Big’s not big right now
Tell us about your business
A1 Classic Cars is a limited liability partnership whose members are Professor Keith Cornwell and Antony (Tony) Brown. Both have long experience of the classic car world as owners and club members.
Originally established in 2009 to house the partners’ car collections and allow a gentle turnover of stock, it has developed into a hub in East Lothian for the exchange, purchase and improvement of classic cars.
While initially wishing to concentrate on early post-war vehicles such as Alvis and Bristol, we have drifted from this to a wide range of vehicles to meet local needs, as there are very few such centres in this area of Scotland. We now typically have about 20 cars available, including commission sales.
Which cars are selling well, and which are out of favour?
Cars of the ’20s and ’30s are flat as there is a decreasing number of folk who can drive them. Big luxury cars of the 1960s to 1990s, such as Bentley Turbo Rs and Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows are at a low because of their size and fuel consumption. Some makes can drift into fashion: Try to find a low-cost Allard P1, or even an Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire.
Finally, the cachet of having a well-known former owner can help; we currently have Elton John’s black Bentley Turbo R, for example.
How has business been in 2017?
We mainly operate in the price range of £10,000 to £60,000, where cars are increasing in value. We spend a lot of time with potential customers introducing them to the idiosyncrasies of old cars, and dissuading them from treating them as a modern car.
We had one customer for a 60-yearold Mercedes-Benz just out of storage whom we reluctantly allowed to drive home to the South, rather than accept our delivery. It turned out he was a salesman who travelled north first, covering 2000 miles around the Highlands before complaining that the water pump was leaking. We got it fixed and wrote off any margin.
Do you offer any other services?
We no longer do renovation beyond heavy TLC but we do work closely with local garages on repair and maintenance and they have been most supportive. We also work with some classic car outlets in England and occasionally exchange cars with them, as not everybody is prepared to travel to Scotland, it seems.
‘Luxury cars are at a low now’ ‘But the cachet of a well-known owner can help...’
Models like this Bentley offer great value for money.