Being a classic car enthusiast is not just about buying an old car and enjoying it, it’s also about keeping that old car going, getting it back on the road or restoring to its former glory. That’s why, for many of us, the thought of passing up on that bargain part at a show or on eBay is too much to bear. The likelihood is that we’ll never need it but pondering the implications of not having it and then actually needing it, well, we just buy the part. Better to have it on the shelf than to not have it all, right?
And this isn’t a trait specific to one brand. If you’re a purveyor of Peugeots you’re just as likely to amass a collection of parts as you would if you were passionate about Porsches. It’s the dirty little addiction that comes with classic car ownership, and it’s an addiction we’re all too happy to pander to.
A case in point would be Stephen Pilkington. He’s a man who has been buying, selling and restoring cars since the 1970s, but not just any type of car. You see, Stephen’s passion happens to be Ferraris. But before we get into it, please don’t scoff and think this is going to be a story of a man with a lot of money buying up all the parts without care or consideration needed for his bank balance. This isn’t that kind of story. Stephen has had, and still has, a number of Ferraris, but he was there at the beginning. In fact, before the beginning. Before old Ferraris were the reserve of the super-rich or ginger ex-breakfast show DJs.
Stephen had been a successful electronics engineer, but it was a job that left him unfulfilled. His passion was always cars, and he wanted to explore that as a career. He’d actually started buying and selling cars in the late 1960s, exotic and luxury cars, but not in the way you might think. He worked on the principle that if he liked the car, it would find its way into his stock. But more importantly, because he liked it, selling would be a joy fuelled by genuine enthusiasm, not a need to simply tick a ‘sold’ box in a handwritten stock book.
The Rolls Royces and the Bentleys he had were extremely desirable, just as much then as they are now. However, the temperamental little Italian cars were a different matter. Ferraris back then weren’t perceived in the same way as they are now, and as such, Stephen was able to pick them up for very little money compared to today’s values. And for Stephen, this was good, as it meant he could buy the cars he loved, like his 250GTO, for very little cash. He owned that car for over two decades, but he loved it for the nuts and bolts of the thing, the design, the sound. Not the badge.
Obviously while Stephen was trading in cars, the parts started to mount up. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that things got really serious. The US export market for RR and Bentley had quietened down and the number of the Ferraris in the stable was on the increase. It was when he bought the Pedro Rodriguez LWB California Spyder.
The car needed extensive restoration and it was whilst restoring it that Stephen made an unpleasant discovery – the car had not seen the sympathetic end of a spanner for some time. He was horrified at how badly it was built, and with that horror he came to the realisation that he could use the car as a basis to create something better. So, he used the Rodriguez car as a template to build a wooden buck from which he could make a long-wheelbase California Spyder body. He then built seven of them using the PF Coupe chassis (as this is the same length and running gear as the donor vehicle). And before you recoil in horror, remember that Stephen is a car guy. The 250PF coupes were, for lack of a better phrase, knackered. Each one in need of restoration, it was seen as the perfect opportunity to turn them into something better.
The cars were nothing short of works of art. Two of them were built for friends in Norway, one went to Dubai (but now resides in Belgium) and one was sold by H&H to Austria in 2017. As for the remaining three, Stephen still has two, while the final car was sold to a private collector in Denmark where it still lives today.
Of course, the cars aren’t what we’re here to talk about. What we went to Suzie (Stephen’s daughter) Pilkington’s storage facility to see the parts. And man alive, what a lot of parts. As we exclaimed to Suzie during our visit, this collection of parts would be nothing short of staggering were they all for Morris Minors, such is the breadth and diversity of the parts. The fact, however, they’re all for classic Ferraris… well, that’s otherworldly.
The collection of parts has been acquired by Stephen over a number of ways. Of course, there are the parts left over from the cars that were converted. Then there are the parts that Stephen giddily bought from online sources when the internet was in its infancy. Yes, before the days of spurious listings and untrustworthy sellers, eBay could be used to grab a bargain. And then of course there are the extra bits and bobs that have been collected along the way.
It is, quite frankly, an astonishing collection. As we stand amidst the boxes and the myriad laid out parts, we can’t help but be lost in the romance of the fact we’re looking at the fifty-year passion of one man. Parts not bought for profit, but rather saved to help preserve others. Stephen was first and foremost an enthusiast, who bought and sold cars, not a parts trader, so these parts would inevitably come in handy when different Italia rolled through his garage. It’s just that the stuff that has yet to find a new home has built up ever so slightly.
And that’s what brings us to daughter, Suzie’s, storage facility today. Due to Stephen’s advancing years and retirement, the task has fallen to her to wade through the myriad parts in a bid to facilitate some form of curation. But don’t think for one second that Suzie is a woman under parental duress. She’s not. She brims with enthusiasm and imparts knowledge that would make most Ferrari buffs blush as she points out the parts dotted around. By the time we visit, she’s nearly gone through everything, but there’s still a long way to go.
With the exception of a chassis and some panels, there are enough parts to build several cars. If you can think of it, the chances are Suzie has already labelled it, photographed it and sorted it. Fuel pumps, alternators, cams, fuel pump bowls, sumps, spindles, steering arms, the list is exhaustive and seemingly endless.
Obviously, these parts have value, but that value is insignificant when you get to the ‘sexy’ stuff, as Suzie calls it. The 250GTE engine, the F40 steering wheel, the air filter boxes, the cylinder heads, the crackle-painted Ferrari-cast rocker covers, the dials, the brightwork, the… you get the idea.
So, what’s in store, and more importantly, why are all the parts being painstakingly curated and documented?
As you’ve probably guessed, the time has come for the Pilkington family to pass on the parts. With advancing age serving as a frankly unwanted motivator, the decision has been made to send the parts out into the world where they can, between the literal thousands of them, go on to preserve some of Italy’s finest machines. The reality is that neither Stephen nor Suzie are going to ever need them all. Yes, they still have a number of Ferraris including a fair few 250GTs, 275GTBs and others, but for those a small cache of parts is being reserved. For the rest, it’s time to start a new life with other cars.
As such, Suzie has painstakingly gone through hundreds of boxes of parts, she’s photographed them all, she’s documented them and she’s sorted them accordingly. It has been, she admits with a considerable sigh, a full-time job to sort them, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel now. Interest is rightly building around the collection and thanks to Suzie’s efforts, she and Stephen are confident in what they’re selling and what its real-world value is.
Neither Suzie nor Stephen have any interest in being sharks about the whole thing, but at the same time, this is a collection that’s been built over half a century, so it’s only right they get rewarded for that.
We’re quietly confident that this collection will find a home from which they parts can be spread out into the wider Ferrari world. It’s a collection that’s fascinating, and that will now give much needed lifeblood to projects around the globe. And that’s quite special indeed.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the market for such a collection of parts, get in touch with us via [email protected] and we’ll put you in touch.