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

911 Porsche World - - Contents - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy: Brett Fraser

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

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