The Todd Mahal

Dream garage is home to vintage sports-car collection.

The garage was designed and built by The House Company.

Photography by Curtis Comeau

Todd calls it a garage. His neighbours refer to it as the “Todd Mahal.” But, while the building where he keeps his sports-car collection doesn’t technically classify as the eighth wonder of the world, it works just fine for him.

Todd (who asked that his last name remain anonymous for security reasons) is the owner of a local catering company and a self-described car enthusiast with a penchant for vintage European sports cars. His lifelong interest resulted in a growing collection of vehicles and the need for a place to put them.

But, Todd didn’t want to put his beloved 1968 Lotus Elan, 1969 MGB GT, 1971 Porsche 914 and 1972 BMW 2002 Tii in some storage facility on the outskirts of the city. He wanted them close by, so he could drive them whenever he wants. “I drive all of my cars, all of the time,” he says. “A lot of guys don’t, but basically from March 15 until as late as December 1, depending on the weather, I use them everyday.”

This is not a modest home but rather the exterior of a proudly immodest garage with walk up to the “man-loft.”

So, he decided to rebuild the old, decrepit, leaning-to-one-side, single-car garage behind the wartime home he and his wife bought in 1995. When they started on the project in 2007, they had a few criteria: They needed a larger garage without sacrificing any of their yard or the old mountain ash located right beside the building.

“Because of the change in easement laws, we were able to build within three feet of the property line, whereas before, you had to be much further away,” says Todd. “Our new garage’s southeast corner is in the exact same spot as our old garage’s southeast corner, so we didn’t lose any of our backyard.”

The result was a brand new garage that’s about 650 square feet – three times larger than its predecessor. And, they adjusted their building plans so they wouldn’t have to cut down the mountain ash on the garage’s southwest side. They inverted the corner of the room to accommodate the tree. Extra space beside the tree is used to store firewood in the winter.

Todd also wanted a little space of his own –  a man-loft, if you will, which is like a distant relative of the subterranean man-cave.
“I had this notion that it would be kind of cool to have a little den or something above the garage,” he says. “I didn’t care if I had to crawl into it. I just wanted a place where I could have a desk to sit at.”

Todd ended up with something much better than a crawl space. His loft is spacious enough for a desk, a small sitting area, a book shelf, a small wood-burning stove and his eclectic collection of sports car models and prints, sailing charts and other outdoorsy paraphernalia. The ambient light makes his loft a bright space in which to spend time during the day, and he says it’s beautiful at night with the tree lit up with strands of pin lights. His loft is also open to the rest of his garage so he can look out over his prized collection.

Todd can fit all four of his vehicles in his garage, thanks in part to a lift, which has basically doubled his storage capacity. And, though he doesn’t have much room to work when all four cars are parked inside, Todd’s garage is well organized. The avid backcountry camper, skier, sailor and all-around outdoor sports enthusiast says he keeps his whole world in this relatively small space, including an impressive collection of skis.

“You might call it cluttered, but it’s quite an efficient use of space,” he says.

“One time, in the winter, I was coming home from a ski trip, and I had to switch gears fast and pack for a backcountry trip. I didn’t even go into my house. I literally drove into my garage, went through all my stuff, packed in about five minutes, loaded everything into the car and backed out of the garage and headed south.”

Another efficient use of space is the built-in garden tools shed, which is literally an extension of the garage, accessible only from the outside. This slice of ingenuity was born of necessity since Todd didn’t want tools falling onto his collection. One can only imagine what a rake or a spade could do to car with a fibreglass-body. You can almost see him shudder when he talks about it. But, it’s only a brief moment of imagined horror. He lights up when asked about his collection of sports cars, which he’s dreamed about for decades.

“I think it’s pretty common in the car collector world for people to buy cars that they coveted when they were kids,” says Todd. “All of my cars were popular when I was between the ages of eight and 12. There’s something about the aesthetic that appeals to me.”

Next on the wish list: A mid-’60s Alfa Romeo or a ’60s-era Ferrari, which will likely lead to an even bigger garage.

“My wish list is very long, so I’ll probably never get to the end of it.”

Sweet Rides

1969 MGB GT  

This forest-green car was Todd’s first acquisition in 1991. He loves the elegant and classic lines and says it has a comfortable drive. Todd restored his GT over a period of about three years and drives it regularly.

1971 Porsche 914 

Bought for him as a 40th birthday gift by his wife in 2002, Todd says the Porsche has spent its entire life in Edmonton. The car’s engine and suspension were modified to increase performance and make it a faster vehicle. “When this model first came out, it wasn’t considered a particularly high-end vehicle. Because of that, they became more or less disposable, and now there are very few left. It’s a pretty rare car.”

1968 Lotus Elan

This is the only car of four that Todd hasn’t yet restored. It’s the rarest and most fragile car he owns. Made of fiberglass, it’s lightweight and must be handled with precision rather than brute force, he says. “Its power-to-weight ratio is very high,” says Todd. “It was extremely well engineered – very advanced for that era – and a delight to drive. This car is arguably one of the best handling cars ever made.”

1972 BMW 2002 Tii

The colour of orange soda pop, it handles beautifully and has a lot of room, says Todd. “Last summer, we went on a two-week road trip down to a car show in Monterey, California, and we camped the whole time. We did it all in that car.”

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