Sunny day, Elan parked up at work, and an excuse to get out thanks to an invite to lunch for myself and C&SC advertising director Ben Guynan. So it was that we were soon blatting down the A3 into Surrey, our faces (and in Ben's case, his pate) gently pinking in the first flush of spring. Our precise destination must remain secret, but suffice to say it was a stone's throw (well for Freddie Flintoff maybe) from where racing legend Mike Hawthorn met his untimely demise. Let's just say "the Guildford area".
We were there to meet Liam Cardiff. Never heard of him? Liam is the co-owner and ex-md of new auction house Historics at Brooklands, co-owner of two of the UKs most iconic sports car brands – ones which coincidentally collaborated in the heyday – and is a serious collector with more fingers in more pies than Mr Ginster. Sadly, as we soaked up the sunshine and enjoyed the rolling views over unspoilt countryside as far as the eye could see - well, as far as Heathrow's Terminal 5 anyway - he explained that several of his cars were in storage off-site including his beautifully restored Aston DB5 and his E-type.
Even further off-site was Liam's Merc 600, a car which he hasn't yet bought but does shed some light on his level of obsession as a collector. In pride of place on his coffee table is a stack of information on, books about, and documents for, a car that - after 10 years of chasing 600s around the world - he is yet to buy. He even has an owner's manual ready to slip into the glovebox, and last week bought a blueprint at Essen. One day, one day...
So what was there? Well, we pushed past as couple of menacing modern Mercs - a big soft sport for this entrepreneur son of the racetrack, horses, being Irish - to browse an ex-Bernie Ecclestone Ferrari 456 (very high up the Elliott wish-list, but starting to slip after I heard the running costs), a Bentley Turbo R that Liam bought new and a fabulous Rolls Corniche. This immaculate example of the latter, with sod all miles on the clock, had been ordered new by a middle eastern gentleman with the rear seats raised - possibly so he could see the road, more likely so that people would know who was boss - and a special gun drawer for his bodyguard's weapon.
Ignoring the daily hack Range Rover on the driveway, vital tool though it is for getting up and down Cardiff's Elan-testing driveway that looks like it has been victim to a pretty comprehensive bombing raid, there were three more cars to be admired. The first was his newly bought Series 2 Landie. He was pleased as punch with his sub £2500 hand-painted purchase. Surrounded by all this hardcore, high-worth metalware reminded me of one of the things I like most about our hobby, that several cars within it simply transcend wealth. The Landie is a prime example of something any enthusiast can buy and all real classic car fans adore, whether it is their hard-working commuting car (like Art Ed Martin Port's) or whether it lines alongside serious, seriously expensive exotica.
Another car that fits this ubiquitous billing is the Mini, and in particular the Mini Cooper. Cardiff has one of those as well, of course, but the circumstances of his 1964 Morris 970's storage got me thinking about something else, too. Cardiff's Cooper, you see, is in the house, unobtrusively tucked away in a downstairs living room like a cherished pet. This made me think about some of the other people I have known who have brought their obsession for classics into the home in this most extreme fashion. John Madjeski, Berkshire's answer to old Pineapple Head, had an XJ220 in his house, but if I think back, I am pretty sure that was stored behind glass, which, when you see Cardiff's exposed Cooper, now seems like wimping out. Another specimen that sprung to mind was C&SC's advertising special projects guru John Deverell, who has had Ferraris and E-types keeping him company while he watches Celebrity Family Fortunes. There must be loads morel, so let's name and shame them, please get in touch, preferably with pictures, if you know of a case.
"Hang on, didn't Elliott say there were three more cars on site?" Indeed I did, but if I told you anything about the last one, Cardiff would run me out of town, or set his vicious attack dogs Judy and Elmo on to me. Think back a few paragraphs to the brands I said he owned and what someone might do with those two great names at their disposal. And Cardiff has. It has cost a fortune, is sexy as Kirsten Dunst doing a lingerie advert and lies behind these green doors. I honestly can't tell, or show you more, but I am assured that everything should play out over the next 6 to 12 months. I can assure you it is very exciting stuff for Brit marque fans, but must apologise that for now it must remain tantalising stuff.