Wellington Soong taught his kids about cars and also about âbeing the best in whatever you doâ
Photos by Geremy Pintolo

Wellington Soong taught his kids about cars and also about ‘being the best in whatever you do’

Marbbie Tagabucba (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2018 - 12:00am

‘My dad is tough but fair. He’s very passionate and it reflects with the brands we have here,’ says Marc.

MANILA, Philippines — You know Wellington Soong is coming back from a drive when he walks in with a bag of turon, biting into a spring roll of paper-wrapped banana, deep-fried and sugar-dusted, still hot and crispy from the street vendors who peddle them to him through his Ferrari window. Weaving through the city traffic either in a Ferrari or a Maserati — Italian icons his company Autostrada Motore exclusively brings to Manila — his favorite snack doesn’t stand a chance of getting cold. His sons help him out, dividing the work by brand — giving him more time to beat his own golf records. Marc, a race car driver himself, handles Ferrari while his younger brother Jason is in charge of Maserati. Wellington’s eldest Louele isn’t as smitten with cars as the boys, not learning how to drive until her 30s (out of the necessity, while living in the US). The youngest is Angelica, still studying in Ateneo de Manila. What’s it like to have a cool dad with cool cars? We find out from the Soongs themselves.

Did you teach Marc how to drive?

Wellington: It’s not having taught, but I was an influence for them to know about cars, to learn how to like about cars. It’s all men’s stuff.

Marc: I asked my dad to teach me how to drive. He brought me to one of our warehouses and he taught me how to drive around the property in a Lite-Ace 1989. Maybe I was 15 years old. I didn’t do very well. (Laughs) I’ll never forget that. His long-time driver ended up teaching me how to drive also.

What was your first car?

Wellington: The first car that I technically owned because I bought it with my own funds was a Sunbeam Alpine 1965 that I bought in 1966. It cost me then P5,200. I still have it.

Marc: The first car I could call my own was a hand-me-down from his office — a 1993 or 1994 Honda Accord. It was what I used when I went to university in UP. The one I bought with my own money, it was a classic two-door SUV, a 1975 and 1962 series. It’s two cars because when I asked for a discount, the guy gave me a second car and it’s quadrupled in value over the years

What fueled your interest in cars?

Wellington: It was my neighbors, my childhood friends that I grew up with. In our generation in the ‘50s, there was the first wave of drag racers, the group of Dodjie Laurel, Bobby Smith, Dodo Ayuyao, Baby Luna. We were 12, 13, looking beyond the top of a fence to see the race. We enjoyed the thrill. The roar of the engines, the smell of fuel, the smell of burnt rubber — and that sticks. In life, sounds, sights and scents remind you of people, places and events. That stuck in my DNA, in my memory. We tried to do drag racing but we were never in that league. We snuck out with our father’s cars, drove it for the spirit of it, but we never got to compete. Feeling “racer” yet we weren’t. We got our high, our thrill, and we’d go home having had our high.

Do you go on road trips as father and son?

Wellington: We’ve had our short stints but we never had the benefit of setting aside the time. We might do a leisurely three to four days of a convoy of three to five Ferraris with the new Ferrari Lusso and video the whole thing. Marc has identified scenic spots that we can reach without having to race for time.

MARC: We’re thinking Sagada. One father and son project we have now is searching for a nice classic Ferrari for the family. It’s hard to find locally. I was born in 1980, so it’d be interesting to find a 1980.

Did you spoil your children with fancy cars?

Wellington: I would’ve liked to give them all a nice car but we don’t have the financial luxury to just give them a sports car.

Marc: My first car was for utility. We appreciate the limited access we had to nice cars so until now, when we have a nice car we really appreciate it. It’s still a special occasion.

Wellington: I had one incident that they had to go to school in Xavier and the driver didn’t come. They were late, so my wife told me I had to bring them to school. I said “No problem.” The car in the garage was a sportscar so I drove that. We were approaching Xavier and a corner away, Marc said, “Pops, we’ll get down here.” I said “But your school is there!” He insisted. He didn’t want his friends to see him with the car.

Marc: It’s nice to keep a low profile. We show off when only we have to! (Laughs)  

Marc, are your kids into cars also?

Marc: I have two daughters — twins! — and I think they like cars but my wife (Loralee, SoFA Design Institute founding partner and executive director) is into fashion and she thinks they like her interests more (Laughs). I started teachng them when they were nine: basics, go-kart experience, golf cart, and off-road ATVs. I want them to enjoy the independence of being able to go anywhere on their own. They should learn how to drive manual cars. It’s a dying skill.

Wellington Soong (left) with his eldest son Marc.

What’s your advice to dads buying their kids a luxury car?

Wellington: It is not a simple question. It must be clear what the purpose is. Is it for transport utility? Is it a form of reward? Is it exclusively for the son or daughter? If they excelled in school, it’s rewarding to him to give them something premium but the reward has to be understood so that it does not get taken for granted. Give the wrong gift with the wrong purpose, you can spoil a child without him ever understanding

Marc: With great power comes great responsibility — we’re talking about cars with 800 horsepower. If you’re giving your child a powerful car, you have to train them. You don’t just give them the most powerful car. I’d love to sell anyone a car but you must prepare them with training on the race track.

Wellington, how would you describe your kids?

Wellington: They have much to learn but they’ve come a long way. I cannot express how much I appreciate them for their dedication and loyalty to me and I do not bribe them for that. They see things from my perspective and I appreciate that they always respect that perspective.

Marc, how would you describe your dad?

Marc: Tough but fair. He’s very passionate and it reflects with the brands we have here. Everything I know, I learned from him. My first job was here. He needed the help. A lot of doors also opened with him being my father which I appreciate but it’s something I learned to take care of. The message of his great-grandfather to his grandfather, to his father, and then to him is that “The biggest wealth you have is your name.” Even if you lose everything, if you have a good name, that’s all that matters. It’s passed down for generations.

Wellington: The other one is: “Whatever you get involved in, you just have to be the best.” It’s a nice benchmark.

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