Classic cars run in the family for Jamie Burnett.
The son of Burlen co-founder John Burnett (providing the ‘Bur’ in Burlen), Jamie now runs the company with his two brothers, and has been in and around cars since he was born.
Long before getting a classic of his own, however, he started collecting mid-century antiques.
“I’ve got things from when I was two,” says Jamie. “I’ve always been a collector.”
The collection really started to grow when Jamie bought his first old car, a black Ford V8-Pilot saloon that he still owns, at the age of 25.
Requiring a garage in which to house the Ford, Jamie then found himself with much more space for other things – and that is when the bicycles first began to arrive.
“Our business takes me to places such as the Beaulieu autojumble, and that’s where I saw my Monarch,” says Jamie, sitting on top of the 1950s bike.
“It was one of the first I got, and it’s my favourite,” he continues. “It’s a lovely thing, with all original paintwork.
“I thought it was amazing when I saw it, and it fired my interest in American bikes.”
Jamie has also started building his own, first a black, lowrider-style bike now mounted on the wall of his garage, while his current project is a retro board-track racer, to which he plans to fit a 1950s Atco lawnmower engine.
Most of the items in Jamie’s now enlarged garage, whether tools, furniture or cars, hail from the 1930s to the ’50s, and most have an American flavour.
“They are just the ones I like the look of,” he says.
“I think that era created the best cars and bikes – and many other things.”
He’s since added a Ford V8-Pilot Woodie, Ford Prefect 100E, Ford Model A hot rod, Morris JD van and Chevrolet pick-up hot rod, and there’s a 1941 Plymouth Coupe and 1948 Dodge Coupe in another building.
“I don’t like the cliché ‘they don’t make them like they used to’, but it is true that the design of these things often had a degree of extra flair, making everyday objects special in a way we don’t do today,” Jamie observes.
“I’ve just bought a wooden medical cupboard. It has this fantastic metal hinge, which locks as you open it, and then you lift it a bit further and it releases.
“It’s a lovely little mechanism that makes me smile every time I use it. I’ve got it at work at the moment.
“I want to try and use a similar hinge in a J40 pedal car, for the boot.”
Jamie’s interest in pedal cars and tricycles is also on display in his personal collection, and it’s an obsession that was partially responsible for Burlen’s latest venture, Austin Pedal Cars.
“I’ve been interested in pedal cars for a long time,” he explains.
“They’re great things, and it’s that interest that led us to the Austins – although I had never actually owned a J40 before Austin Pedal Cars.
“That was always the ultimate pedal car. When we heard that the spares business was for sale, we jumped at it.”
“I’ve only recently had children – just a matter of months ago – but I’ve got lots of nephews and nieces, and they always like to come and play with them,” he explains. “I just love them as objects.
“Likewise, my 1950s Gresham Flyer tricycle is a little feat of engineering.
“It has an opening compartment at the back, it’s very neat, a boot basically.
“The styling is just brilliant, and the kids love it. You can get it on to its back wheels.
“It’s not that I don’t like the new ways of making things – that’s what my business is about and I have a 3D printer in my barn.
“But I would love to have been there and seen these things develop as they did in period.”
Images: James Mann
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