This Kent-based business is in new hands, specialising in servicing, restoration and upgrades for E-types – and now expanding into other classic cars, too
As owners of E-type UK, father and son team Dominic and Marcus are living the dream. They’re doing what so many of us have considered over the years; giving up their office jobs to run a classic car company, indulging themselves in their lifelong passions.
Dominic had owned an E-type for years, and had been successful enough in his IT career to have built up some capital. Son Marcus had a job in the City, in digital marketing, and in his spare time tinkered with Land Rover Defenders and raced an MGB in the MG Owners’ Club series. But buying a classic car company? That’s a big step.
‘We both love cars,’ says Dominic, ‘but there’s still an element of “under the arches” at some of the places you go to. We saw what Simon Mottram 21 had done with Rapha [the cycling brand]; he moved the bike world on, with cafés and shops, and we thought “Why can’t we do that?”.’
E-type UK had been established ten years earlier, but as a customer Dominic could see that it wasn’t running efficiently. When it became clear that the owner wanted to sell up, Dominic and Marcus moved in, with the aim of building the business back up, and moving into the highest-quality repairs, upgrades and restorations.
‘It’s something we’re passionate about,’ explains Dominic. ‘We’re not arrogant, we’re not saying we’re going to reinvent the classic car world…’
Marcus completes the sentiment: ‘When you own classic cars, you know they have to be done right – and that’s what we’re doing.’
Masterplan part 1: bodyshop
Before anything else, though, the pair had to make sure the business they’d bought – which had ‘lost focus’, in the words of Dominic and Marcus – was running properly. First step: a bodyshop.
‘When we came, it became very clear, quite quickly, that we needed a bodyshop,’ says Dominic. ‘One car had been out for bodywork for three years, and jobs would always be promised for “next Friday”. Or there’d be “that will be another £10,000”.’
The solution was to take on the building next door, and move the showroom and storage into that. Then a full bodyshop was built, with a state-of-the-art paintbooth and mixing area, a soundproofed metalworking area and a sealed filler room, to ensure that sanding dust is kept away from the rest of the workshop.
A dedicated engine room has just been installed, along with an isolated ‘dirty room’ for stripping down and cleaning old mechanical parts. In the workshop, there’s now a stripdown bay, two restoration bays, servicing bays at the front, and others for longer-term mechanical repairs. Most importantly of all, there’s a new tea room, where the staff can sit during breaks.
Ah yes, the staff… When Dominic and Marcus bought the company, the average age was 65, and only one staff member worked five days a week – the rest were part-time.
Now the average is closer to 40, there are four new staff members (some with previous concours wins behind them) looking after the bodyshop. The company has also just taken on 21-year-old Jack, along with a workshop manager with 15 years of experience in E-type restorations.
There was one last touch to improve the restoration experience for customers. That was to add an ‘interactive’ website to enable individual clients to view the progress of their restoration projects, with pictures uploaded at every stage, as well as the facility for the customers to ask questions online. It’s proved particularly useful for those overseas.
Some of the most recent projects were on show at the time of our visit, including a couple of E-type Series 3s, which have become something of a speciality. The company has developed a range of upgrades for E-types, including the usual brake, suspension, five-speed gearbox and even air-con conversions – but the team have also been playing around with the S3’s V12.
The first step to the engine upgrade is to convert to XJS fuel injection, using an aftermarket ECU to ensure the most appropriate mapping. The conversion ensures cleaner running and eliminates the classic Series 3 hot-starting problems.
But now there’s a further step, with a new downdraught throttle body fuel-injection conversion under development, which will provide a big boost in power. One was going through the workshop when we visited.
Masterplan part 2: DM Historics
So the company is looking healthy, and the next step is to transform the new building into a more luxurious showroom, selling not just E-types but other classics, too. Welcome to E-type UK offshoot, named DM Historics, part two of the Dominic and Marcus masterplan…
‘We’ve got interesting customers and they like different cars, not just E-types. So we’re trying to give people interesting cars that aren’t multi-million pound things. We’ve purchased a few cars – we look for low production numbers, good histories, but not ones that cost an arm and a leg.’
We head over to the showroom, and pull out a few of the best cars from this new DM Historics side of the business. There’s a race-prepared Lotus Elite, a superb Nash Healey – just right for the Mille Miglia – and a well built Autocraft Cobra, among several others.
Masterplan part 3: social hub
When the showroom is completed, it will also include a coffee shop, which brings us to part 3 of the masterplan.
‘We want our customers to feel that they’re part of a broader community. We’ve got the space and we’ve got the setting. You can’t park in town, so we could become the destination, perhaps to set off to Goodwood together, or we’ll plan a nice route for a group to follow.’
The company has already held one open day, and as hoped it attracted a wide range of classics, including an Aston Martin DB5, Bentley S2 Continental and Ferrari Dino. The next step is to hold more such events, and encourage informal weekend gatherings, making E-type UK/DM Historics the place to go for local (or not-so-local) car enthusiasts.
Dominic and Marcus have certainly got the setting, on a picturesque Kent grain farm, close to Tonbridge. If you’re in the area, and in the market for a classic, or searching for a company to look after your E-type, book yourself a visit. And keep an eye on the E-Type UK website for news of events and open days.