CAYMAN ISLANDS

West Bay

A Dazzling Array of Automotive Glory

The original Batmobile from the 1960s TV show

The customized Lincoln Futura made famous on Batman, the 1966-1968 TV series starring Adam West, is one of more than 80 rare, exotic and vintage cars at the Cayman Motor Museum.
JOANNE SASVARI/Meridian Writers’ Group

ENDLESS BEACHES. Glorious blue skies. Convenient tax shelters. That’s the sort of thing you expect to find on Grand Cayman Island.

The original Batmobile? Not so much.

And yet here it is, the customized Lincoln Futura that was made famous on Batman, the 1966-1968 TV series starring Adam West. It’s just one of more than 80 rare, exotic and vintage cars at the Cayman Motor Museum in West Bay, 15 kilometres north of George Town, the islands’ capital.

This most unexpected museum is the project of Andreas Ugland, a Norwegian shipping magnate with several homes in the Cayman Islands. He is a man of many passions and not a few eccentricities and, luckily for visitors, the fortune to indulge them.

For instance, there’s his love of 1950s diner kitsch and Coca Cola memorabilia, which guests can enjoy in the museum’s perfectly recreated vintage diner. There’s his zest for zippy motorcycles and high-speed motorboats, many of which are also on display at West Bay. And, of course, there’s his ardour for his Montreal-born wife, Natalie, whose glamorous image pops up on paintings throughout the showroom.

But mostly, it’s about the cars.

Ugland has been collecting, racing and tinkering with cars since he was a teenager. By the start of the 21st century his vast collection was scattered across Norway, Canada, England and Grand Cayman, and so he decided to house it all in one space, and that space just happened to be on the luxurious Caribbean island he considers his second home.

He was about ready to break ground on the museum in 2004 when Grand Cayman was hit by Hurricane Ivan, which devastated much of the island. It took years to recover and it wasn’t until 2007 that Ugland was able to begin construction on the 1,115-square-metre facility designed in the traditional, pastel-coloured Cayman architectural style. In 2010 it finally opened, with just a couple of dozen vehicles. Today, more than 80 vehicles are squeezed in here, and that’s not even all of Ugland’s collection.

Some of it is historically significant. Wander around and you will see a replica of the first-ever automobile manufactured, the 1886 Benz, as well as the first vehicle driven in the Cayman Islands, a 1905 Cadillac (oddly prescient, since the present-day high-finance centre was a poor fishing community until the 1960s). Queen Elizabeth II’s first limousine, the 1956 Daimler DK400, is here, as is Elton John’s 1963 Bentley and, chillingly, the bulletproof limousine that belonged to Ugandan military dictator Idi Amin.

But most of the collection is just a beautiful display of automotive glory. There are plenty of sports cars, including vintage Jaguars, Corvettes, Maseratis and many, many Ferraris, for which Ugland has a special fondness. There are luxury vehicles, including a 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II and the 1952 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith. There are dozens of motorbikes. There are cars that are simply charming, such as the Mini Cooper, Fiat Toppolino, Citroën and Sunbeam.

And then, of course, there is the Batmobile, the powerful, crime-fighting star of a most unusual collection.

 

ACCESS

For more information on the Cayman Motor Museu, visit www.caymanmotormuseum.com.

For information on travel in the Cayman Islands go to the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism website at www.caymanislands.ky.