Drive Bob Marley’s 1976 Range Rover at This Celeb-Packed Jamaican Resort
Jon Baker wears a lot of hats.
Hes one of Jamaicas most respected hoteliers, as the co-founder of Geejam Collection. His flagship, Geejam Hotel, doubles as a recording studio and celebrity hotspot frequented by Katy Perry, Rihanna, Drake, and John Legend (among many others).
Hes also an interior design buff who has taken on the restoration and reopening of Audrey Hepburns favorite villa in Port Antonioan addition to Geejam thats just opened up for official bookings.
Hes a music industry legend as the founder of Gee Street Records, helping develop the careers of Doug E. Fresh and P.M. Dawn.
And if that werent enough, now hes wearing a dramatically different hat: vintage car repairman.
Baker insists that his latest calling was long lying dormant in his DNA. I had a very interesting upbringing in London, he told Bloomberg from his resort in Port Antonio. My mum was a relatively well-known fashion designer in London in the ’60s, and my dad would restore cars and take them to auction.
So after years of using his mothers design influence in his hotel projects, Baker had an epiphany. Why not restore some of Jamaicas prized classic carsmany of which have fallen into terrible disrepairand preserve a piece of the islands history while adding an amenity for his hard-to-impress guests?
Now Baker is restoring a fleet of 13 vintage carsincluding Bob Marleys two-door Range Rover, a 1991 Alfa Romeo once owned by a Miss World beauty queen, a 1968 Austin Healey 3000, and a 1963 E Type Jaguar 3.8 Series 1 Roadsterwhich hell offer up to guests who want to take day trips to nearby picnic spots or to Blue Mountains National Park.
As a first-time player in the car space, Baker is quick to hedge on his efforts. Were not restoring them to concourse quality, he said. Were believers in a nice-condition old car. We cant take off every nut and bolt and re-chrome it. But we can make these cars drivable again.
To compensate for his inexperience in overhauling vehicles, Baker hired Steve James, a British mechanic who specializes in vintage cars, so you can drive these beauties without worrying that theyll break down again. So far, the pair has fully restored five vehicles: two Alfa Romeo Spiders from 1989 and 1991, a 1967 Mercedes SL Sports Pagoda, a 1971 Mercedes 300 SEL 3.5, and a 1988 Escort Cabriolet XR3 i. Youll have to wait at least a year to drive Bob Marleys Range Rover, though.
Of course, the wheels can be yours to enjoy only if you book into one of Geejams suites or villas. And if youre planning a trip, youd do best to focus on the newly redone, four-bedroom Panorama villa, which was a beloved vacation spot for Audrey Hepburn and her sons in the 1980s. Its the first addition to Geejam since Baker opened the sprawling six-bedroom Cocosan villa a year and a half ago.
Baker renovated Panorama himself with the help of Vidal Dowding, a 30-year-old architect whom he describes as Jamaicas most important up-and-comer. (The pair also teamed up to create the critically acclaimed Trident Hotel in 2012.) Together, they added a full spa and gym; locally-made furniture by Atelier Vidal; vintage pieces by Eames, Saarinen, and Tucci; and a kitchen thats large enough for in-house cooking classes.
The four bedrooms are decked out in a minimalist, white-on-white style thats accented by pop artincluding an Andy Warhol portrait of Liz Taylor and one of Jamie Reid’s God Save the Queen prints. And theres a gorgeous pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Thankfully, none of it was affected by Hurricane Matthew, which seemed to be barreling straight toward the island when it made its course through the Caribbean.
The whole Panorama villa rents out for a minimum of $3,500 a night (rates can increase, depending on seasonality), and guests are required to stay for at least five nights. The six-bedroom Cocosan villa, which shares a similar aesthetic (if not the same glamorous connection to Hepburn) starts at $4,500 per night.
There are only two reasons to leave these villas: to go to the hotel’s private beach, which is a short walk away, and to enjoy the company of Geejams famously stylish crowd. The resort is minutes from the villas on foot, but guests can also be whizzed over by a driver.
Actually, make it three reasons. The villas do come with access to those gorgeous vintage cars, after all. And as Baker put it: Driving around Jamaica in an old convertible what more could you want?