Derek Newman’s collection is an intriguing mix of performance GTs, luxury moderns and performance-enhanced classics. There’s no theme or direction and the cars are shared by Derek, his wife Joan and their son-in-law Chris Littler. ‘It doesn’t matter to us who owns which vehicle,’ says Derek.
Most of the cars are kept in heated garages on the couple’s farm in Devon. ‘We bought the land, built the house, then constructed the garages with automatic lighting and a high roofline,’ Derek recalls. ‘Even so, the Land Rover Defender barely fits despite removing the roof rack.
‘I tend to hang on to vehicles for so long that they become all but worthless,’ he admits. ‘Then I decide I’d rather keep the car than pocket a couple of thousand pounds, although sentimentality does creep into it, especially with cars I bought brand new.
‘Derek’s Jaguar XJ-S V12 is the UK version of the car in Stephen King’s Christine,’ jokes son-in-law Chris. ‘It’s £1000 to fix something every time that you turn the key.’ Derek disagrees. ‘I love it – it’s my favourite,’ he says. ‘It’s the first of the HE models and I bought it brand-new.’ But what about those wheels? ‘The dealer asked if I wanted gold wheels and matching pinstripes and that’s exactly how it came out of the showroom,’ says Derek. Chris grimaces. ‘They’re a monstrosity. They belong on a Subaru Impreza!’
Derek continues, ‘I watched it being built at the factory. The colour is called Sable.’ Chris interrupts, ‘As in ‘disable,’ he says. ‘Which is what it does to itself whenever you to try to drive it!’
‘The air-conditioning is iffy and the cruise control sets about 10mph too fast,’ Derek admits. ‘One of the front coil springs once snapped so we fitted sports springs. Another time one of the electric window motors failed so I took it back to the dealer and insisted he used all new parts – a clip never fits as well again once you’ve removed it. I marked the parts so I knew they’d been replaced. ‘It’s fast and comfortable, still has the factory wax in the engine bay and it’s been undersealed twice so there’s no rust on it anywhere.’
The Jaguar is indeed immaculate, but it hasn’t always been like that. ‘One day someone put a scratch in one door, so I polished and polished until it was gone. But there’s another scratch in the nearside rear quarter where Chris’s youngest son scraped a toy against it – the little sod! We came out one day to find him trying to peel the pinstripes off the side.’
Sitting beside the XJ-S is another Eighties masterpiece. ‘I bought the Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Sport new from AFM Porsche in Guildford as a 25th wedding anniversary present for Joan,’ Derek says. ‘Porsches of this era have to be Guards Red in my opinion, though I paid extra for the grey leather because I didn’t like the standard black interior and specified an electric sunroof. It’s a great car but looking back perhaps I should have gone for the Turbo.’
Derek had to have one wing replaced after someone reversed their car into it but otherwise it’s factory original right down to the tool roll and spare belts and bulbs kit. ‘We drove it a lot at first,’ he says, ‘but even now there’s only 28,000 miles on it. Joan rarely drives it these days but we’re reluctant to put anyone else’s name on the log book because it’s still a one-owner car.
‘It got stolen once. I parked it up one day and when I came back it had gone. The police chased it but couldn’t keep up, then it got dumped in someone’s garage.’ The police kept watch but the thieves disappeared so Joan got her car back with no damage done – far from it, in fact. ‘It drove an awful lot better after it had been stolen – it obviously needed a good, hard run!’
The Jaguar and Porsche 911 share garage space with the oldest vehicle in the collection. With 57,000 miles showing, the Morris 8 looks conspicuous among the newer cars.
‘I bought it 30 years ago for £1500 as a birthday present for Joan, says Derek. ‘She wanted something old to go shopping in. I fitted new tyres and carpets, powdercoated the wheels and had the grille rechromed – otherwise it was exactly as you see it now.’
Derek also removed the interior and cleaned it out with diesel before repainting the floor and chassis, ‘I found a tiny bit of rust too small to even worry about. There’s also a tear in the fabric roof that’s been covered with a piece of tape for 30 years. We don’t use it much now because it’s flat-out at about 50mph and you usually have to use reverse to get it up steep hills. It’s a lovely little thing though and all four doors still click closed first time.’
We walk to the garage next door to see another vehicle Derek bought brand-new. He says, ‘We needed something to bring the whole family at Christmas when we moved to Devon from London and this 12-seater Land Rover Defender Tdi 110 Heritage was perfect.’
It’s also used for towing Chris’s Clan Crusader to hill climbs in France. ‘We’ve done more than 70,000 miles in it,’ says Derek. ‘All it’s needed are a new brake master cylinder and new sidesteps. It’s great for pulling people out of muddy fields at events, though it’s not always perfect – the light switch failed at 3am this morning when I went to rescue Chris in his 205 GTI.’
Despite suffering three punctures in the 24 hours before we visited (hence Derek’s rescue mission) Chris still managed to bring along his 1994 Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9. ‘I spent seven months trying to find a decent one that hadn’t been modified or crashed,’ he says. ‘I bought this one in 2006 and it’s got a full main dealer service history. I’m only its third owner. When I was 18 one of my sister’s friends had a GTI 1.6 and it was like a Ferrari compared to what we were driving at the time. I love driving mine but my wife Terri hates it and Joan isn’t keen either. I admit it’s not perfect – it feels flimsy and the remote central locking only works if I’m standing right next to it. But I love the way I can fling it into a roundabout and induce controllable lift-off oversteer.’
Chris’s other daily driver is a stark contrast to his 205. ‘It’s the first generation of the Porsche 911 GT3 996,’ he says. ‘It was built at Weissach and shares very little mechanically with the standard 911. It has a non-turbo version of the Le Mans Mezger engine in the stronger body Porsche used for its four-wheel-drive cars, although this one is two-wheel drive. I swapped my 2000 911 Carrera 2 and some cash for it and couldn’t believe the difference. It can do nearly 200mph and needs Porsche-specific tyres. I believe it’s also one of only six red 996 GT3s officially imported into the UK.’
That hasn’t deterred Chris from taking it on the occasional hill climb event. ‘It’s a lot like a bigger, faster Escort MkII in the way it drifts and slides about,’ he says. ‘The trouble is it’s also Terri’s favourite car and she says I shouldn’t bother coming home if I ever crash it…’
The most recent purchase, a Minivan, is parked at the far end of the garage. ‘I’d been looking for one for years because I had a lot of them new in the Sixties when I ran an electrical business,’ says Derek. ‘I’d buy one every year for £320.’ Terri bought it for him. ‘He fell off the roof of the garage in 2010,’ Joan explains. ‘The doctor warned us he might never walk again but I said there was no way he was going to be sitting around the house for the rest of his life – so we found him a project.’
‘A wheel and hub fell off when we collected it and the lock washers on both sides were missing,’ Chris says. ‘The paint and bodywork had been made good so Derek spent a year fitting new wiring and a new interior before putting it back on the road. It’s powered by a 1275cc Metro engine and Derek added the 12-inch Minilite wheels. ‘It was an extremely good buy,’ he says. ‘Whoever did the body and paint did it very well. I’m considering adding some signage along the sides.’
We leave the shiny classics behind and walk towards the large workshops at the top of the garden that contain the family’s somewhat battered racing machines, along with an early Land Rover Series I V8. ‘Some of the Land Rover guys get a bit upset when we turn up to greenlaning events in it,’ Derek says. ‘And they get even more upset when we open the bonnet.’ That’s because this Land Rover is powered by a 3.5-litre Rover V8, probably from a Rover P6.
‘We’d been looking for a Series I for off-roading fun for a while but most were trailer queens,’ says Derek. ‘We found this one online. It had no roll cage so we had one fitted locally. It had previously been a recovery truck with a crane on the back.’
‘Nothing else on the road has steering this bad,’ says Chris, ‘and that’s after we rebuilt the box. We also put in a new gearbox – the gear pattern is still vague but what feels awful on the road is perfect in the countryside at slow speeds. It’s amazing what this can climb.’ It’s been rolled on to its side many times but is easily righted again. ‘It drives along on its side pretty well,’ says Derek. ‘We bought some new panels for it but we won’t want to use it if we make it look too nice. I still spend three days cleaning it after an event, though the top coat of paint tends to peel off when I jetwash it.’
The 1964 Triumph T120 Bonneville is the vehicle that Derek has owned the longest – since 1970. ‘I bought it because ‘64 is the year my daughter was born,’ explains Derek. ‘I used to keep it in the hall of our flat on the fourth floor – sliding it up the stairs. About 25 years back I sent it to a specialist for renovation but made the mistake of paying his bills monthly – he took four years to finish it and it cost a fortune. ‘The 1964 T120 seems to be a desirable bike; whenever I source parts someone always asks to buy it.’ The Triumph is standard other than being fitted with a longer kickstand since Derek injured his legs. ‘It’s the bike I always wanted as a boy and now Chris and I put it and his Lambretta scooter into my van, drive to Windsor, then ride up to the Ace Café playing mods and rockers.’
Inspired by the Academy race series, Chris and Derek found another of the cars, a 1959 Austin A35, for sale as a standard car, then turned it into a pocket rocket in Derek’s workshop. ‘I bought an Arkley kit car and robbed it of its MG Midget engine and running gear,’ explains Chris. ‘The Austin now runs a race-spec 1293cc A-series, Midget disc brakes and a Midget four-speed gearbox.’
The body is a mixture of steel and glassfibre panels painted Porsche GT Silver and it boasts an LCD dashboard display and fully trimmed red vinyl interior. Used mainly for hill climb events, the A35 is road-legal and develops a little over 130bhp – which provides healthy acceleration in such a tiny car. ‘It’s a roadgoing racecar,’ says Chris. ‘We’ll probably never completely finish doing things to it.’
Another car built by Chris and Derek for competition fun is the 1972 Clan Crusader bought by Chris in 1986. ‘I’d had a number of Hillman Imps and the Clan had the advantage of a glassfibre body, so there’s no rust,’ he explains.
The Clan’s Imp-derived 998cc engine has recently been built to full-race spec. It’s already been rebuilt twice after spending 15 years all but abandoned in Chris’s garage. It currently uses Suzuki GSX-R600 motorcycle throttle bodies and revs to almost 9000rpm. They even managed to squeeze a rollcage into the tiny interior.
‘We’ve done everything we can to kill this poor thing,’ admits Chris, ‘but it always comes back for more.’ The Clan is used mainly on hill climbs in Saint Goueno in Brittany and is roadlegal, ‘but it’s the worst car in the world to drive,’ laughs Derek.
Which Chris confirms by adding, ‘It was stolen once but the thief obviously discovered how bloody awful it is and dumped it almost immediately in the next street.’
‘Perhaps the only thing that’s missing from the collection is a Jaguar E-type,’ Derek admits wistfully. ‘Joan once had a 1971 4.2 fixed-head coupé and that’s a car we both really miss owning. Honestly, an E-type is the only car I’d ever consider ever swapping my XJ-S for.’
Whisper it quietly in Land Rover circles but this Series I has a V8. [The Collector]
‘The A35 is a roadgoing racecar – we’ll probably never finish doing things to it’.
Working on the Minivan was good therapy after Derek’s accident.
Chris after three punctures in the Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9.
‘Awful to drive’ Clan Crusader is used for hill climbs in Brittany.
ALL THE CARS (PLUS A BIKE)
1937 Morris 8
1950 Land Rover V8
1959 Austin A35
1964 Triumph T120 Bonneville
1972 Clan Crusader
1983 Jaguar XJ-S V12
1987 Porsche 3.2 Carrera Sport
1994 Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9
1999 Porsche 911 GT3 996
2000 Land Rover Defender Tdi 110 Heritage
Land Rover Defender Tdi 110 Heritage: ‘Great for pulling people out of muddy fields at events’ Morris 8 is loved for its charm, even if it struggles to top 50mph.
Triumph Bonneville – Derek’s owned this the longest.
Porsche 911 GT3: ‘Don’t bother coming home if you crash it’.
From the left Chris Littler, Derek Newman and journalist Mike Renaut talk diesels.
Stolen Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Sport ‘obviously needed a good hard run’.
Jaguar XJ-S V12 is Derek’s favourite. Chris doesn’t share his enthusiasm – or so he says.
KEEPING THEM IN SHAPE
‘The Jaguar and Porsches go to specialists,’ says Derek. ‘Chris and I do the basic maintenance on the others ourselves. I can weld small repairs and fabricate brackets but for anything structural I get an expert in. The White Hart Garage in Barnstaple handles the bigger jobs.’
Rustproofing carried out by before-n-after.co.uk keeps them looking good.
‘The 911 and XJ-S are on SORN in winter but I run them up to temperature several times a month. The garages are large enough for me to roll them back and forth to stop the tyres flat-spotting. Everything is in turn-the-key ready-to-go condition.’