GALLERY: Inside Bell Classics, Where Ferraris Come Back To Life
Photography by Tom Shaxson
Recently we had the pleasure of profiling one of my personal favorites, a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, built by Michelotto that’s currently under the stewardship of our friends at Bell Classics. Whilst there of course our trusty photographer Tom Shaxson couldn’t contain himself and fired off round after round of garage gold. When I interviewed Matt Wilton from Bell about the Ferrari, of course our conversation veered in the direction of where they’ve been, where they’re going, and most importantly what’s in the garage.
Ted Gushue: How did Bell Classics begin?
Matt Wilton: Bell Classics started 20-odd years ago with a Healey classic, we specialized in them up until about 2007-2008, at which point a good chap named Mike Bedford took Bell over. Mike’s a massive car enthusiast he’s got quite a collection of cars, and he’s still involved today, and now we have a rock solid little team that we’re building.
TG: And your background before this was at DK Engineering, yes?
MW: Yes, and I worked for a freight line dealer before that. Many years ago when 355s were new [Laughs].
TG: What’s currently in the Bell Classic’s garage?
MW: It changes quite frequently but right now we’re doing two 330s one GTC, two DB5s, a DB6, and then in the everyday work shop we’ve got my 360 Challenge in there at the moment, I’m getting ready to do some track days over the winter, an XK140 and we’ve got another 330GTC and a few other bits and bobs.
TG: How do you find the high end restoration landscape is in terms of competition, is it very chummy or is it very competitive and kind of cut-throat?
MW: I like to think it’s quite chummy, if I’m honest, there’s quite a lot of work in the UK at the moment so nobody really needs to be too sharky with each other, we can kind of work quite happily alongside one another. We try to work more with our specialists rather than against us. There’s a few out there that don’t like anyone else getting any work, but there’s the rest of that like to share it around.
TG: Long waitlists with some are good for business with others, no?
MW: Yes, that’s the name of the game really, we can’t really compete with each other over price. Meaning there’s a fixed cost to do quality work when you get to a certain level, they run around their kind of price mark where they’re going to be through your restoration.
TG: From your perspective where do you see the Ferrari market going?
MW: I think it was over-inflated with quick prices, prices going up quickly, I think it’s settled a bit now, rather than people just buying cars with a quick investment you’re actually getting back into people that like cars, they’re buying clever now, whereas before you could sell anything with a Ferrari badge on it, now it’s not like that.
TG: What value propositions do you see left in the Ferrari market?
MW: At the moment I think 250s have gone way up there and then you’re looking into things like the 330s and around that kind of market, which you can get quite a good value, you can still get quite a nice car for the money.
TG: Where do you see 348s going? We’re just starting to see those pick up now.
MW: The 348s are starting to move up, they’re quite expensive in the UK at the moment I think. We’ve got a Spyder for sale, I think it’s £75,000 so they’re kinda 355 territory, which in turn means that 355s are starting to push up a little bit more. I like to advise people to buy what they like. It sounds obvious, but if someone comes in saying that they’ve always loved the 348, it’s not our job to steer them to the 355 necessarily, it’s our job to find them and sort them out with the best possible 348 for their budget. You keep track of market trends, but at the end of the day the focus has to be on doing what’s right by the customer, what they really want. The next big thing I think though for 348s is going to be the challenge cars.
MW: Cars like that, that’s a lot of car, but it’s not a lot of money in comparison to a 355 Challenge or a 360 Challenge. 348 challenge cars are a bit of an odd duck because so many, nearly all I think were dealer spec or aftermarket, so they aren’t necessarily kept track of perfectly in the register. Cars like the late 355s were all factory built and 360s were all factory built, so there’s quite big difference there.
TG: How about the Aston market?
MW: The Aston market is a completely different market to a Ferrari market, they buy cars because they love them, a V8 Vantage from 2006 will cost you 35 grand, equivalent Ferrari is twice the price at least. When you start getting into the bigger cars the DB5 and such, they’re just starting to get into the register with all the numbers and things like that so it’s going the way of the Ferrari market but it’s not there yet. With matching numbers and things. Interestingly Aston Martin has started “grading” restoration shops.
TG: Have they?
MW: Their idea is that there’s going to be 3 different grades of restoration that you can get on your car, which basically keeps the factory involved in all aftermarket work.
TG: How does the Heritage department interact with something like an Aston Hill Classics?
MW: To be honest, Aston is a very open company unlike Ferrari for example, because you can buy all the parts from them for just about any car to this day. Where with Ferrari you’ll be hunting around looking for a switch that someone wants to charge you 6 grand for, Aston will have their switch on the shelf and they’ll be hundreds of pounds rather than thousands.
TG: What’s next for Bell Classics?
MW: We do a lot more stuff in-house compared to other specialists, and we want to expand that rapidly. We do all our own engines and Bell’s guys we’ve got all the engine machinery ourselves, we do all our own panel work, we’ve got English wheels and everything else. We’re investing heavily in the art of restoration, and we’re excited for what’s to come.