April 05, 1982 12:00 PM

Margaux Mirkin, 24, knows that in Hollywood “you are what you drive.” Alas, few can afford to tool around in a $75,000 California-made Diamante one day and a $50,000 Maserati the next. But with Margaux and her thriving Drive-a-Dream division of Budget Rent-a-Car, the economically inaccessible becomes possible. Headquartered at the Beverly Hills intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards, Margaux rents replicas of classics like Excaliburs and Auburn Boattail Speedsters (both available for $125 per day). She also stocks traditional luxury cars—e.g., Rolls-Royce Corniches and Silver Shadows, Jaguar XKEs and SS100s and Ferrari 308s, which cost up to $300 per.

The daughter of Morris Mirkin, founder of Budget (her mother is an artist), Margaux was not coaxed into the family business. Her Drive-a-Dream actually evolved quite accidentally. At 16, she acquired her first car, a 1954 Porsche Speedster, with money she earned working for her father during summer vacations. She restored the car herself and started renting it on the side to movie studios for $100 per day. Upon selling it at a $2,000 profit, she started a theatrical auto agency, leasing classics to TV and movie studios. After completing her sophomore year at UCLA in 1976, Margaux quit to go into business full-time. Two years ago she thought up Drive-a-Dream, but selling her implacable father on the notion was tough. “He doesn’t let go of the end of a dollar very easily,” she says. Her initial success was convincing enough—80 percent of her 250 cars are on the highways any given day—and she now has a fleet worth millions and a staff of 20 who operate round the clock.

Margaux’s personal collection of antique autos, including a Jag once owned by Clark Gable, is never driven. The cars are mothballed in several climate-controlled garages near the heiress’s secluded canyon home. Instead, she notes, “I often hide out in a Volkswagen.”

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