Pete Waterman may be famed for his collection of steam trains and Number 1 hits, but within his garage is an ongoing fight for affection – Ferrari vs Jaguar
‘Right at the very beginning, I decided what it was I was going to collect. I didn’t want to collect just anything. I wanted something special. There’s trains, and then there’s Jaguars and Ferraris.’
AutoClassics caught up with Pete Waterman in London before his ‘Ghost E-type’ went under the hammer with H&H Auctions. Known to the world as the man who brought us Kylie Minogue, Bananarama, Rik Astley and Steps, not to mention headlining cult 1980s TV show The Hit Man and Her alongside Michaela Strachan, Waterman has the same passion for classic cars as he does producing music. His garage has included rare and desirable one-offs, from Williams F1 racers to Maserati concept cars.
Growing up in Coventry and surrounded by William Lyons' finest creations, not to mention the Browns Lane factory workforce, Waterman was influenced by Coventry's finest from a young age, watching the slick saloons and sports cars leaving the factory gates. But it’s not just the big cats that Waterman cares for, there is also the prancing horse, too.
'People remember me for my Ferraris, but I'm a huge Jag man.'
What attracted you to collecting Jaguars and Ferraris?
At that time there were a lot of good guys around. It wasn’t all about the value, it was about the spirit and the collection. A part of the fun was finding where cars were, supporting one another and helping them find the pieces they hadn’t got. You had people that you could always do a deal with and drive away with something special. But then people cottoned onto just how rare some of these cars were, and the Ferrari side became crazy to me. The asking prices went beyond £20 million. Would I pay that much? No. Sometimes it’s a case of "I don’t like that car!" It doesn’t matter how rare it is! If I’m not interested, I’m not interested.'
Which Jaguars caught your attention?
The D-type was and is my favourite car of all time, the long nose rather than the short nose, so as soon as I could buy one I did so. I had a lightweight E-type – that was fun. But without a doubt the D-type was the most pleasurable, although the XK140 was the best driver’s car Jaguar ever made.
I had three XK150s. They were beautiful, but as much as that was a lovely car, it never caught my love as much as the XK140 did. The XK120 was a bit rough – a bit early – the XK150 was a bit too refined. The XK140 was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.
I’ve had nearly all of them. Never liked the XJ-S, and I missed out on the XKSS. I would have liked one, but I never found one that I fancied at the price. I never owned a C-type, the only one that I felt had become too expensive by the time I started collecting. Maybe one day, but until I get sick of my D-types I feel no need.
I’ll never get sick of my D-types.
Did the decline in quality affect your purchases from Jaguar?
I used XJs as chauffeur cars for the best part of 15 years. I drove a Daimler right up until I bought my first BMW, and that was a real bite to do that by the way, I’ve had Jaguar saloons for my recording company from 1978 onwards. So to buy my first BMW was a big deal.
By that time the XJs and the Sovereigns had gone downhill so badly. They couldn’t stand the punishment we gave them – we were doing 120,000 miles a year and they just couldn’t take it. The BMWs and the Mercedes would last far longer when it mattered – that was before Ford stepped in.
I was sitting on a plane going to Canada, I had a Jaguar book I was reading. The guy sitting next to me asked ‘Are you a Jaguar fan?’ I said yeah, not really wanting to get into a conversation – I was totally engrossed in my book. He said ‘You won’t like me – I’ve just bought Jaguar for Ford.’ He was absolutely gobsmacked when I told him what I had in my collection.
He was quite right and straightforward in what he thought. I had to agree with him – he told me how bad the marque was, we did lose our way in Coventry with the cars. By the time the Jaguars were three years old the bottom of the doors had already gone.
I think that when Ford took over, although people complained, it was good for the marque. We had a car manufacturer who understood quality. Too many cars were Friday cars, that was the problem with Triumph, Standard, MG – we had slap dash methods. I mean if you bought a Triumph bloody Stag you may as well forget it. The AA wouldn’t even cover you back in those days. They handled better with a cement bag in the boot. Worst car Britain ever made.
Is there anything else in your garage that bids for your attention?
I’ve got a Land Rover 101 Forward Control. I bought it 20 years ago for my railway business and I love it. It’s brilliant for carrying around bits of steam engine and travelling down the track – you can get to anywhere. I’ve recently restored it back to British Army colours.
I’ve had Land Rovers for 40 years. Amazing things, but I bought a very early 1961 Series II last year. I did it up and drove it twice and thought – get rid of this! It was nice and we did a good job, but we sold it on. It wasn’t for me. I kept my 101 though, I’ve had a lot of fun in it but it’s a pig to drive. It’s got a V8 Chevy under the bonnet – makes a lovely noise. You can hear it all over Cheshire when we start it up. It’s great in the snow, but you can’t go far in it – it’s noisy, the windows don’t open and you are constantly correcting the steering wheel. You need to know three weeks in advance before you brake.
I do still have an old Alfa. One of only 60 RHD 3000s 3-litre. It’s in need of some serious work, but I bought it for £60 in 1986, in a café around the corner from my office. The guy knew I collected cars, he told me it was rare and it even had MoT on it – it’s definitely worth more than that now. My staff laugh as I keep saying ‘one day I’m going to do it up.’ They don’t believe me. I drove it for five years, it amazing. It went like stink. Then it rotted and I took it off the road.
Mind you, they laughed at my ‘Ghost E-type’ a few years back. Who’s laughing now? I was tempted to do the Alfa rather than the E-type up. Because I knew I would probably never use the E-type every day, but the Alfa I would happily use for commuting.
Are Ferraris still true to your heart?
I’ve owned some of the world’s greatest cars, and I’m privileged to have done that. My absolute favourite car I ever drove, and I mean – it was an unbelievable car – was the Ferrari Daytona. To this day I can’t believe I could do what I did with it. And I still think it’s so beautiful. It’s the one I truly loved. It was everything I could have wanted.
In terms of Ferrari, probably the most exotic car was my Testa Rossa. I had a '57 pontoon body Testa Rossa, no matter where you went in it, people stopped. It was breath taking.
I did the Mille Miglia in it, and it’s one of those things where you look back and there’s two incidents that you just can’t stop thinking about. For one, we were coming down the street on one of the stages towards a monastery and all the monks came out, in front of me as I raced in front of Sir Stirling Moss, and they were all waiting for us – with nuns shouting at us in Italian. Secondly, one of the stages – that I won – we were in the mountains and it was pouring it down. There was a girl in a fur coat who stripped off, completely naked and sat on the front of the car with pictures being taken. Only in a Ferrari could that happen to you! It’s pouring down, in the middle of nowhere and there is a naked girl on the bonnet. That never happened with the Jags.
At the other end of the scale – which car tested your patience the most?
My personal Jaguars have never let me down. The one thing about a Jaguar is you can leave it for years, attach a new battery, put in some new fuel and listen to it start up first time. You can’t do that with a Ferrari! The Jags would never overheat – that is how good the Jaguars were. They may have had their downside with some of the engineering, but they never had reliability problems. The XK engines are great, even I can work on them.
If you were in a rush, you know as I was on the air at 9 o’clock, so if I had to be in Liverpool first I had to be there for about half past eight. With the Jags I could leave at quarter to eight. Get in, start the car, I knew it would start straight away. I knew there would never be a problem. The Jags never, never let me down.
The Ferraris used to frustrate me. I had a 250 and you had to put extra fans on it to keep it cool, you could never drive them in traffic. Anytime you got near the North Circular in London, both fans had to be on full and even then it struggled. It was a bloody nightmare.
So – Ferrari or Jaguar?
The great thing about the Jaguars is they feel amazing at 75mph. You’ve got to do 140mph to feel that great in a Ferrari. So, if the police catch you, you’ve lost your bloody licence! The same exhilaration comes at half the speed with a Jag as it does with a Ferrari. The only difference was the XK140 was £600, and the Daytona was £600,000. As value for money, nothing touches the Jags. But as a driving experience, nothing gets close to the Ferraris.
As a stylish driver’s car to use everyday that feels special, it would be my Jaguars all day long. For an epic drive in something that leaves you pumping adrenaline, it’s got to be the Ferraris. But I couldn’t pick between them – that’s why I’ve got so many of both…
For more on the sale of Pete Waterman's Ghost E-type, click here.