Keeping motoring history on the road
When you invest in a classic car, you don't just purchase a chassis, a set of wheels and a body, you are buying a slice of history that deserves to be meticulously maintained. Laura Stuart-Cook visits a Lincolnshire garage where vintage vehicles are treated with the utmost respect.
THE mechanics at Graham Chapman Classic Cars are accustomed to dealing with vehicles worth tens of thousands of pounds, but as I gingerly squeeze past a gleaming Jaguar XK140, I hold my breath.
There are classic and sports cars here worth more than £80,000. Understandably at that price, their owners are discerning folk who only want the very finest treatment for their motors. Fortunately, Graham Chapman's garage, tucked away on Humberston's Wilton Road Industrial Estate, offers the ultimate treatment for classic vehicles that have been abused and misused over the years.
The company's expert mechanics are trained to completely strip down almost any vehicle, before building it back up nut by bolt as they restore it to its former glory. There are mechanics who specialise in building new panels for cars that are almost 100 years old, and those who are trained to give vehicles the perfect paint job.
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Graham, who drives a classic Mercedes , explained: "These cars are part of our history and the people who buy them want the best possible treatment for them. Being able to put them back on the road is the ultimate reward.
"Over the past eight years we have built up a reputation for being one of the best in our field, and we now get cars shipped from all over the world for us to repair or restore.
"We currently have a 1961 Austin Healey Sprite, which was purchased from America by a customer who lives in Dubai and then shipped to us to restore. Once finished, it will be sent to Dubai.
"The 1955 Jaguar XK140 that we are putting the finishing touches to at the moment is owned by a customer in Ireland; we have just taken delivery of a Panther J72 from Norway and we've recently finished an MGB which came from Guernsey and had to be back in time for Christmas Day."
Graham, who is a trained mechanic, worked at Lindsey Oil Refinery before taking early retirement.
"I'd always loved cars and I used to race when I was younger. Somebody mentioned this place was up for sale and I couldn't resist. I didn't want a normal car garage, but somewhere that specialised in classic and sports cars was right up my street."
Over the years, the company has worked on almost every prestige vehicle ever made, including rare models, such as an Aston Martin DB5 that is owned locally.
The oldest car currently on the ramps is a 1935 Rolls Royce 20/25 cockshoot saloon, from the United States, which has been stripped back to its wooden frame.
Service advisor Craig Miotk, who has been a mechanic for eight years, explained the trials and tribulations of working with such historic vehicles.
"The older the cars are, the more difficult it is to find the parts," he explained. "But that is part of the challenge and we've never been defeated yet. We have people here who can build wooden panels from scratch because you can't buy them.
"Our customers are usually happy to pay that little bit extra for us to do a bespoke job. It's definitely not something we can rush as it can take up to a year for a full restoration."
Like all of his staff, Graham, who lives in Waltham, finds business a real pleasure: "I often work 15 hours a day because I love what I do. I'm currently looking at adding a showroom to enable us to sell even more vehicles.
"Cars are my passion and I personally check every vehicle we deal with to make sure it is perfect before it leaves. The biggest bonus for me is that I get to drive every one – it's the owner's privilege!"
To find out more, call 01472 211522, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.grahamchapmanclassiccars.co.uk