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(Published: 2012-02-13)

In 1632, Shah Jahan, Mughal emperor of India, began construction of the greatest monument to love in history. The grief-stricken ruler ordered the Taj Mahal (Hindi for “crown of palaces”) to be built as a mausoleum in honor of his third wife, Mumtaz, who died giving birth to their 14th child.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a day to surprise and delight those we love. For many, a hand-made card, a heart-felt verse, or a box of chocolates will do the trick. Sometimes, however, you want to go all out with an extravagant gesture for the one you love.

If your Valentine is a gear head, a car lover, or a motor sport enthusiast, you might consider a garage-mahal. It’s the ultimate luxurious commodity—a paradox on steroids—guaranteed to rev their engines, big time. These functional palaces for anything on wheels are also called auto-miniums, dream garages, or upscale car condos. Starting at a mere $39,000 (plus monthly association fees) you can buy the love of your life the garage of their dreams.

They’re popping up everywhere, from LA to Virginia, Dallas to Minnesota. Enterprising businessmen, (most of them car enthusiasts) have designed the ultimate solution for downsizing baby boomers reluctant to give up their hard-won toys; for collectors who don’t want their prized possessions shut away in a dreary storage warehouse.

Today’s dream garages are country club-like complexes for people that are passionate about their wheels. At first glance, AutoMotorPlex in Chanhassen, MN, looks like a resort for cars. The sprawling grounds house approximately 75 garages of various sizes, anchored with a clubhouse that resembles a European carriage house. Elegantly appointed, the clubhouse functions as the social center—a place for car lovers to meet, car clubs to host meetings, or as a main stage for car dealerships.

The garages at AutoMotorPlex are sold as shells, with air-conditioning, heating, sprinklers, and security systems already in place. They range in size from one stall to gymnasium size, and they’re fully customizable. Some owners build lofts in the high ceiling bays and furnish them with plasma TVs, cigar humidors, and fully stocked bars. Private bathrooms, showers, and mini-kitchens (complete with wine refrigerators) are the norm.

The luxury details are as endless as they are unique. Autoscope in Dallas features two dynamometers positioned side-by-side (dynamometers measure horsepower), allowing two cars to ‘race’ each other by driving onto large floor-mounted rollers in front of a big screen. Readings from the dynamometer determine the winner of the faux ‘race.’

These complexes are designed for business as well as fun. Wi-Fi hook-up and presentation space are available in the clubhouses. Most offer concierge service to handle shipped parts and equipment. Mechanics are available for basic maintenance needs, libraries are stocked with every car manual imaginable, and wash-down bays keep the precious cargo shiny and bright.

Not that into cars? OK, scoff if you like. Just remember what Rudyard Kipling said when he first viewed the Taj Mahal: “Let those who scoff at overmuch enthusiasm look at the Taj and thenceforth be dumb.”

If your Valentine loves cars, leave them awestruck by giving them the keys to their very own garage-mahal. Then, watch them squeal their wheels with delight.

Taj Mahal


Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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