Hussein I of Jordan, who ruled from 1952 until his death in 1999, is renowned to this day for compiling one of history's greatest car collections. Nearly the entire line up now sits in its own museum in Amman, Jordan, doubling as a story of the life of the King himself, as these stellar automobiles also coincide with some of the most important moments in his life.
When WEALTH Arabia sat down with the director of the Royal Automobile Museum in Amman Raja Gargour, he traces the beginning of the collection, and King Hussein bin Talal’s love of cars to begin with, to the King’s grandfather, King Abdullah I.
The 70 cars held in the museum, including 20 more that are rotated in and out “to keep things interesting,” Gargour says, trace the development of the automobile, and life in Jordan, from 1916. “I think HMK Hussein loved cars since childhood. His first car was the Rover on exhibit.
He got bored of it very quickly and went on to faster and more exciting models such as the Bristol and the Aston Martin,” says Gargour. His love of cars quickly became an official part of Jordan itself. “As years progressed he had a keen sense of everything mechanical, from cars to airplanes, to tanks, etc. he loved German engineering and all the official cars became Mercedes for a long time,” says Gargour.
To Gargour, King Hussein’s collection was a reflection of who he was as a person. “If you see King Hussein in any of these cars, you realise how special he was. Whether driving a race car at Rumman Hill Climb, or when he sat on the roof of the armored Mercedes coming back from his first Mayo Clinic treatment, or driving himself through Amman traffic, cars were always special to him,” says Gargour.
Highlighting the most significant pieces in the collection, he picks three depending on what kind of significance one wants to highlight. “It depends what story you want to tell!! Sports? His 300SL Gullwing. Official? The 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible. Private? The cars that his family were married in,” says Gargour.
Though his tastes changed depending on the era, there are a number of significant favorites that do not appear in the collection—a ‘couple of Porches’ that were beloved by the King are now ‘long gone,’ Gargour laments. Gargour himself has been following the collection long before it became his profession. “I used to be aware of all the cars since childhood, and see them in parades as a kid.
Then I got involved with classic cars in LA and became an automotive specialist and became a consultant to his motor pool on all these old vehicles. Slowly, and after HMK Hussein passed away, I was asked to come to Amman to set up the museum Does the same love continue through the family? His son, King Abdullah II, prefers motorbikes to cars, according to Gargour, but is still one of the best drivers in the country. “HMK Abdullah II was was the Jordanian champion in rallies in 1986 and 88. The Opel Manta rally car is on exhibit.”