What’s the definition of envy for a Porsche fan? How about a collection of over 900 Porsche model cars? Kiwi Zhou – the owner of the collection – admits that he’s a very fortunate man. And that’s because as well as owning this incredible group of Porsche model cars, his full-time job is working for Porsche China, where he is a PR manager specialising in motorsport and heritage. “I am that rare species that can combine their hobby with their work,” Kiwi says with a smile.
How a love of collecting model cars began
It was entering an internal competition at Porsche China for the 50th anniversary of the 911 in 2013 that was Kiwi’s catalyst to start this impressive hobby. He won and was handed a model of the 50 Jahre 911 special edition as his prize. He is keenly aware that behind every Porsche car there’s a story – stories that he not only wanted to learn about but then to share with everyone else. He began gathering models of every Le Mans-winning Porsche from 1970 to 2015, diligently researching them – and, of course, the stories behind them – then tracking the models down online.
Now, almost ten years on from that first car, his collection of model cars is rapidly heading towards the 1,000 mark. Kiwi expects to go past that figure some time in 2023. If you name any variant of road or racecar that Porsche has ever made, from the 356 ‘No 1’ Roadster to the present day, it’s likely to be in his collection. About 99 per cent of the collection are 1:18 or 1:43 scale models – there are some 1:12 but their large size makes storage difficult, Kiwi says – and the majority of them have recently been wowing visitors when they went on display at the Porsche Experience Center Shanghai, which was the first PEC to be built in Asia.
Model cars on display
In the large reception area at PEC Shanghai, over 700 of Kiwi’s models were placed in a series of display units and dioramas specially built for the exhibition – the centrepiece of which was a long wall containing 480 cars and the Porsche nameplate. Such an awesome and colourful show naturally turned visitors’ heads.
“The first reaction of visitors was of one of astonishment,” Kiwi says. “Usually there are four or five big cars in this space, but now they had the chance to look at over 700 at one time. I saw people taking an hour to study all the cars. Whenever I was there, I would go up and start talking to them and tell them about the cars or answer questions. They might say ‘Why is that McLaren F1 car in there?’ and I’d reply that it was fitted with the famous TAG Porsche engine.” It’s very clear that Kiwi loves sharing his knowledge of all things Porsche.
Kiwi’s Porsche model car favourites
Included in the display at Porsche Experience Center Shanghai were most of Kiwi’s favourite cars. He has a particular affection for Can-Am race cars, and especially the striking – and, in real life, stupendously powerful – 1973 Porsche 917/30 in the famous Sunoco livery. “The model is made by a company called Exoto, and I picked this up in Japan,” says Kiwi. “The detail that goes into their cars is so good that if you take a photo from a certain angle it looks like the real thing. Yes, it’s very expensive, but there’s so much detail within it that you can talk about.”
Kiwi also explains how he also focuses on getting hold of new cars in certain sub-categories. His police car collection, which numbers more than 30, is one of his favourites, and includes the famous Rijkspolitie 911 police car from the Netherlands, as well as 911 police cars from the US and Japan. The only part of the collection where there aren’t actual Porsche cars is that dedicated to the transporters and service cars associated with the brand.
“Many of them are painted in classic Porsche racecar liveries like Gulf or Martini,” says Kiwi. “I like them because there is such variety here. I have a 1:18 scale transporter that is almost 80cm long – you can only imagine how big it was in real life.”
Starting a Porsche model car collection
As we’ve discovered, Kiwi loves sharing his collection and his wisdom on all things Porsche – and that also extends to kindly offering a few tips for would-be Porsche model car collectors. “The first thing I would suggest is to head to your nearest Porsche dealer, as they should stock cars from a range of accessories and equipment called the Porsche Driver’s Selection,” he says. “Current models, iconic ones and even motorsport models too. It’s a very good way to start.”
Kiwi grew his own collection by trawling through some of the best-known Chinese shopping websites and online flea markets, something he still recommends. “If you’re lucky and know what you’re looking for you may find some very rare models in these flea markets, often at a great price.”
Cleaning your model cars
If your Porsche model car collection grows to the size of Kiwi’s there are some logistical challenges you will face, as he points out. After the display at Porsche Experience Center Shanghai ended, his cars all came back home at once having previously been in the office, in storage or elsewhere. “My wife has ordered me to do something about it soon, otherwise she says she will throw them away!” says Kiwi laughing. “I have friends who also collect model cars who have offered not just to store them, but to display them too. That makes me very happy as it means I can share more of the history of Porsche motorsport.”
It will also mean Kiwi gets some help with keeping his cars in tip-top condition – which isn’t something that you can do easily when you have over 900 of them.
“I use a make-up brush,” says Kiwi of his model car cleaning regime. “You have to do it very carefully. When I had the display at PEC Shanghai, I cleaned them myself because I felt no one would ever cherish them like I do. Although, the best way to prevent them from getting dusty in the first place is by keeping them at home in a box in airtight storage. My cars are my babies!”