E-type re­storer, clas­sic dealer and petrol re­tailer Clas­sic Con­nec­tion has re­vived a 70-year-old vil­lage ser­vice sta­tion in the New For­est

Classic Sports Car - - The Specialist - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MAL­COLM MCKAY

“This garage is on a road I’ve driven on many times over the years, but I never re­alised how much work­shop space it had at the back,” says Charles Ram­say. “When I heard it was on the mar­ket, we came and had a look – and just had to have it!”

Daw­son En­gi­neer­ing was founded in 1947 and be­came a vil­lage garage in 1949, re­main­ing in the same fam­ily un­til bought by Ram­say two years ago. It’s a won­der­ful time­warp, with the orig­i­nal stores up­stairs stacked with boxed parts dat­ing back up to 65 years, and Ram­say has added to the at­mos­phere with his own ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of au­to­mo­bilia. “We ex­tended the show­room,” ex­plains Ram­say, “dou­bling its size. And we’re plan­ning to build a new twowork­shop bay at the back. But we won’t be chang­ing the front – it’s so rare to find an orig­i­nal garage such as this and we’re de­ter­mined to pre­serve it. My wife An­drea re­ally en­joys serv­ing petrol to lo­cal peo­ple, many of whom have been com­ing here all their adult lives to fill up – and many still buy their petrol on ac­count. As, now, does a cer­tain pop­star who lives lo­cally.

“We do MOT tests and ser­vic­ing on modern cars, and we get asked to do all sorts of jobs, from mend­ing punc­tures on wheel­bar­rows to stor­ing the tro­phies for the an­nual veg­etable show – which is a very se­ri­ous re­spon­si­bil­ity!”

An IT con­trac­tor un­til 2005, Ram­say had al­ways had a pas­sion for clas­sic cars, so when an in­her­i­tance came along, he then in­vested it in set­ting up a clas­sic car sales and restora­tion busi­ness, spe­cial­is­ing in E-type re­builds. With a small team of re­stor­ers, in­clud­ing a Jaguar Mastertech-trained en­gi­neer, Clas­sic Con­nec­tion has turned out sev­eral very fine full restora­tions: the white S1 4.2 coupé pic­tured has had a to­tal re­build with mostly new pan­els. The V12 was a sound car that needed work only on the whee­larches and boot floor, but it was re­painted and trimmed to the cus­tomer’s or­der, and fit­ted with a 6.1-litre en­gine with six twin-choke We­bers. On a brief test, it drove well, feel­ing ex­cep­tion­ally tractable and un­tem­per­a­men­tal, as well as ex­tremely po­tent. It looks like new un­der the bon­net, two years and 5000 miles af­ter com­ple­tion. “It’s the qual­ity of pow­der-coat­ing and an­o­dis­ing that makes it last – we pay a lot of at­ten­tion to that,” says Ram­say.

In­side, an S1 3.8 coupé is be­ing re­assem­bled with newly painted bulk­head and en­gine frames, while an XK140 Road­ster is com­ing back to­gether well af­ter be­ing brought to Clas­sic Con­nec­tion as a failed restora­tion. “It took a full day to get the head­lights to fit cor­rectly,” says Ram­say. “We do ev­ery job with the pas­sion to get it right – just look at the door shuts now, you don’t see many XKS with them like that.

“We use a third-gen­er­a­tion pain­ter in Dorset – he takes his time, but the re­sults are well worth wait­ing for. The en­gine was sup­pos­edly re­built – we dropped the sump be­fore at­tempt­ing to start it and found that the oil was full of swarf and the oil pump hadn’t been primed. The cus­tomer couldn’t face an­other re­build, so we cleaned it all out and it’s run­ning well now.”

In the show­room, Fer­raris rub shoul­ders with E-types and many more cars are in the re­serve store at Ringwood: the fu­ture looks very bright for Bur­ley’s once-ne­glected lit­tle vil­lage garage.

Clock­wise from top: the old Daw­son En­gi­neer­ing garage; Charles Ram­say (on right) with 190SL; XK140 un­der restora­tion; six-we­ber 6.1-litre V12

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