Growing up, I had a few cars on my want list. These weren’t the Lamborghini Countach or Porsche 959 like many others at the time with posters from Athena on the wall. My walls had Adam and the Ants. I wasn’t into those supercars. Perhaps not everyone’s choices at that time, but my cars of choice were the Porsche 356 Speedster from Top Gun, the black Jeep from Space Camp and the Lotus 7 from The Prisoner. And when I was in the 5th year at school (Year 11 for those younger readers), a lad in the sixth form had a bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle Baja Bug - which was the first I’d ever seen. This really caught my eye and set my imagination going.
My dad always had good cars during my childhood. He’d always buy them new or just a year old. I recall a bright blue Triumph Stag, a 3.0 Capri, a V8 Rover, a few Lancia’s, a BMW 635CSI and a few Mercs. All was good until the financial crisis in the late eighties (1988 to be exact) and he ended up in a Citroen BX19RD, but at least the suspension was entertaining!
It wasn’t him that first sparked my love for cars. It was my mates John and Mark Evans who were both a few years older than me. John was building a Vauxhall Chevette rally replica and Mark a Mk2 Escort. They’d spent all their time doing modifications then we’d go out on test drives. It was great fun I recall.
I reached 17 years of age in 1989 and my dad gave me £1000 in cash to buy my first car as a birthday present, mainly because he wanted to get me off my motorbike and onto 4 wheels, which he saw as the safer option for his son.
Coincidentally, Mark’s Mk2 Escort was up for sale so I spent that £1000 wisely, just 3 weeks after my birthday the very day I passed my test. He’d just restored a Mk2 Escort RS Mexico. He’d had to restore it as being the sensible young driver he was had put it in a ditch and it got reversed into by an Airsprung Beds lorry! I happened to be in it on both occasions, so knew the car well.
As you can see it had the rally-style bubble arches, 8 x 13 Weller 8 spokes with 205/60/13 rubber and Bilstein suspension along with Cobra bucket seats. Of course, you can’t miss the paintwork or number 69 on the side (not my choice). I learnt a lot about how to drive in the rear-wheel-drive Escort fitted with a 1600 X/flow and close-ratio gearbox. Imagine what it would be worth now.
Like many people back then I left school at 15 the month before my 16th birthday, got a good job straight away and had a decent wage coming in. It was also back when you could insure any car on your parent's policy any driver, so as much as I liked the Escort and what it taught me I wanted something a bit newer, so part exchanged it against a 1984 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 GTI Convertible in white with a black roof. It was 1990, I was still 17 and had a 6-year-old Golf Cabrio. All was good except, the roof didn’t work. I recall driving up the motorway from Taunton to Malvern in the rain trying to judge the speed, so the rain passed over me and I stayed dry. I couldn't afford a new roof, so decided to sell it very soon after buying it.
I wanted a Jeep, like the black one in Space Camp, but couldn’t afford a real one at the time, so bought a JAGO GEEP.
It was a kit car based on a Mk2 Escort. It had a 2.0 Ford Pinto and massive 275/60/15 tyres all around. It looked the part but would wobble everywhere under hard acceleration and I was doing quite a few miles and motorway journeys were driving me insane. It had to go. I convinced myself I needed a sensible car, so I bought one. An Opel Manta GTE in chocolate brown with a beige leather interior (sensible colours). A few weeks later, an Astra GTE of all things pulled out in front of me on a fast A road where I was doing the speed limit (honest). It was a big crash and the Manta was totally written off as you can see.
So I’m 18 by now and the next thing I buy is a Porsche from of all people John Evans who had also moved on from the Chevette. It was an X reg Porsche 924 in burgundy red metallic with a brown interior and I remember getting a £2800 insurance payout from the Manta and buying the Porsche for £2500. John had modified it by fitting a 944 body kit with the wider arches, MIM wheels and a Janspeed exhaust. It even had 944 badges and really looked like a 944. You can just imagine how much the local police liked an 18-year-old in a Porsche.
At 18 years of age, I bought my first ever car magazine that wasn’t Auto Trader. It was VolksWorld magazine and it had a bright yellow Baja Bug on the front cover of the March 1991 issue that drew me to it. I read every word on every page. I was hooked. I needed a Beetle in my life. Not just any Beetle though, I needed a Wizard Roadster, which was a modified Beetle with the roof chopped off, a shortened screen and flared wings. A few months later I went to my first ever car show being the Run To The Sun weekend in Newquay. I took the Porsche, but felt out of place and uncool with all these brightly coloured custom beetles all around me.
Once back, I set about trying to sell the Porsche, but another itch came along. I saw a custom Jeep CJ7 that reminded me of the Jeep in Space Camp. This one was mint. It was black like the one in Space Camp as well. It had a lift kit, BF Goodrich tyres, polished alloys and the 4.2 straight-six had been swapped for a modified Rover V8 running straight through exhausts. I loved it, but it had a few drawbacks as well. It was thirsty as hell and would set car alarms off in every narrow street I drove through. I sold it though for a good profit and bought my first Beetle. A Cadbury purple Wizard Roadster that I proudly took back to RTTS in May 1992 when I was 19. It was cold though with no heaters, so that quickly made way for a more civilised lilac 1302S cal look that I actually kept for a few years.
That was it. I was into Beetles and the air-cooled scene. At first, I bought cars built by others but then learned to build my own. Eventually, I built several, show winning cars that were featured in magazines and even had a business building them for customers. Mostly what I built were VW based Baja Bugs, fibreglass dune buggies and sandrails.
In between, I’d dabble with Jeeps though as I still loved them as well including a few more Jago’s and a few Wranglers. In 2006, I managed to fulfil another ambition with a Lotus 7 replica being a cream Westfield powered by a Ford CVH from an XR3I.
It was as much a passion as a business, but it was during this time as documented in our story on this site that it gave me the idea for Rimblades. I decided to give up the air-cooled scene and get serious with life. We’d had children by now who needed stability.