Bristols Restoration Goes Global
The team at Upper Hutt restoration specialists Bristols Group Ltd have just taken out the top honour at Australia’s largest and most prestigious motor show, Motorclassica.
The event is the Australian International Concours d’Elegance. The win follows the awards picked up last year by Bristols’ restored 1931 Hispano Suiza at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance show.
Last month, the work David Wilkens and his team did on a 1932 Alfa Romeo supercharged Zagato Spider was suitably rewarded with 'Best in Show' at Motorclassica 2018.
A classic winner
The 1932 Alpha Romeo is owned by Lawrence Southward ([pictured above left with David Wilkens). Lawrence is the grandson of the late collector Sir Len Southward ,and it has been something of a family project.
“His sister bought the car in the 1990s and she and her father worked on it but sadly they both passed away. Lawrence inherited the car and asked me to take over" says restorer David.Wilkens. David has known the Southward family most of his life and has restored other cars for Lawrence, who lives in Australia.
PUTTING THE BITS TOGETHER
“When I went to get the car, we found the chassis in a shed, engine on a bench, body panels in another shed, and the doors were in an empty swimming pool. We searched the whole property for parts of the car and loaded a van and trailer with all the pieces we thought were the Alpha."
At the workshop, they temporarily reassembled and bolted the car together and soon saw there were quite a few parts that were missing, or wrong for the car. “So we started the research to find the correct parts and remanufactured many we could not locate. Every part was either reworked or rebuilt.”
David shipped the completed car off to Lawrence, who told him a few months later that it had been accepted for entry into the Motorclassica, and invited him over for the event. The show features vintage, classic and exotic cars in pristine condition. “I’d never been before and I was blown away. The show is incredible, and the quality exceeded anything I’ve seen before - with 175 cars inside the venue and another 500 outside. Some must had had over $1million spent on their restoration.”
On trophy night, more than 20 awards were presented to owners. “I stood there with Lawrence hoping that we would have a chance for something but by the time they got down to the last three we thought we had no chance. Then they announced the last trophy, for Best in Show. All the judges had voted the Alpha as the best - we just looked at each other and couldn’t believe it.”
The Alpha is worth around $5million and David reckons after winning Motorclassica its value will have climbed higher – not that it’s for sale.
The win has gone viral among collectors and enthusiasts and on the night, David said it has opened doors to him.
“The win at Pebble Beach, if we had been based in the USA, would have set us up for life. But a lot of collectors at this end of the world wouldn’t have heard that we were the company that restored the Hispano Suiza. We didn’t get a single job out of it. But, the Motorclassica is different. I was standing there with Lawrence with the trophy and a guy came up and said we’d done a beautiful job. He said he was looking to take another car to Pebble Beach and had a vehicle to be restored, would you be interested and took my card.”
David is hoping that his international awards will bring him some more high-end cars he can bring back to their former glory.
The stunning black 1932 Alfa Romeo 6C Spider features aluminium coachwork from the legendary Zagato design house. Very few of the highly-sought after Zagato models were ever sold and only a handful remain in the world. The car was built for racing, the Zagato body was extremely light, and the 1762cc in-line sixcylinder engine featured the newly developed supercharger. The car was originally owned by UK racer and jazz musician Bubby Featherstonehaugh who raced it in Europe. Over the years, the car’s bodywork had been modified – the bonnet had been shortened and the scuttle altered - so Bristols had to make extensive repairs to bring back the long lines and defined wings of the original.
PARTS WERE A PROBLEM
“Finding the correct original tail lights took us three years, hunting the world. We eventually found two in France,” says David. Many parts were missing, so to get the details right, David and his team used pictures to remake many, including the original fuel gauge. David drove the car for 500 miles after its restoration to run in the engine. “It’s an amazing little car and outperforms anything I’ve ever driven from that period. It runs so sweet at 70 miles an hour, it could easily go the 100 mph of the original specs.”