Project 366 / 103 — Classic cars, restoration and the elite

During the course of my business life I’ve met lots of very interesting people and gotten involved with a lot of various projects. Some of these have been regular products and commodities, others not so.

A few years ago I met a guy who was wanting to import a 1940’s Harley Davidson XA-750. Now for those of you not in the know this was a US military field motorbike and they’re pretty rare. He’d found what was reported to be the last remaining complete bike (many had been chopped up for parts). He’d been struggling to find someone to bring it back to the UK for restoration and had been recommended to me.

The bike was in the middle of a barn, in the middle of a field, in the middle of middle America. But I pulled my resources and got it collected, crated and shipped to the UK. The unveiling when it arrived in our warehouse was pretty exciting, after all we’d been used to moving boring brown cardboard cartons for years.

A few years later that same client came back to me asking to import a 1940’s army staff car. We repeated the exercise, again to much success and this became a bit of a habit for the next 2–3 years. In the end we’d imported about 40 cars from the second world war for the same crazy client.

Now I got on very well with this client and in time we discussed going into business together restoring old cars and motorbikes. The experience his team had garnered was invaluable but the margins on old military vehicles was too thin and therefore the risk too high. I agreed to team up if we concentrated on classic cars instead and our company RiE-Store was born.

We found a 1941 Buick Woodie in a very poor state, bought it and imported it. That was at the end of 2013 and we began working on the restoration of the car in the February of 2014, estimating that we’d have the car complete within 12–18 months.

It’s now been 26 months and we’re about 3 weeks off from completion. It’s one of only about 18 left in the world and it looks a million dollars (I just hope it fetches that when we come to sell it!). No-one knows when one of these last came on to the market (there’s others from different earlier years but no 1941 that we can find) so it’s going to be a nail-biting time over the next few months as we start spreading the word.

So I met up with my business partner to start discussing who to advertise the car to. We’re trying to get a private sale, after all the auctioneers will take a very hefty slice of the action. His response? Well amongst others was “The Sultan of Brunei, King Salman (current Saudi King) and Roman Abramovich”.

Wait, let me just check my rolodex…

The challenge has been laid down — anyone got a number for Jay Leno?

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