Racer turns hobby into car museum

dana halawi

BEIRUT, XINHUA – Lebanese racing car champion Nabil Karam began his hobby of collecting mini sports cars 30 years ago. Today, the 65-year-old has collected around 50,000 miniature cars from all over the world.

Nabil, better known by his nickname Billy, displays his collection at the Billy Karam Minicar Museum in Lebanon, which has become a destination for tourists after it entered the Guinness Book of Records three times, the last in 2016.

In addition, his largest collection of car stamps and the largest collection of dioramas earned him another three Guinness World Records in 2011, 2016 and 2018.

On Monday, the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism announced the inclusion of the museum as a major landmark on the country’s tourism and sports map.

“It all started as a hobby,” Billy said. Xinhua who first collected mini cars and models inside his house, but since the place could not house more cars, he decided to allocate a room in his wood workshop for cars, which was gradually expanded until it became a museum.

Spanning more than 1,500 square meters with two floors, the museum exhibits thousands of mini sports cars and classic cars, as well as civil and military models.

Model cars displayed at the Billy Karam Museum in Zouk Mosbeh, Lebanon. PHOTO: XINHUA

“In addition, I also have a collection of more than 700 diorama models that I made myself,” he added.

In addition, the museum also houses the Formula 1 car, which belongs to the Red Bull team and won the World Champion title four years ago when driven by German driver Sabastian Vettel and Spanish driver Carlos Seinz.

Billy turned his passion for cars into a successful racing career by winning the Lebanese championship eight consecutive times in rally and speed racing.

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“I’ve been in every race I’ve ever heard of, which has left me with multiple fractures,” he added.

Billy’s past injuries encouraged him to use the museum as a message to young people that it is important to respect road safety rules and take action to reduce car accidents in Lebanon.

“I get visitors from schools and universities, and we discuss road safety measures and the importance of wearing seat belts,” said Billy, who is also vice president of the Automobile and Tourism Club of Lebanon (ATCL). Billy said his goal is to continue collecting cars for the rest of his life, in the hope that his museum will continue to attract tourists from all over the world.

“It’s like a ‘virus’ that never stops. Every time I see a beautiful car, I want to have it, and I would go all over the world to buy these little treasures,” she said.

Billy explained that his plan to maintain the museum stems solely from his passion for cars without any profit goal.

“Entrance to my museum is free; it is important to encourage tourism in Lebanon as it is the country’s main source of income,” he said.

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