen repair centre – it was all I could afford.

“The former owner was going overseas and I didn’t realise all the equipment was broken and it didn’t have an ongoing lease! I was told I had to get out – it was a pretty difficult start in business. So I replaced equipment and did what I could to get the business going and started to buy a few cars on the side to repair and sell on, to cover costs when we were quiet. I decided I needed to get an LMCT licence, which I did.”

But why get into the business at all? “I loved cars ever since I was a little boy, on a farm in a country town.

You very rarely saw any sports cars, and if one drove through town I was just mesmerised. Most of what I saw was Bedford trucks,” he laughs.

So what changes has he witnessed over the intervening 30-something years? “A lot. But it’s not just the change in technology in cars, but the way people buy them, what they use them for and the way transactions are done compared to 30 years ago.

“Advertising was all newspaper and was very localised, but these days with internet it’s national and in part international.

Technically today we have a car showroom in everybody’s house in every town in Australia.

“It’s absolutely mind-blowing – the few dealers who haven’t taken this on to make sure their website is their showroom frontage, are not succeeding as well as they should” (Lorbek has launched a new site, timed with the opening of the new building.).

So, what gets Lorbek excited about a car? “Several things. As a mechanic by trade I understand how the car works and its purpose. I see different cars as forms of art, the lines, the sensation of the interior design, how the designer has interpreted what could be better, and the process of designers picking up inspiration from others.”

He cites the classic Laborghini Miura and its successors as an example – “it’s such a beautiful car” but also awkward to drive thanks to a quirky seating position. He then points to the Mclaren 675LT as a spiritual successor, but a far easier proposition for the

user, building on the work of the Lambo and other supercar designers.

When questioned on why he’s invested so much in bricks and mortar, he responds, “It’s probably my self-indulgence, to have my man cave where I can have all my cars and look at them and sell them and share them. There’s enjoyment in finding special cars and selling them or passing them on to someone else who appreciates them, and having that ongoing change and seeing that evolution of cars as they pass through.

“IT’S PROBABLY A SELF-INDULGENCE TO HAVE A MAN CAVE WHERE I CAN HAVE ALL MY CARS”

“I bought the first site in 2005 and slowly acquired sites behind and expanded, knowing that one day I really had to have frontage to the freeway. We made sure it lined up with the existing building to create a synergy with the old.

“The design needed to be simplistic, versatile and easy to work from. The fact is it’s not just the building – it needs to be a blank canvas for the art or the cars,

inside. So the little things I’ve collected over the years really stood out.

“We also needed enough space – about two acres – to collect enough cars to have sales of around 100 cars a month, which we’ve been achieving. And now we’ve tasted that we don’t want to go back.

“My biggest clients are my repeat clients and car nuts.

What I wanted to do was have a facility that car lovers enjoy.” He mentions say the facility is being used by car clubs for functions and events such as concours. “It’s about making people want to stay and feel good.”

Clearly it’s working. Alan Jones scored the quote-ofthe- night award when asked if cars still got him excited after all his years in the sport and the industry. He described wandering around the exotic metal on show.

“At risk of being rude,” he warned, “I’ve actually got a few erections running around here tonight!”

“IT’S ABOUT MAKING PEOPLE WANT TO STAY AND FEEL GOOD. APPARENTLY IT’S WORKING”