Wheel­sto­ries

The clas­sic car trader who can spot an oily riser

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

IF THERE are few things more en­joy­able than spend­ing some­one else’s money, there’s pos­si­bly noth­ing bet­ter than spend­ing it on cars: clas­sics, su­per­cars, rac­ing cars, what­ever takes your fancy. That’s pretty much what car con­sul­tant Ken Grindrod, 74, has done for the past four years, as the cu­ra­tor of the mam­moth Gos­ford Clas­sic Car Mu­seum on the NSW Cen­tral Coast. Part of the Syd­ney mo­tor trade for decades, Grindrod’s in­dus­try connections made him a nat­u­ral fit for the mu­seum.

“I was born in Mel­bourne, but we moved to Gunda­gai, worked on the land for a while, then I came to Syd­ney when I was 17 to try my luck,” he says. “There’s never been any­thing else but cars, go­ing way back with Dinky Toys … my first job was as a sales cadet at Larke-hoskins, then I joined P&R Wil­liams, sell­ing MGS, those sorts of things.

“Then I worked for some years at Bryson’s, when it was dis­trib­u­tor for Jaguar. Sales, al­ways in sales.”

Grindrod opened Wagon Wheels, a land­mark used-car deal­er­ship on Syd­ney’s Par­ra­matta Road, with fel­low coun­try boy, the late Ray Lin­tott. “Ray and I had been best mates back at school; we used to muck around in old MGS out in the coun­try.”

Grindrod had started rac­ing in 1963, on the smell of an oily rag. “I bought a Tri­umph Her­ald, the only car I could af­ford. I did a lot of hill­climbs, and I raced it at Bathurst in Easter ’64 … there’s a fa­mous pho­to­graph of it rolling over at War­wick Farm.” Af­ter sev­eral years’ ab­sence, in the 1980s he raced an EH Holden in the re­vived Ap­pen­dix J cat­e­gory, then rounded out his rac­ing days in a VL Turbo pro­duc­tion car.

“So, yeah – done a bit of rac­ing, a bit of ral­ly­ing, done a bit of ev­ery­thing. But clas­sic cars are re­ally the thing now, and it’s such a big thing be­cause [of] in­ter­na­tional buy­ers.”

Grindrod had been loosely fol­low­ing the trends of the clas­sic mar­ket when he got a call from Prague. Tony Denny, an Aussie ex­pa­tri­ate who’d built a large used-car re­tail net­work over 24 years in Czech Repub­lic, was moving home, bring­ing with him a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of Iron Cur­tain cars.

A car kook to the core, Denny fig­ured he’d have some­one on the ground look for some other in­ter­est­ing cars, and find some­where to keep them.

“Re­ally, it was just go­ing to be a pri­vate col­lec­tion,” says Grindrod. “And next thing, this empty Bun­nings build­ing came up and I sup­pose he had to say, ‘Well, how do we fill this?’

“We went from zero to, at the high­est point, close on 600 cars … but to get those 600 cars, we prob­a­bly looked at a cou­ple of thou­sand.”

Grindrod says there wasn’t a wish-list, as such. “We had an open mind. We weren’t look­ing for one brand, al­though at one stage we had close to 50 Fer­raris. We had Lam­borgh­i­nis. We had two Jaguar XJR-15S, which have both now gone to the States.”

Stum­bling onto in­cred­i­ble finds be­came sim­ply a part of the process. “There was the ‘barn find’ Fal­con GT [Phase III] we bought – it hadn’t been driven since 1981 when I looked at it, sit­ting in a car­port, cov­ered in blan­kets … It makes the chase worth­while when you find some­thing like that.”

The Gos­ford mu­seum in­evitably started sell­ing cars as well as buy­ing them. Grindrod re­tired in March of this year, though he’s us­ing his in­ter­na­tional net­work to buy and sell in­de­pen­dently.

Does he ever get it wrong? “Due dili­gence is a ma­jor part of it and peo­ple can make mis­takes. Clas­sic cars are a bit like art – a paint­ing is a paint­ing and peo­ple in this mar­ket know what’s around. Part of what I do is know­ing th­ese peo­ple; be­ing part of this op­er­a­tion world­wide.”

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