‘Modifying a car is not an exact science, so have it done by a reputable shop’

The car lover is right at home in his garage, where fellow automotive enthusiasts go.

The car lover is right at home in his garage, where fellow automotive enthusiasts go.

AutoPlus Sportzentrium owner Carlos Gono on maintaining high-performance cars

You’re widely recognized as the godfather of tuning enthusiasts in the Philippines. How did your love affair with cars begin?

I was born with an innate interest in cars. I can still recall when I was about five or six years old, I would sit in the driver seat of any car and pretend to be driving it. One time, I accidentally put to neutral the shifter of my grandmother’s 40-series Land Cruiser parked on her inclined driveway, so the car rolled back and hit the gate. But that bad incident didn’t dampen my interest in cars.

What was the first car you ever owned?
Before I had the chance to have my own car, I would borrow my mom’s 1977 Mitsubishi Galant, which I modified a bit when I was in second-year high school. It was not until I got to college that my dad gave me a Mitsubishi Lancer GT in exchange for me working on weekends and holidays as my payment for it.

What is the most expensive car you’ve ever bought?
In 2005, I bought the Ford GT, which had a price of $163,000 in the US back then. But since demand was high, I got my unit at $220,000 after the added premium.

How many cars do you have right now in your collection? And which one is your favorite?
I have the 2005 Ford GT, the 2014 Shelby GT500 and a new addition, the 2016 Shelby GT350R. My favorite is the 2005 GT. I’ve always had a blast driving it; we’ve had it modified to produce around 950hp. I personally clean and take care of my cars. I make sure they are always in pristine condition, and look as nice or even better than when they rolled out of the showroom.

What car are you buying next?
I am getting the next generation of the Ford GT, scheduled to arrive in 2018.

What’s your best advice to anyone who wants to modify his car?
Remember that modifying cars is not an exact science, and you’ll be fixing a perfectly good running car to try and make it better. I would always have it done by a reputable tuning shop. Don’t get carried away by Internet forum talk.

Is there a car collector you envy?
You’ll be surprised that there are so many of them out there, and I know most of these car collectors personally. Our group has the nicest and rarest cars you can imagine in the country, like the Porsche Carrera GT, the 993 GT2, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, the Ferrari F40, the McLaren 675LT, the Lamborghini Miura—all of which are some of my favorites.

Your group does fun runs every now and then. What place would be ideal for spirited but safe driving?
We started the Sunday drive with the boys in 2004. I can say that driving then was far more fun than it is today. We usually drive on SLEX and NLEX.

Your son Luis was the first Vios Cup champion, and now he’s into drifting. What do you think is needed for him to seriously have a career in motorsports?
Motorsports in the Philippines have always been a local thing. Toyota currently has the Vios Cup series, which is by far the most successful racing event in the country. We are actually blessed because of Johnny Tan’s passion to build and maintain the only two racetracks we have: Batangas Racing Circuit and Clark International Speedway. To nurture someone into pursuing an international motorsport career, full-time training abroad and serious funding are needed for success.

With the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila, have sports cars become irrelevant?
I don’t think it’s now irrelevant to own a supercar in the face of the worsening traffic condition. In my case, for instance, having these cars in my garage to fix and look at is already fulfilling. It’s a bonus if you can get to experience and max out their performance.


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