Hassanal Bolkiah ibni Omar Ali Saifuddien III, also known as the 29th Sultan of Brunei, is one of the richest men in the world. The tiny Asian nation he presides over has some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, and his control over this valuable resource is the reason for his immense wealth. His personal net worth is estimated to be around $30 billion, and a significant portion of that value is held in his car collection. It’s thought that the Sultan has over 7,000 cars under his ownership, with a combined value of around $5 billion, although it’s difficult to calculate precise numbers as the Sultan and his family are notoriously secretive with their purchases. During his peak car-buying period in the ’90s, the Sultan was well-known for buying multiple examples of a car at the same time, to the point where his purchases reportedly accounted for nearly half of Rolls-Royce’s entire output during the decade.
In 1998, Brunei’s ruler began to run out of money, and had to sell off some of his assets to pay his debts. Since then, his buying power has decreased significantly, although many of the exclusive cars acquired during his heyday still remain under his family’s ownership. Occasionally, a few cars are released from the collection and sold on the open market, some with zero mileage on their odometers. But, there are plenty more that remain in storage facilities in Brunei having never been seen in public, with only a few grainy photos that confirm their existence. The Sultan might not be as influential as he once was in the automotive world, but his collection of ultra-exclusive cars still remains unmatched.
Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK GTR
In the mid-’90s, Mercedes-Benz wanted to return to the top tier of GT racing, but in order to enter the FIA GT Championship, it would need a suitable car. Homologation rules at the time dictated that 25 road-going examples of their race car would need to be built, but Mercedes-Benz ended up building 26 in total. Of those 26 CLK GTRs, just six were roadsters, and only one of those was right-hand drive. That one example was ordered by the Sultan of Brunei, and it featured a purple leather interior and bespoke seats, as the originals were reportedly too small to fit him.
Despite commissioning the car exactly to his tastes, the Sultan reportedly never saw it finished, according to Car Throttle. It was instead put on display at Mercedes-Benz World, then sold in 2009 to a new owner, who also left it in the hands of the museum. As of 2013, the car only had 20 miles on the clock. As well as the exclusive roadster, MercedesBlog reports that the Sultan also owned a unique right-hand drive coupe CLK GTR, which was sold off in 2009, around the same time as the roadster.
BMW Nazca M12
This mid-engined V12 supercar is the closest that BMW ever got to making a direct successor to the M1. Debuting in 1991, the Nazca M12 was only intended to be a concept, but the Sultan saw the car and wanted one of his own. He convinced Italdesign, the famed Italian studio that was responsible for the car’s design, to make a production car just for him. The car featured the 5.0L V12 engine from the 750i and 850i of the same era, and produced around 300 horsepower.
It remains unknown whether the Sultan ordered one or several of the cars, but only one is confirmed to exist. The car was finished in blue and stayed under the Sultan’s ownership until 2011, when a dealership listed several of his cars for sale, including the M12. The price of the car was strictly upon request only, and it’s not known whether the car was actually sold or whether it remains in Brunei.
Ferrari F90 Speciale
One of the Sultan’s many custom one-off creations, the F90 Speciale was built by Pininfarina in 1988. Six examples were built, and all six were sold to the Sultan and his family. The car used a Ferrari Testarossa chassis and borrowed its engine and many of its internal components, but featured an entirely new body designed by Pininfarina themselves. According to Supercars, only the wheels and mirrors were carried over from the Testarossa, with everything else being custom-built.
Like many of the Royal family’s purchases, the car’s existence was kept a secret for many years after it was delivered. It was only revealed in 2005, a full 18 years after the car was first built. At first, the project was hidden from Ferrari themselves, with only a small team at Pininfarina knowing of the car’s existence. In an interview with Speedholics, then-deputy director of Pininfarina, Enrico Fumia, described how he had been approached by Prince Jefri, brother of the Sultan, to build the car, and offered an amount of money that he simply couldn’t turn down. The team was reluctant to build anything without Ferrari’s knowledge, but eventually agreed. All six units were built and tested under the cover of night, then shipped off to Brunei, where they all remain to this day.
Aston Martin AM3
Another special commission that remains shrouded in secrecy is the Aston Martin AM3, a car that looks very different from other Aston Martins of its era. It used the chassis of a Vantage and borrowed its supercharged 5.3L V8 engine, but it was styled by Pininfarina, then coach-built at Coggiola, near Turin. According to Aston Martins, Pininfarina is believed to have supplied the Brunei Royal family with five different designs, AM1 through AM5, but only the third and fourth designs were approved for production. It’s thought that three examples of the AM3 were built in total.
None of those three cars have ever been seen in public and the only known images of them are thought to have been taken in and around Pininfarina’s factory at the time the car was first built. Considering how many of the Sultan’s cars have appeared for sale with virtually zero mileage on them, there’s a good chance that all three AM3s may never have been driven.
Ferrari F40 LM
The Ferrari F40 is already one of the most famous and desirable Ferraris ever made, but the ultra-exclusive LM is considered somewhat of a grail among aficionados. The LM in the name stands for Le Mans, and the car is the hardcore race-ready version of the iconic road-going supercar. Like many of the Sultan’s cars, it’s not clear exactly how many F40s he had in total, with some estimates pinning it as low as seven and some claiming he had well over 10. However, it has been confirmed that he owned at least one of the 19 F40 LMs, although his choice of spec is unusual, to say the least.
Carscoops reports that the Sultan’s black F40 LM was fitted with a number of luxuries including a full leather interior, air conditioning, and power windows. On a regular F40 this would make sense, but the entire point of the LM was that it was a stripped-out, race-ready lightweight version of the car. So, adding a suite of luxury features back in seems to detract from the LM’s selling point entirely. Still, the Sultan had so much money to spend that Ferrari didn’t seem too concerned. It appears that the car is still in Brunei at the time of writing, although if the Sultan were to sell the car off, it would likely be worth well over $5m, as the last LM to go up for auction sold for $5.018m, and that was back in 2019.
There are only a handful of performance cars in the world that have ever been fitted with a V16 engine, and the Cizeta V16T is one of the rarest. Cizeta was a startup supercar maker that was founded in 1988 by a team of ex-Lamborghini engineers, led by engineer-turned-businessman Claudio Zampolli. The design of the car bears resemblance to the Lamborghini Diablo, and this is no coincidence, as both were designed by Marcello Gandini. It’s not clear exactly how many production Cizetas were built between 1988 and 2003, but Business Insider puts the number at "less than 20." Two of those cars were sold to the Sultan of Brunei, and one was listed for $725,000 in 2020.
The listed car was imported to Singapore, and never actually reached Brunei, according to Business Insider. At the time of listing in 2020, it had 600 miles on the odometer but was never registered. The car is in as-new condition, with even the original tires fitted from when the car left the production line in 1993. Strangely enough, despite the last Cizeta being produced in 2003, in 2018 Zampolli confirmed in an interview that the car was still for sale, and could be ordered on commission. So, although it’s technically been out of production for close to 20 years, the V16T could still be ordered as a 2022 model year car, making it the only V16-engined car currently on sale.
At one point in the mid-’00s, it seemed like Swiss carmaker Leblanc might be destined for big things. They had just released the Mirabeau, a super lightweight hypercar with a Koenigsegg V8 that was hailed as one of the fastest production cars in the world. It could accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 2.6 seconds, and its reported top speed was 212 mph, according to New Atlas. The car was unveiled in 2005, and by this time, the Sultan of Brunei was past his peak buying power, but was still regularly purchasing some of the priciest cars in the world. He was reported to have bought a Mirabeau for $765,000 and had it specially made with a semi-automatic transmission, his transmission of choice.
The Sultan’s car has never been photographed in public, and it’s unclear whether he ever drove it. Unfortunately for Leblanc, sales of the Mirabeau were slow and eventually led to the downfall of the company. A full US launch was planned, and the car was listed as being on sale for $755,000 by CBS News in 2012, but it seems Leblanc folded shortly after. The company has no official web presence today and the official domain listed in articles from the era is now offline.
In 1994, Bentley wowed attendees at the Geneva Motor Show with the Java concept, which was a "junior Bentley with Cosworth V8 power" according to Autocar. The car was designed with a more modern audience in mind than the company’s other cars, but it was never intended to be for production, instead merely as a design study that would influence future production models. However, the Sultan attended the 1994 show and decided he wanted to own the car himself. He approached Bentley about making a small production run, and they agreed, eventually making six coupes, six wagons, and six convertible examples.
According to RRSilverspirit, the car was based on a BMW 5 Series platform and featured a 4.0L V8 BMW engine. Each car was built by MGA Developments in Coventry rather than by Bentley themselves, and each was finished slightly differently according to the Sultan’s specifications. However, each car received a production Bentley chassis number, with "H" in the fifth position in the number to designate it as a non-standard car. While the Java itself never made its way to dealerships, many of its styling innovations were carried over to production models like the Continental and the Azure.
Much like the Ferrari F90 Speciale, the Mythos was built on the chassis of the Testarossa, and used many of its internal components, including its engine and transmission. It was designed by Pininfarina and debuted at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show as a concept. Motor1 reports that Ferrari considered making the car in coupe, targa and speedster form, but it was only the latter that was given the green light. The company made it clear that the Mythos was not a production car, but the Sultan of Brunei approached Ferrari about them making a production version for him anyway.
They obliged, and two examples were created, one in red and one in blue. The blue car is still reported to be in the Sultan’s private hangars in Brunei, but the red car is actually one of the few Brunei-exclusive cars to have been seen on the road. It was spotted by YouTuber TheTFJJ in Monaco in 2020, and sported a Monegasque license plate. There are no other privately-owned examples of the Mythos known to exist.
McLaren F1 LM
Only five examples of the McLaren F1 LM were ever produced, built to honor the five F1 race cars that finished the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Sultan bought three of them, alongside a one-of-three McLaren F1 GT. McLaren says the cars were designed to be as close to the GTR race car as possible, with the minimum modifications required to make them road legal. The LM is also the most powerful of any F1, road-legal or race-built, as it uses a de-restricted version of the competition GTR’s engine.
Every LM was finished in Papaya Orange, according to McLaren, and featured a minimalist carbon fiber interior with race seats. Due to its rarity and status as one of the ultimate iterations of such a legendary car, the F1 LM is among the most valuable cars in the world. One example sold at auction in 2019 for $19.8 million, so assuming the Sultan has kept all three of his F1 LMs in good condition, they are worth roughly $60 million. However, reports suggest that much of the collection is now unsalvageable thanks to its years of sitting in the jungle, so there’s no guarantee that even these high-value specials would still be in a serviceable state.