SPECIALIST: CHARLES IVEY
Charles Ivey has been in the Porsche business for 43-years. Its well known Fulham showroom is a London landmark, but recently the company has expanded out of Fulham to take residence in what was once John Cooper’s motorsport factory/workshop and now a lis
Visiting Charles Ivey in its new, exCooper Cars Surbiton base
Chances are that if you’ve been around the Porsche world for a while, then the name Charles Ivey will ring a bell. You may not know precisely why, but in the back of your mind you’ll associate the company with being a long-established pillar of the Porsche community. For just how long though, might surprise you.
Charles Ivey Specialist Cars first set up shop way back in 1974, and in case you’re thinking that doesn’t really sound that long ago, do the maths – in case you’re not good with mental arithmetic and don’t have a calculator to hand, that’s 43 years. And during that time Charles Ivey has always been a Porsche specialist, trading from premises in Hurlingham Road, Fulham, a stylish part of west London.
This year, however, Charles Ivey has opened in a second location, a few miles south down the A3 in Surbiton, Surrey. ‘Business has been growing so we were in need of more space,’ explains company director since 1991, Alvaro Crego. ‘Finding a second premises is also part of a pragmatic long-term strategy for the company. Property prices in London remain absurdly high and developers are throwing up flats wherever they can find spare land.
‘Our Fulham showroom and workshops are in a highly desirable part of London, and as we only lease the premises, we think that it’s inevitable that the site will eventually be sold to developers. It is, of course, a major part of Charles Ivey’s heritage, so we hope that it doesn’t happen, but we have to be realists about this.’
The Hurlingham Road site is well situated for Charles Ivey’s central London clients, with a couple of Tube stations within reasonable walking distance, so might it not have been better to find another London base?
‘We’ve been looking around for a couple of years,’ explains Alvaro, ‘and wherever you go flats are taking precedent over commercial properties in any area that we might consider appropriate for our customers. Prices are astronomical and space is in short supply. That’s how we ended up in Surbiton, because it is the nearest place we could find with the space and facilities we required.
‘Besides,’ chips in Genaro, Charles Ivey’s sales manager who has been with the company since 1992, ‘the new premises is just around the corner from Surbiton station and from there it’s just 12 minutes into Waterloo – that’s quicker than going in from Putney Bridge [the nearest station to Hurlingham Road]. Surbiton station is only a
brief walk away, although if the weather is nasty or the customer prefers, we will happily drive them to and from the station.’
Those of you of a certain age or with a keen interest in British motor racing history might already have twigged that Charles Ivey’s Surbiton branch is housed in a rather special building: it was most famously the headquarters of John Cooper’s motorsport operations, from where he not only created the tuned Minis that did so well in many forms of racing, but also legendary championship-winning Grand Prix cars. But as both Alvaro and Genaro concede with an honest shrug, it wasn’t something they were immediately aware of. ‘At the time we were simply pleased to have found a building that had the room and layout necessary for us to deal with the quantity of cars we look after. It had been empty for a couple of years, but prior to that had been used by the Metropolitan Police’s traffic forensics team,’ relates Alvaro.
‘It was in the period between exchanging contracts and completion that we were informed that the building had been granted listed status, and because of that we learned the full extent of the John Cooper connection. The wooden panelled room on the first floor was John Cooper’s office, while the canteen on the second floor was where the F1 design team produced their technical drawings. Bruce Mclaren, Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, and other famous names from motor racing in the 1950s and 1960s would have frequented the place, and at the time it was one of the world’s most important F1 production facilities.
‘We recently hosted a private event for the guys who used to work here during the Cooper era and you could tell that for some of them it was a very emotional experience. One of the now retired employees, Roy Golding, gave us some framed photographs from his own collection, including one of a very young and fresh-faced Stirling Moss sitting in a single-seater Cooper. Roy worked as works manager between 1948 and 1966.’
That photograph currently resides in John Cooper’s old office where Alvaro has also amassed many other evocative period images, including John Cooper in the company of the actor Steve Mcqueen; in the entrance to the workshop there are also pictures of the building – in Hollyfield Road – with formula cars parked out the front with the petrol pumps, where regular suburbanites pulled up to refuel their Morrises, Triumphs and Fords.
But in Charles Ivey’s new showroom – which has space for seven or eight sales
We hosted an event for the guys who worked here during the Cooper era
cars – there are also pictorial reminders of what this small independent company achieved itself on the global motorsport scene. It competed at Le Mans in the 1970s and ’80s, winning its class three times, and throughout the 1980s campaigned with considerable success in the World Endurance Championship and World Sports Prototype Championship, in cars as full-on as the Porsche 935.
Alvaro, who was race manager during some of this period, smiles at the memory: ‘Those were quite some special times; half a dozen blokes from a specialist Porsche garage in Fulham taking on works Porsche teams and beating them…’
Charles Ivey still runs a couple of racing cars, with one of them being a 2.5-litre, turbocharged 944 S2 which puts out some 310bhp, an impressive increase compared with the original car’s output of just 211bhp. The car is currently entered into the MSVT Trackday Championship and at the time of writing is first in class.
There’s a lot of talk here about racing, and it does go to show that Charles Ivey has the skills set to make Porsches perform to their optimum, whether it be a race/track car or a road machine.
‘Just as at our Fulham site, we know how to cater to the requirements of the Porsche enthusiast market,’ insists Genaro, ‘and that includes anything from a 356 through to something more recent. At the moment we are doing lots of work on 997s and 996s, with 991s starting to creep into the picture as well. We are also starting to see more 944s, 968s and 928s. Because of their rising values, more and more people are starting to realise that they are now cars worth fixing up.
‘But as Porsche has diversified to more corners of the motoring market, we’re adept at addressing modern vehicle servicing
It competed at Le Mans in the ’70s and 80s, winning its class 3 times
requirements, too. There are plenty of owners around Surbiton and Surrey with Cayennes, Macans and Boxsters who don’t want to pay main dealer prices but do want work done to the highest possible standards: we can also offer free collection and delivery for those customers who can’t otherwise get here.’
And yet that’s rather underselling the breadth of talent on offer at Surbiton. Charles Ivey is also able to rebuild engines and gearboxes of Porsches from all eras, perform MOTS, service air-conditioning units, repair bodywork damage and source new and secondhand spare parts. Currently there are four ramps in the Surbiton workshop and £22,000’s worth of Hunter wheel alignment equipment, but there are already plans in motion to further improve the facilities with another three ramps to be added to the workshop to meet surging demand for the company’s services.
Meanwhile there’s still work to be done on the old John Cooper works building. ‘We need to repair the canteen roof and sort out the upstairs offices and storage rooms,’ explains Alvaro. ‘People have asked if the building’s listed status is a nuisance and in little ways it has been – for instance, our signage has to be in the same font as John Cooper used, and the decorative panel on the front has to be the original blue.
‘But the fact that being listed means we can never convert the place into flats isn’t an issue – we simply want to use the place to look after Porsches in the best way we know how. I like to think that if John Cooper was looking down on us now, he’d approve.’ PW
I like to think if John Cooper was looking down now, he’d approve
Looks familiar? Keen students of motorsport history will immediately recognise Charles Ivey’s Surbiton showroom/workshop as once being the HQ for John Cooper’s motorsport operation. It is now a listed building
Right: Charles Ivey Director, Alvaro Crego, has been with the company since 1991. Busy workshop will benefit from another three ramps in the near future
The Charles Ivey workshop is a busy place. They will happily undertake work and rebuilds on Porsches of any age
All generations of Porsche arrive at Charles Ivey for servicing. The 968 on the ramp represents an upturn in servicing and restoration on frontengined Porsches, as values have started to climb
As you would expect, the broad spectrum of Porsches is available for sale in both the Charles Ivey showrooms in Fulham and Surbiton
Charles Ivey look after a few race cars including this 904. Right: John Cooper memorabilia and artefacts have been donated. This is Steve Mcqueen as a budding racing driver with the great man