- Post is under moderationCAR #1965-Aston-Martin-DB5 / #1965 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin
OWNER Andrew English
‘I’m not In love, so don’t forget it,’ sang 10cc, in their eponymous 1975 number-one single; and I was beginning to feel the same way about Gobbo, my Aston Martin DB5.
I’d almost decided to sell the old girl and had squared my conscience with the idea of parting with the ‘family heirloom’, as my wife puts it on the good days. But then I saw the new Bond No Time To Die trailer, which is book-ended by his Silver Birch DB5 roaring and sliding, battered but unbowed and firing its chain guns (yes, forget those Brownings). It’s the sort of film that makes you wonder whether you really want to relinquish one of the loveliest things you’ve ever owned.
She’s been in my hands for many years now, though the Aston Martin Owners’ Club people still call her ‘Bob Fairburn’s Old Car’ or ‘Gobbo’. I bought her just as the tumbling masonry of the get-rich-quick ’80s was falling around our ears and DB5s were still rare, but available. I heard Gobbo before I bought her, twice. First, as Fairburn gunned her engine as he headed up to Glasgow after taking a class win at the AMOC Wiscombe hillclimb.
Second, when a friend raced Gobbo past my house on open exhausts, the rev-counter yowling past 6000rpm. I lifted my head and entered the fantasy world that the impoverished Aston Martin owner must keep one foot in.
In the meantime she’s been raced and hillclimbed but always as a standard car. She’s done countless high days and holidays and school proms, and had money poured into her slightly faster than you can pour it out of a two-gallon can. Two engine and complete drivetrain rebuilds, countless suspension and brake refurbs, and paint – oh, the paint that car has had in my tenure.
Best event was undoubtedly the 1400m Mont Ventoux hillclimb in southern France, where we were gate-crashers on part-entry fees and were asked by the organisers to slow down as we were upsetting owners with potentially far faster cars. Another best day was when my daughter took the wheel.
They’re all best days in an Aston but I have to admit that, while the costs have risen, my income hasn’t. Writing about cars never really did stretch to running a classic Aston, but these days it’s quite impossible; rates haven’t risen for over a decade. Gobbo really should go to someone with the wherewithal to keep her in the manner to which she’s become accustomed.
Trouble is, as soon as you announce that such an unmolested prize – she’s never been totally apart – is for sale, you are descended on by an army of the most deluded Walter Mittys. ‘Just put a bloody advert in the paper: it’s simple,’ said Talacrest’s John Collins a few years ago, when I interviewed him about selling a Ferrari GTO. According to my friend Andrew Mitchell of body shop and restoration specialist Mitchell Motors in Wiltshire, however, now is not a good time to offer Gobbo up for sale. ‘If things pick up, try the Spring.’
Good advice – but if you’re interested, get in touch anyway. To use that time-worn phrase: please, no time-wasters…
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- Post is under moderationBumper cars
CAR #1965-Aston-Martin-DB5 / #1965 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin-DB / #Aston-Martin
OWNER Andrew English
It’s been well over a year since I decided to put bumpers back on the Aston and it’s been away at Mitchell Motors in Wiltshire for almost six months being measured, prodded and poked. Parts of it have been removed and photographed, and bodywork patterns have been made, with images sent off to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) in Vietnam. It’s here that Harrington Group has its 32,000sq ft factory making 300 different classic-car bumpers and a growing range of half-scale replica cars.
Of course, I could have bought unfinished steel blanks, but once tailored, chromium-plated and fitted, they’d cost four times the £1650 of these stainless-steel Vietnamese-made examples. And, since we’ve even been to the trouble of creating a wooden buck for the back of the car, there’s no excuse for getting it wrong. Well, that’s the theory.
Ly Phan, managing director of the Harrington Group, told me as she sipped a coffee in my kitchen: ‘There are some rivals making stainless bumpers, but they aren’t as good as ours.’ Hang on: ‘In my kitchen’? Yes. Phan was in Britain a few months ago and stopped off for a chat and to collect the rolled-up pattern for the rear bumper, which she was taking back as hand luggage. This was a fairly serious undertaking, for the big cardboard tube was almost as tall as she is.
Harrington was formed in 2003 by Phan and her ex-partner Nathan Redfearn. He’d worked in the classic car industry and could see the advantage of Vietnam’s local craft skills and low wage rates in creating labour-intensive parts for old cars. I questioned Phan closely over my fears that this might be a Vietnamese sweatshop employing underage workers in terrible conditions.
‘We have 60 people employed,’ she says, ‘and we are expanding steadily. We are about 30 minutes from the centre of Saigon and that is the beauty of the works, where there are old English Wheels and the skills to use them.’
Phan recounts how they were initially determined to pay double the average wage of about £100 a month. ‘We paid them £200 at the end of the month and the next day they didn’t show up,’ she says. ‘That was lesson one… Now we pay around £150 a month plus insurance and healthcare. There is employment law in Vietnam and I am confident about how we treat our employees.’
Harrington’s most skilled panelbeater does all the bodywork on the scale replicas and earns £650 a month.
A couple of nights ago I watched my savings account empty into PayPal. We’ll see if it was money well spent when the bumpers arrive.
From top Andrew’s DB5 was measured in Wiltshire and never left the UK. Meanwhile, patterns were sent to Vietnam, where new bumpers were made up. The company also builds half-scale replica classics.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationIt’s not about the money
CAR: #1965-Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #1965 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin
OWNER: Andrew English
Funny how folk seem to want to offer financial advice at every turn, especially when they learn you own an Aston Martin and even more so when they learn it’s a DB5. Several years ago, forthcoming Top Gear Stig replacement Chris Harris told me to sell it ‘and buy a proper racing car’. Then, last year, website supremo Honest John (aka Peter Lorimer) passed on the advice of supercar dealer Tom Hartley that, as soon as interest rates rose, my old car would plummet in value. Oh, and when the Fed finally did raise interest rates for the first time in a decade just before Christmas, the chorus of ‘sell it’ from friends, colleagues and family was deafening. Glad everyone’s got my best interests at heart.
Yet if Gobbo (the family heirloom) was to go up for sale, it wouldn’t be about bloomin’ interest rates, but more because of a deep weariness at being repeatedly told what a great investment it’s been. No-one ever asks what it’s like to drive or own. And its investment potential isn’t quite that clear-cut, either. In my almost-quarter-century tenure, Gobbo’s had a partial body rebuild, two complete engine, gearbox and rear-axle rebuilds, endless suspension rebuilds and fettling, two complete resprays plus countless blow-overs, a full retrim plus reupholstered driver and passenger seats. Add annual servicing, tyres, fuel, expensive brakes, very expensive oil and a couple of windscreens and you’re looking down the barrel of 160 grand.
Of course, the millionaires have almost completely taken over the upper end of the classic car scene these days and there’s an almost terrifying price inflation taking place in services and parts. Take the interior lamps in the cabin, for example. These plastic Hella items are the most absolute rubbish, fitted to Astons, Mercedes and some VW models I think. The heat from the festoon bulbs heats the clear plastic lamp cover and makes it brittle, so the delicate clips break off and the cover lands in your lap.
So I purchased six covers many years ago from Adrian Musto at Aston Engineering in Derby for £20 a pop. The last one landed in my lap last week and I phoned to ask for a renewal price – and gently put the phone down when I was told it was £108 plus VAT. My wife Philippa’s skills as a fine-art restorer came in handy to fix the broken lamp (pictured top).
The number of David Brown-era cars going through the doors of the respected Aston builders such as Aston Engineering, Davron (which looks after Gobbo) and Richard Stewart Williams is extraordinary at the moment. They’ve become investment cars, like cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps, yet few of them are ever used. ‘They’ve been driven off the road,’ said one restorer.
And are these gussied-up 4s, 5s and 6s any good? David Reed handed over the keys to Gobbo last month after a reassuringly expensive service (including new hubs and brake master cylinder). ‘After driving some quite good-looking DBs that are completely awful,’ he said, ‘it’s just lovely to get behind the wheel of one as well-sorted as yours.’
I know people love to talk about money, but I don’t. Next time I have a conversation about Gobbo, hopefully it’ll be about what it’s like to drive and not how much it’s worth – that’s really dull.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationBumper expense #1965 / #Aston-Martin-DB5 / #Aston-Martin / #1965-Aston-Martin-DB5 / Andrew English
Citroën, that most French of car makers, used to have an ad for its Visa hatchback boasting of it having ‘a big boompear at the front and a big boompear at the back’. This piece of copywriter’s Franglais accurately describes in the negative the state of my two old jalopies, the Aston and the Triumph.
Back in the day, taking the bumpers off was almost de rigueur if you wanted to do any sort of high-performance motoring: it reduced weight and made the car go faster and handle better. For some of us, it still is the done thing; witness Ian Callum’s recreated Jaguar Mk2, from which he removed the bumpers ‘because it looks better like that’.
The dead hand of the FIA, however, dictates that however a car is adorned when it goes on track, for its technical passport it should be photographed from both ends, with boompears. So back to bumpers it is.
This, however, is slightly easier said than done. I have the Aston’s originals but not the ’60 Triumph TR3A’s – and, more to the point, fitting any bumper is far from a simple bolt-on task. They might well have to be bent, reshaped, redressed, relieved and sometimes redrilled; even to make them fit the car from which they came.
Mindful of what a big task this can be, David Reed at Davron encouraged me to take the Aston’s to Capital Chrome on London’s Old Kent Road. This is where, for 36 years, Mick Chamberlain, son Richard, foreman Micky McHahon and their team of time-served fettlers, titivators and polishers have been toiling at relics from the past. They even chrome-plated the whole of David Bowie’s old Mini.
The place is so Dickensian, I half-expected to see Pip from Great Expectations drinking tea with Wilkins Micawber from David Copperfield. Ranks of bumpers hang from old deal brackets, timeserved polishing machines sit under layers of metal dust and, in the workshops’ sunken centre, sinister tanks of electroplating solution bubble, hiss and steam, some as gold as a desert dawn, others as emerald as a sequinned gown or as blue as anything ever imagined by Jacques Majorelle.
Trivalent chrome is the last of three electroplate layers that go into the process, the first being copper, then nickel, and finally the chromium plate. ‘We use nickel sulphate and nickel chloride, plus boric acid and various brighteners and levellers,’ says McMahon. It’s all about the preparation, because any imperfections in the material before they start plating will be highly visible at the end – ‘Rubbish in, rubbish out,’ adds Richard.
Unfortunately, only the Aston’s front bumper could be saved. The rear, although the right shape, is pitted with corrosion and would take too much time to prepare.
I’ve already bought a stainlesssteel front bumper for the TR as it was a) on offer; b) a decent fit; and c) corrosion resistant. But it’s very vulnerable to scratches, which must be expensively polished out (Capital Chrome’s bill was £222) and, as Mick says, ‘They’re not the right colour.’ That’s true, but the economics are inescapable.
Harrington, the British-owned firm that fabricates replacement stainless bumpers in Vietnam, will sell me beautifully finished DB5 stainless bumpers that can be teased into the individual shape at about half the cost of one repro plain steel bumper from Aston – and that’s before the extra expense of fitting and chromium plating. In other words, it’s originality versus my wallet – and at the moment my wallet is winning. I’ll report back on this one.
Above and below: #Capital-Chrome is where these craftsmen work their plating magic; Andrew’s in two minds what to do about DB’s boompears.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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