In the first part of this series, supercar owner Dato' Deven Nathan shares his passion for cars, and gives an insiders view into the world of supercar ownership.
Men and Speed: Dato’ Deven Nathan and his supercars
It’s not often I set out with the lofty ambition of writing a psychological piece, considering I’m no psychologist, but that was the intention when I began shortlisting subjects for this series. These men drive fast and flashy cars, or have a taste for the daredevil-ish two wheelers that hearken me back to Evel Knievel, and I wanted to know what makes them tick; what drove them to acquire the hellish vehicles that satisfy the needs of their inner speed demons? The answer, I found, is a lot less devilish.
“A lot of people buy supercars for status; I buy supercars because they make me happy,” says Dato’ Deven Nathan, chairman of Devendranathan Holdings that owns food and beverage outlets like The Malt & Leaf, Red Room and deButchery.
The first on my list, Dato’ Deven gave me insight into the mind of supercar fanatic, but it wasn’t the insight I was expecting:
“Speeding is well and good, but there’s a point when it becomes reckless. I only speed when the situation permits and I’m with people I trust.”
The list of cars Dato’ Deven owns or has owned reads like a wish list in a wet dream of a car enthusiast. The list that includes Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati alongside Rolls Royce and even a Range Rover points to a man who knows his cars and boy, does he.
“I’ve always had an interest in cars, since I was young; I could go into showrooms full of supercars and know more about them than the salesmen themselves,” he says with a laugh.
Although he had to wait several more years before he could add one to his own garage, he recalls the first supercar he owned as the first supercar he ever set his eyes on – the Ferrari 360 Modena.
“That was the first supercar I saw as a child when I was in high school and it really awed me. Thankfully, I managed to achieve the dream of owning it.”
To say a slippery slope followed that Ferrari wouldn’t be wrong, but Dato’ Deven knows the kind of cars that can come speeding down a slope and roaring up one as well. Over the years, following the sale of the Ferrari Modena, he purchased a Lamborghini 570 Superleggera, a Maserati MC Stradale and a Lamborghini Aventador, making up his current line-up of cars.
“Owning these cars isn’t about showing off. For me, it is really about the passion and admiration for the cars.”
While at first glance it may appear that Dato’ Deven only has a taste for high end and luxury when it comes to his cars, he’s quick to make the point that supercars aren’t ‘one size fit all.’
“If someone comes to me and says ‘I have half a million dollars, what car should I buy?’ The first thing I would ask them is ‘what do you want out of your car?’”
He explains that his cars suit his needs and those needs aren’t always about speed. When he bought the Maserati MC Stradale for example, it was because continuous long-distance driving in the Superleggera had started to give him back aches due to the car being made for “hard core racing.” Although the MC Stradale is similarly ‘hard core,’ adjustable seat tilt made it more suitable for the long distance drives even though it handled significantly different from the Lamborghini, a challenge he took on with much fervour.
As the Social Director of Lamborghini CLUB Malaysia and Lifestyle Committee member of The Blue Jackets Society, long distance drives to far out locations have become a norm for Dato’ Deven. Amongst the trips he remembers fondly is one where he took the MC Stradale on a fourteen-day trip to northern Thailand, through scenic roads, windy roads, and even going off-roads for a short stretch.
Picking his brain for first-hand information on the aspects of owning supercars the average onlooker overlooks (read: downsides), without a skipping a beat Dato’ Deven answers:
“Firstly, these cars need to be driven and the more you drive them, the fewer problems you will have. Take the Aventador -- if you leave it idle for even a few weeks, the warning lights will go off like a Christmas tree. Secondly, you should know your mechanic very well,” he finishes jokingly.
The Aventador has been part of Dato’ Deven’s collection for just about half-a-year and he admits that he is still learning and “figuring out” the limits of his new fire-spitting toy, although he’s quick to point out that, despite the downsides, the Lamborghini is a truly impressive machine.
“I’m not going to not drive the cars, or not drive the way I want to because I’m afraid of a stone-chip; it’s ridiculous.”
When it came to the question I ask every owner of a RM3 million car – ‘Is it an everyday car?’ – Dato’ Deven answers with the kind of confidence that makes it hard not to believe:
“Definitely. But there are a couple of issues, one of which is parking. Cars like the Aventador can’t fit in many parking lots – but almost every mall, every hotel has valet parking. If you are pleasant with the valet, they will find you a spot, let you park the car and you keep your keys. I don’t see why you can’t drive it to and around the city if you really wanted to.”
“I organised a trip up to Frasers Hill with the Lamborghini Club and the Blue Jackets, the first joint trip. I drove the Aventador and had no problems whatsoever. Some people said ‘you’re mad to take the car up there; it’s so steep and narrow,’ but I never had a problem. One of my closest friend says: you must drive the car like you own the car. If you look at my cars, you’ll find stone-chips everywhere, but I’m not going to not drive the cars, or not drive the way I want to because I’m afraid of a stone-chip; it’s ridiculous.”
Having scanned all his social media feeds before-hand, I was curious to know why Dato’ Deven took more pictures of other cars than his own:
“Some people laugh at me,” he says with a smile, “but whenever I pull up to a place that has a lot of fancy cars, I’ll take photographs of other people’s cars because I’m happy for that person. I don’t understand the concept of having ill-will towards others because they have something nice. At the end of the day, if you find someone who has something nice, you should admire it and aspire to one day own it too.”
“Owning these cars isn’t about showing off; it’s not ‘hey look at me, look at me.’ For me, it is really about the passion for the cars and the admiration for the cars.”
Dato’ Deven painted me a pretty clear picture of his psyche – this wasn’t a man who loves speed for the sake of speed; he doesn’t love fancy cars for the sake of flash; and he certainly doesn’t put himself on a pedestal for owning a fleet of luxury vehicles. He fit the stereotype of ‘boys and their toys’ in the most positive way possible, and had me wondering if ‘Men and Speed’, when it came to him, was a bit of a misnomer.
We've had our fair share of run-ins with supercars too, like when we put the McLaren 650S Spider to the 'everyday car' test.