Over here on UK soil there has always and will always be a fascination and as such, love for the American car. We love to look upon the chrome, the fins, the propensity to put a V8 in anything possible. But, being American, these cars aren’t exactly common fodder over here.
Then there’s the other favourite British pastime of restoring a car. We love nothing more than getting elbows deep in grease and engine parts in a bid to bring an old car back to life. The sense of pride and passion we feel when our old, once ruined cars bark back into life is unparalleled.
Both of the above go hand in hand, too. We’d love nothing more than the chance to restore an old, forgotten Mustang for example. Sadly though, because we live on a very wet island, we don’t get presented with the opportunity all that much. In fact, the UK’s wetness kills many a car with ease. What we need, then, are cars from drier climates that have yet to see the shiny end of spanner. We want a restoration project, but one that has been baking in the hot desert sun for decades, not a damp garage in Basingstoke. What we need is Bristol-based All American Imports.
The small company, which is headed up by Andrew Dixon, has been in operation for around four years. Unlike others though, this American import business has a different approach. The cars, which are sourced from dry states by either Andy or one of his Stateside car hounds are bought in a deliberately dilapidated condition. They’re not wrecks though, don’t make the mistake of thinking that. Each car is bought on the merits of it being solid, free of any serious rot and with a clean title, which is the American equivalent to a V5 – you can’t register an American in the UK without one.
Andy and his team could spend hours brokering deals to acquire mint cars, but to what end? There are others doing this, plus the whole operation becomes much more stressful when you’re dealing with something worth six figures that is in pristine condition. A ratty old Mustang with lashings of surface rust and some dull chrome, well, that’s wholly less stressful. We’re not saying that no care is taken in their journey to the UK, we’re just saying that getting them here hasn’t forced Andy to go grey.
The other problem with bringing over a ‘done’ car is that you’re then essentially left with the job of trying to sell the last owner’s dream. You’re also trying to sell a car that is going to be costly should a new owner wish to make changes. That’s not the case with All American Imports. These cars, while admittedly tired and showing their years, are rock solid blank metal canvases that the new owner can build into the car of their dreams. These cars are the chosen fruits, the solid bones, the rock-steady foundation of a motoring dream. And that’s… nice.
As we walk around the impressive warehouse of All American Imports, it becomes evident that the business isn’t actually all about American cars. And that’s interesting. Yes, there were a couple of Mustangs, there was the Ford day van and the Edsel, but that was about it from ‘murica.
However, the warehouse is brimming with cars. And they are American, as in sold, driven and owned there. However, they could be from any number of places from a manufacturing point of view. Sweden in the case of the Volvo Amazon, Japan in the case of the Datsun, Germany in the case of the Beetle and the Mercedes, or even Italy in the case of the many Fiat 124s on display. All were sold in the US to American specifications, so think big, federal bumpers and side marker lights aplenty.
But why bring these cars over? Why bring over cars that were available in the UK, too? Because they’re dry, that’s why. A car that has sat baking in the Arizona sun for thirty years is a much more appealing proposition than one that has been sitting in a wet field. The cars on offer here have the biggest question mark of old car buying covered, and that is structural soundness. That’s why these cars sell quicker than Andy can bring them into the country. Yes, they might have dents, faded paint, missing trim and dry, rotten seats, but so what? They have solid bulkheads, chassis rails, sills, floors and pillars. Everything else is just… aesthetic.
And of course, there is also the matter of price. You can look here to see what Andy has his current stock listed for, and you’ll be surprised. That ‘61 fintail Benz? £6,295. The numerous Fiat 124s for around five grand. That Volvo Amazon for £3,495. Or how about that rarer than rare Fiat 2100 for just £2,495? These cars are bargainous. And that’s good, because that’s what you want your project to be.
Andy and his team have taken the concept of buying and selling project cars to a new level. By his own admission, Andy has no interest in working on cars, but at the same time, he deeply understands that others live for it. And it’s those people Andy serves. He does the legwork, he sorts the legalities and taxes, he does the shipping and then he presents the UK buyer with the opportunity to buy genuine, ‘as found’ classics from America. Cars that we can then build into whatever we wish.