Big’s not big right now

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling - KEITH CORN­WELL PART­NER, A1 CLAS­SIC CARS LLP

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.

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