We make classic cars roar again
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For James Anderson, converting the posters on his childhood walls into wheels on his driveway has become a consuming passion. A partner at international-law firm Skadden, Anderson has spent the past eight years assembling a dreamy fleet of vintage and pedigree cars from makers such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Bentley, Jaguar and Maserati. All were manufactured between the 1960s and the early Noughties – the era before computers gained supremacy over mechanical engineering, when cars were panel-beaten into existence.
“Each one has to satisfy three criteria,” says Anderson. “It has to be physically beautiful, it’s got to be a driver’s car and it needs to be unusual – to have that X factor.” His 1979 Aston Martin V8 Vantage certainly has star quality: when the four-seater rolled off the production line in 1977, it was arguably the world’s first supercar, capable of a Lamborghini-beating 170mph. Anderson purchased his model in 2016 from Buckinghamshire specialist Desmond J Smail, but it was brought back up to speed by mechanic and classics specialist Jonathan Rose, who runs a car-storage facility near Tunbridge Wells on the Sussex-Kent border.
“I was introduced to Jonathan by a fellow partner at Skadden back in 2012, and I was bowled over by his enthusiasm,” says Anderson. “It was immediately clear that he wasn’t just a car-storage guy, but an engineer who knew more about classics than anyone I had ever met.”
Rose honed his talent for fettling and fine-tuning stylish cars at his first garage in Cheshire, which he opened with his brother in the late 1970s. He soon developed a special affinity for Jaguars and Aston Martins – so restoring the roar of Anderson’s V8 Vantage was a dream commission. The pair have since worked together on 10 cars. Each is a serious investment in both money and time. And, while Anderson is too coy to reveal how much he has paid for each model, he devotes several hundred hours, over a period of 12 to 24 months, researching a car’s design and engineering pedigree before each buy. And that’s before he scours dealer sites for specific acquisitions.
“James is very knowledgeable and knows exactly what he wants. He just relies on me for the mechanical stuff,” says Rose, who inspects the cars prior to purchase. Not all get his seal of approval. Some are mechanically unsound. Others simply aren’t big enough: Anderson would be unable to origami his 6ft 5in frame into the tiny cockpit of a car like the Jaguar XK120 Roadster, for example, no matter how much he wanted one.
Just about every classic car needs work, even those with the shiniest paintwork. The question is: how much? “They’re all bottomless pits,” laughs Anderson, who will only admit that the restorations often cost £50,000 and up. “I drive these cars, I don’t buy them just for investment, so it takes time and money to get a car resolved to my satisfaction. It’s not about tweaks, it’s about safety and performance issues. Jonathan makes the car 100 per cent reliable. But I wouldn’t necessarily get the money back at resale – in the short term, anyway.”
Selling is not on Anderson’s mind at the moment, though, especially when it comes to a 1983 Ferrari 308 Koenig-Specials he tracked down in Helsinki in 2015. Rose flew out to inspect the car, which had been dramatically enhanced – with a turbocharger and redesigned bodywork – by the German tuning legends Koenig-Specials. Restoring such a vehicle was a project fraught with risk. “There’s no Koenig workshop manual, given all the modifications,” says Rose, whose team sourced parts from Ferrari suppliers and fabricated unobtainable ones themselves. “The more we got into the car, the more we appreciated its engineering,” adds Rose, who recently expanded his JAR storage offering with a second site in Ashford. “Me and my guys did everything we could to return it to the condition it would have been in when it left Koenig’s workshop.”
Thankfully, a 1,000-mile tour of the Highlands in the blisteringly fast Ferrari left Anderson with a smile from ear to ear. “Every element has an aerodynamic or engineering function,” he says. “Jonathan’s mechanical magic has restored the power output to 425bhp, over double that of a standard Ferrari 308. No one in Finland had the engineering expertise to fix or tune this Koenig, and gradually Jonathan and I realised just what a gem it is.”
Their next project is a Maserati Mistral, a glamorous 1960s sports GT with driving thrills and X factor in abundance. The coupe boasts the same six-cylinder engine as the Maserati 250F, which powered Argentine racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio to grand-prix glory in the 1950s. “If you want a wire-wheeled, classically beautiful 1960s Italian sports car, you want a Mistral,” says Anderson. “It’s one of the best-looking cars ever made.”