TUCKED AWAY in a large, nondescript building, along a quiet stretch in the not-as-gritty-as-it-used-to-be Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, sits an absolute artistic masterpiece. It’s kept under wraps and must be unveiled, like a Michelangelo at Sotheby’s—only this statue is constructed out of carbon fiber and has recently broken the unholy speed of 300 miles per hour. Manhattan Motorcars is the temporary home of a $4 million Bugatti Chiron Sport, the 110th-anniversary version festooned with French flags in the side mirrors, spoiler, and cockpit seats in honor of the manufacturer’s Gallic heritage. It’s one of only two of the vehicles delivered to the United States and will soon be picked up and presumably driven into New York City traffic by a new owner destined to be the envy of the automobile-loving world.
“The Chiron is a hell of a machine, incredible craftsmanship. I’m glad we had it on our floor,” says Brian Miller, owner of Manhattan Motorcars—the 150,000-square-foot high-end go-to dealership for movie stars, captains of industry, or anyone else who has the means to plunk down $411,285 for a Bentley Mulsanne.
It’s safe to say that Miller, 62, was born to sell cars. Raised on Long Island, his father owned a small Porsche and Audi dealership. Intending not to follow in his footsteps, Miller attended the University of Florida and then went to work in Manhattan’s garment district, peddling fabric for womens wear. But after a few unsatisfying years, he quit, ran out of money, and in 1983 was back with Dad. He’s been at it ever since.
Miller still owns the original dealership, but back in 1995, he spun off Porsche, opening Manhattan Motorcars and bringing the brand back into New York City for the first time in years. The dealership now features three other elite brands—Bugatti, Bentley, and Lamborghini—while Miller’s empire has expanded to seven operations in the tristate area, with offerings including Volvos, Rolls-Royces, and more esoteric rides like the electric Croatian Rimac Concept One, a two-seater that goes from zero to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds (the car retails for $1.4 million), and soon, the new $1.5-million SSC Tuatara, which features butterfly doors and a monster twin-turbo 5.9-liter V8 with 1,350 horsepower, designed to claim the title of fastest production car on the market.
For Miller, though, what the cars can do remains secondary. His passion is putting customers behind the wheel. “After all the years in the business, I know some things, but I’m not a technical guy,” he says. “What I need to know is, how much, what color, and when can I get it to you?”
New York City, of course, is where the money is, and the well-heeled like nothing more than to be pampered, so Manhattan Motorcars doubles as a clubhouse, with a lounge offering fancy coffee and cocktails and leather couches for relaxing. Miller’s excitable dog, a Tibetan terrier named Biscuit, also has the run of the place. Finance and real estate moguls are regulars, as are celebrities like Tracy Morgan, who likes to hang out with Miller and shoot the breeze. (Last summer, in a 30 Rock episode come to life, Morgan’s new $2 million Bugatti Veyron was sideswiped less than an hour after he drove it out of Miller’s shop.)
“I hang out there all the time—just picked up a Porsche 911 Speedster three weeks ago,” says Richard Horowitz, a principal at a real-estate financing firm and a car collector who’s bought several from Miller. “Brian is able to get me cars that are hard to get, always calls when a new model comes in; he always treats me like family.”
What I need to know is, how much, what color, and when can I get it to you?
The dealership has morphed into a luxury goods retailer, where car shoppers can pick up a $99 bottle of Infinite Rush by Bentley cologne or a $7,500 Breitling Bentayga watch. The place also serves as the site of film shoots and an events space. “We recently had a customer appreciation night for one of Lamborghini’s owners, who wanted to film some stuff on our beautiful roof,” Miller says. How’d that go? I ask. “He came in with a bunch of his friends and did some crazy stuff with a girl on top of his car with a flamethrower,” is all Miller will say.
Indeed, Miller loves a good story—of which he has plenty. I ask for one of his favorites. “About 10 years ago, a hip-hop label bought six or seven expensive cars, Lamborghinis and the like,” he tells me. “But the catch was I had to deliver them in 48 hours. So I got a car transport and sent them to the Deep South. The thing was, I hadn’t been paid yet. I don’t normally get skittish, but we’re talking millions of dollars, and I couldn’t get anyone on the phone, not even their business manager.” Panic set in, but eventually Miller got paid. “I ended up having a great relationship with those guys,” he says, “but that is one transaction that will always stick out in my mind.”
Deals on Wheels
Car-buying Tips From the High-End Maven
1. Be a Haggler “For most cars, there is more supply than demand,” Miller says. “Unless you’re totally locked in on a particular brand, you can always get a deal on something.”
2. Lease “If you don’t have a lot of money but you want to up your car game, you have to lease. You get more car for your money.”
3. Don’t Give Up “Even if you don’t have cash, put a few bucks down and we’ll do financing through a bank. Most dealers are very creative, and we’ll find a way to deliver your car.”
4. Get Sporty “Very few drivers use sports cars as their everyday vehicle, so a car that’s a few years old should be in great shape.”
5. Make Friends “You want to have a relationship with a dealer. You don’t want to end up an orphan on the side of the road because you bought a car somewhere a little cheaper online.”
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