The Col­lec­tor

Buy­ing up bar­gain waifs and strays dur­ing his many years in the mo­tor trade, David Howes has ended up with an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of clas­sics

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - Words SAM DAW­SON Pho­tog­ra­phy: JAMES PAR­DON

A mo­tor trader’s life of hoover­ing up un­wanted trade-ins has led to a fab­u­lously ran­dom col­lec­tion

‘I’ve been in the mo­tor busi­ness since I was 16 years old,’ says David Howes as he heaves open the doors of the large barn be­hind his se­cluded, self-ren­o­vated Buck­ing­hamshire farm­house. ‘And in the case of nearly ev­ery one of my cars, I’m their sec­ond owner. I’d come across them in the course of buy­ing nice sec­ond­hand ve­hi­cles to trade. Of­ten they’d be a lit­tle bit too old or un­usual for peo­ple to want to run, but far too good to scrap, so I’d take them in sim­ply be­cause I hate to see waste.’ You may recog­nise Howes from a pre­vi­ous is­sue of

Clas­sic Cars – he was the cre­ator and driver of ‘The Beast’, the fear­some AMC Javelin tour­ing-car he cam­paigned in the Bri­tish Sa­loon Car Cham­pi­onship while he ran the UK’S only AMC deal­er­ship back in the Seventies. The Javelin is cur­rently con­test­ing historic race se­ries in the hands of new owner Marc De­vis. ‘It’s one of only two of my own cars that I’ve ever sold in 40 years, the other be­ing a Jaguar E-type when I needed some money to do some work on the house, but that’s it,’ says Howes.

‘Orig­i­nally I wanted to be an agri­cul­tural en­gi­neer, be­cause I had spent some time on a farm when I was young and loved trac­tors. I left school aged 15 and was ap­pren­ticed to Fer­gu­son in Tring, Hert­ford­shire. But af­ter a year the com­pany sud­denly upped sticks and moved 20 miles away. I was too young for a mo­tor­bike to com­mute, and there were no buses for the jour­ney. How­ever, Stir­ling Moss – a big in­flu­ence on me back then – lived in Tring in 1956-57 and Tri­umph TR2S had the same en­gines as Fer­gu­son trac­tors, so I fig­ured my skills would be trans­fer­able...

‘Alan Moore, a friend of the fam­ily, had a garage and raced with Archie Scott-brown. He’d heard I’d lost my job and took me in. I worked on sports cars for four years – BMW 328s, Jaguar XK120S, Frazer Nash Le Mans Repli­cas – I even had to fetch an In­victa once. And once I’d es­tab­lished my­self as a me­chanic I set up Howes Mo­tors with my brother in 1967, which went on to be­come a deal­er­ship.’

Austin Seven Chummy Tourer

‘I’ve had this car since 1961,’ says Howes of the old­est car in his col­lec­tion. ‘I bought it for my wife two years before we were mar­ried – it came as a pair with a sta­tion­ary en­gine for £200. I ac­quired it from an­other friend with a garage busi­ness. I’d called round, he was get­ting rid of things he didn’t need be­cause he’d run out of room and I asked, ‘What’s that thing in the cor­ner?’

‘It was yellow and black when I first got it – all Chum­mies were two-tone – but the log­book said it was red and black. My wife never ac­tu­ally drove it, so for 50 years it just sat in a barn. I didn’t get around to touch­ing it un­til four years ago, when I re­painted it in its orig­i­nal colours.

‘It’s to­tally orig­i­nal me­chan­i­cally and struc­turally, to such a de­gree that it still has a sten­cilled num­ber on the rear of the chas­sis from 92 years ago. The mileome­ter shows 5077 miles, which isn’t trust­wor­thy, but then again it was built in 1925 and reg­is­tered in Devon, and in those days peo­ple only did small mileages. I don’t know much about its own­er­ship before my friend ac­quired it. The chair­man of the own­ers’ club couldn’t be­lieve its con­di­tion though, which sug­gests it was well looked-af­ter and only used sparingly.’

Jaguar XK150

The XK150 is an­other to­tally orig­i­nal car, says Howes. He’s known the coupé since it was new. ‘I went with my fu­ture fa­ther-in-law to buy this car,’ he re­calls. ‘It was ad­ver­tised in The Au­to­car in March 1961 and had been a cus­tomer demon­stra­tor at a deal­er­ship on the Winch­ester by­pass. He wanted it be­cause it’s an au­to­matic and he had a gammy leg. It was built in Septem­ber 1960, one of the last XK150S made before the E-type came out, and was heav­ily dis­counted. I guess it wasn’t ev­ery­one’s cup of tea.

‘Sadly, he died in 1965 when the car was just five years old. My brother-in-law didn’t want to keep it so I bought it. I only did one proper trip in it – ten days in Ire­land in 1966. But I was just too busy set­ting up the busi­ness to do any­thing more with it, so I put it away and haven’t used it again. It’s still got its 1967-ex­piry tax disc in the wind­screen.

‘Wa­ter has since got into the cylin­der bores and seized the en­gine, but it’s the next in line for restora­tion. I might get Jaguar Clas­sic to do it – I’ve been to see what they do in Coven­try, and Jaguar Clas­sic was very taken with the car’s story. Back in those days you could take your car to Browns Lane for ser­vic­ing – Lofty Eng­land was the ser­vice man­ager in 1962-63 – and I re­mem­ber driv­ing it up there, before the M1 had been built, so it would be go­ing home.

‘I’ve also got the only un­used orig­i­nal set of spare XK150 doors and wings in the world,’ adds Howes, ges­tur­ing up to the barn’s loft. ‘I bought them from Hen­leys Jaguar back in the Six­ties when they told me, “You won’t be able to get th­ese for much longer.” They were £104 – I’ve still got the in­voice. Jaguar Clas­sic is go­ing to laser-scan them so they can be re­pro­duced.’

Mercedes-benz 220 SE

‘This is a one-owner car with just 59,000 miles on the clock, to­tally orig­i­nal up­hol­stery, all its ser­vice stamps in the driver’s door jamb, and it’ll do 100mph,’ says Howes as he re­calls the rea­sons that led him to a fair­ground yard in the early Seventies.

‘Stan­ley Thurston owned a fair­ground in Bed­ford and I was there pick­ing up some sec­ond­hand cars I’d bought for the deal­er­ship when I no­ticed this sit­ting in the cor­ner of his yard. I en­quired about it and a lady said, “Oh, that bloody old thing,

‘I’ve also got the only un­used orig­i­nal set of spare Jaguar XK150 doors and wings in the world’

you wouldn’t want that!” I had a bit of a hag­gle and £300 later it was mine. It needed a re­spray be­cause it had faded and it’s now in need of a me­chan­i­cal re­fresh, but it would only take a day to do it. It ought to be done, ac­tu­ally, be­cause it’s such a lovely car.

‘I didn’t get to drive it much be­cause var­i­ous pals of mine had a habit of bor­row­ing it. One mate had it for four months once – I thought he’d never bring it back.’

Mor­ris Minor

Howes is par­tic­u­larly pleased with the rar­ity of this early ‘high-lamp’ Mor­ris Minor. ‘It’s a 1952, early badge style, split-screen and side­valve en­gine,’ he points out en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. ‘It was bought in Dun­sta­ble by a gentle­man who had it ser­viced at our garage. We had petrol pumps out at the front in those days and he’d stop once a month to put four gal­lons in, so I knew that it was hardly used but was well-main­tained.

‘I said “When you want to part with it, I’ll have it,” but when he put it up for sale ev­ery­one in the vil­lage of Ea­ton Bray wanted it be­cause it was well known that he never drove it in the rain, kept it in a heated garage and al­ways seemed to be pol­ish­ing it.

‘It has an af­ter­mar­ket heater driven off the fan belt too. As you can imag­ine, it’s never needed any restora­tion work, just rou­tine ser­vic­ing and new tyres.’

Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower’s Willys Jeep

‘This was Pres­i­dent Dwight D Eisen­hower’s Jeep, and the only car I’ve ever spent big money on’ says Howes of his most prized ve­hi­cle. ‘It’s a Willys – I’ve got a Ford too, which I bought to do a prac­tice restora­tion on be­cause I didn’t want to jeop­ar­dise the patina and his­tory of this one.

‘I bought it in 1978 at an auc­tion down in the West Coun­try. When Howes Mo­tors had a Jeep fran­chise we used to ad­ver­tise in the Sun­day Times, and I saw a one-line ad­vert in the pa­per’s clas­si­fieds stat­ing Eisen­hower’s Jeep would be sold by the Na­tional Trust in ten days’ time. I fig­ured it would be a good pro­mo­tional tool for the busi­ness.

‘It ran well but there was a lot of rust. Some­one had at­tempted a restora­tion and it was full of filler. The leather is orig­i­nal, and I cer­tainly didn’t want to lose that be­cause that’s where Eisen­hower sat. All the body panels were saved in the end, apart from a small sec­tion of the front floor – I sent it away to a coach­builder in Bices­ter for that. I had to keep it as orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble oth­er­wise if you use all-new panels you’re just left with a copy.

‘It was pre­sented to Eisen­hower as a thank-you in 1946 by the Na­tional Trust for Scot­land along with the up­per floor of Culzean Cas­tle – where he stayed dur­ing World War Two. I have cor­re­spon­dence be­tween Eisen­hower and the Na­tional Trust about this car, be­cause it was pre­pared to of­fer him any car to use at Culzean, in­clud­ing lim­ou­sines, but he de­lib­er­ately chose the Jeep be­cause it was small, prac­ti­cal and easy to main­tain. He comes across in his let­ters as a very hum­ble, po­lite man who was gen­uinely over­awed by the kind­ness be­ing shown.’

Ford Capri 3.0S

‘This is a 1976 car that I bought in 1982 when it was six years old,’ says Howes of his strik­ing Jps-liv­er­ied Capri S. ‘It wasn’t a trade-in, but bought at auc­tion. I used to buy ten cars at a time from an auc­tion house in Northamp­ton and this one came up. One owner from new, Ziebarted from new and it came with full ser­vice his­tory – where would I find an­other, es­pe­cially a 3.0S? It cost me £2500. All the other mo­tor traders thought I must be mad. It was a very sim­i­lar story with my Vaux­hall Royale, which cost me £5000.

‘The only thing I didn’t like about this Capri was the af­ter­mar­ket glass sun­roof, al­though that’s a pe­riod de­tail now – at the time peo­ple cut holes in the roof of all sorts of cars. The same goes for its Rev­o­lu­tion al­loy wheels. But it’s a lovely car. It could do with bet­ter brakes, but it’s a lot of fun, es­pe­cially when you hang the tail out.’

Chrysler De­soto

‘What could I say? It was there and I just couldn’t walk away...’ says Howes of the most im­pos­ing car in his col­lec­tion. ‘It’s a very un­usual car, built in 1929 by Chrysler in the US then shipped to Aus­tralia where it was bod­ied by Holden, before Holden be­came a Gen­eral Mo­tors brand. It comes from a very dry part of Aus­tralia, so there’s no rust.

‘It came to the UK 20 years ago and was used by a friend of a friend of mine as a wed­ding car. He was sell­ing his busi­ness, but I had to have this car.

‘Nowa­days it’s prob­a­bly worth about £20k, but it’s such good value for an Amer­i­can tourer of the art-deco era. It’ll run all day with­out trou­ble, and me­chan­i­cally it’s so sim­ple. It’s not my usual style if I’m hon­est, but I love its engi­neer­ing. It will pull away from 10mph in top gear, its bat­tery is no big­ger than an Austin 7’s even though it has to start a big six-cylin­der en­gine, and you can test its wa­ter tem­per­a­ture gauge by dip­ping it in a ket­tle.

‘As you might have guessed, it wasn’t al­ways white. When it came to this coun­try it was two-tone green. It’s got a fab­u­lously strong chas­sis, and will hap­pily sit at 50mph.’

What’s next?

‘I have an aw­ful lot of restora­tion projects – I’ve just fin­ished my Tri­umph TR3 which I’ve been driv­ing a lot lately – so I wouldn’t look to add to the col­lec­tion,’ says Howes. ‘I’ll just con­tinue to get th­ese cars back on the road – I’ve got the time to do it now I’ve re­tired. The XK150 will be next, and I’ve also got a pair of Jaguar Mk2s from which one very good 3.8-litre can be built. Then there’s the Scim­i­tar GTE – that’s a fairly easy project – and an­other Austin Seven that’s scruffy but sound. They’ll get done even­tu­ally – it’s why I saved them in the first place.’

Howes res­cued this fine Mercedes 220 SE from a fun fair’s yard...

1980 Vaux­hall Royale and ’73 Cortina are among Howes’ more mod­ern clas­sics

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