Friday, 22 October 2021

Classic car enthusiasts open showroom and store

Classic car enthusiasts open showroom and store

A CLASSIC and sports car showroom and storage facility has opened in Watlington.

Autostorico is at the Lys Mill business park, off Howe Road.

Owners William Cullen and Cliff Gray built a new 6,000 sq ft split- level showroom next to a 5,000 sq ft building they use for car storage.

The pair launched the business in 2017 and were based in Taplow but decided to move because they needed more space.

Mr Cullen, who lives in Chinnor, previously worked for Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce and Mr Gray, from Russells Water, was a client.

They became friends through their shared passion for cars and decided to go into business together.

Mr Cullen said: “It was due to the success of the business that we needed more room.

“At our old place we stored and sold cars from one 5,000 sq ft building but now we have the same sized storage facility and a purpose-built showroom, which took five months to build.

“Our storage facility involves managing people’s car collections. We have a couple of clients who have multiple cars with us. We don’t do restoration but we ensure that all our cars are in the best possible condition and we have a partner business in Haileywood Specialist Cars in Shiplake, which we use to maintain all the cars.

“In our part of the industry a lot of what we do is about networking so we are also a destination where enthusiasts can come and have a look round and a chat.

“I have always been in and around the motor trade and I have an in-depth background in classic and vintage sports cars.

“Cliff is involved in racing classic cars and was a client of mine and we became good friends. He works in financial services and so advises me when it comes to regulations and other things while I look after the day-to-day running of the business.

“I am the spoken word and a bit of a dealer and he is the money man so we complement each other.

“On day one we bought some stock and were very fortunate that I had a fairly loyal client base from when I worked for Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce. Clients do tend to follow you around.” The pair launched the company with about five cars but now they have more than 30 in their showroom, including models by Jaguar, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Bentley, Ferrari and Porsche.

Prices ranges from £12,500 to £600,000 and the company sells between 100 and 120 cars a year.    

Mr Cullen said: “The first year was the toughest because starting up a showroom meant a lot of expenses, such as alarms and security, building websites and getting stock. It was quite hard work.

“We probably broke even in the first year and since then it has just been onwards and upwards.”

He said he had “feared the worst” when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year but discovered that when they could open in between lockdowns there was pent-up demand.

Mr Cullen said: “The pandemic was hard for everyone but the five or six months that we could trade last year were probably the best period we have had.

“With the high net-worth clients not being able to travel, they were looking at other ways of spending their money and to a degree the rise in staycations also helped as people could get out and drive.

“We have also seen some of the bigger classic car events returning, which hopefully will continue, and that has generated more interest.”

Mr Cullen said Britain’s exit from the European Union had affected the business more than the pandemic because it had made the import and export of cars more challenging.

He said: “To transfer a car into Europe before Brexit used to be pretty transient but now it is more complicated with the legalities.

“Last week I sold one to a client in Germany and I do sell to mainland Europe. I have also sold to the US and New Zealand in the last 12 months.”

Mr Cullen, who drives a VW Golf and is currently selling his “pride and joy” — a green Austin Healey Sprite MK1 — likes unusual cars.

He said: “I like things that are a bit quirky and not run of the mill. We have quite an eclectic mix to suit all tastes and budgets.

“We have things like an Aston Martin DB4 Series 1 and a Jaguar SS 100 right the way down to a
Citröen 2CV Dolly, which is in immaculate condition.”

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