Devon Life visits Colin Groom Vehicle Restorers
PUBLISHED: 15:24 13 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:26 20 February 2013
Ipplepen-based classic car restorer Colin Groom talks to Julian Rees about racing Healeys, arthritis and WD40 - and why you can't fall in love with a modern car
Built to Last...
Ipplepen-based classic car restorer Colin Groom talks to Julian Rees about racing Healeys, arthritis and WD40 and why you cant fall in love with a modern car
If you grew up in the Midlands in the 1950s then youd know Barford Straight was the place to test your motor much as every Devon boy headed for the Bovey Straights to take their lives into their hands to join that elusive ton-up club. Colin Groom was no exception, and spent many an hour watching Austin Healeys being tested there back in a time when the road was for cars, and health and safety was merely a twinkle in the eye of the states nanny.
With Healey fumes already coursing through his blood, Colin landed an apprenticeship with Austin Healey straight from school and worked his way up quickly to the experimental and racing development section of the company. At that time the Austin Healey 3000 was a regular contender at Le Mans, the Nurburgring and Sebring in the US, and Colin travelled extensively as a race mechanic maintaining the car of another Devon motoring legend Clive Baker.
Like most things great and British, the Healey factory closed its doors for the last time in 1967, and Colin moved to Jaguar in Coventry where he moved away from the workshop to a white-collar role. After five years there, Colin decided that a hands-on role was more for him and left to start his own business restoring, for the first time, the very cars hed cut his teeth on at Austin Healey.
Business built steadily, and in 1976 Colin relocated to Devon to fully focus his attention on providing a full restoration and maintenance service for classic British sport scars specialising in Austin Healy, Jaguar and MG.
Now based in Ipplepen, with 44 years of experience, Colin and his team provide a full restorative service in-house from sheet metal work and fabrication to upholstery and paint, and his services are sought after by owners from as far afield as the US and Hong Kong.
So what makes an enthusiast invest in classics? Colin sees many people, often just retired, looking for an investment but also a shared passion and interest which will occupy a couples time having been thrown back together after a lifetime at work.
These cars take people back to a time where driving was engaging, he says,"where you were in touch with the road, effort had to be put in to get results and you fell in love with the fabric and experience unlike todays cars that cosset and comfort the driver and disengage them from the environment. Put someone who has only driven a modern car in a classic and theyll tell you the brakes dont work, theres too many draughts and there must be a hole in the exhaust. Today we rely on our cars to do everything for us even park themselves!
Thats the reason why the future of car restoration is re-restoration. Nobody will want to restore todays Ford Focus as the circuit boards and plastic panels wont be available... and theres just no soul to revive. Colin is already working on second-time around restorative projects, and every now and then gems appear from far-flung regions where lack of rain preserves, or in one recent instance from a bricked-up chamber in a grain silo in Norfolk that saw the return of an Austin Healey 3000: 54 FAC, nurtured by Colin in his early years, in near-showroom condition.Colins dream drive would be the best Jaguar E-type drop-head he could find, for its smoothness and long, sleek lines, although these days he more than often stays in touch with the road on his Honda Blackbird well at least while the WD40 keeps the arthritis at bay!
For more information visit colingroomclassiccars.co.uk, 01803 813668. Additional research Jack Kelly.