This Garage You’ve Never Heard of Works on the Rarest Cars
Photography by Amy Shore for Petrolicious
What does a man who has spent the majority of the past fifty years in a garage, working on some of the world’s most beautiful and rare cars, look like? Well, he appears to not be much taller than 5’6”, wears tired jeans, and drinks tea from a floral cup and saucer.
Apart from the dark stains at the ends of his fingernails from a morning working with grease and oil, you would never guess that Mr. Bob Wilson is one of the UK’s top restorers of historic sports and racing cars.
Bob’s lack of airs mirrors his unassuming garage: RM Wilson Engineering, which is similar to that of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley—you wouldn’t know how to find it or the magic behind its walls unless someone revealed it to you. In a sleepy Leicestershire village, this goldmine of tales and automotive history is hidden away from the world.
The first car Bob worked on under his own company name was Tom Wheatcroft’s 1962 Cooper T60 V8 Formula One car. After which motors such as a Ferrari 166 Grand Prix car, a Mercedes 154 GP car and the only two Uhlenhaut Mercedes 300 SLR Gullwings to have ever been made continued to roll into Bob’s garage. Currently sitting in his workshop is a near-perfect Ferrari 330 P4 replica for which he and his son, Sam, fabricated every single component.
In 1973 when Bob first opened his business, total rebuilds of cars were fairly unheard of—he was diving into the unknown. However, it was his complete love of cars from an early age, which buoyed his confidence. Bob’s father owned a haulage company to which Bob was born on the premises. He grew up “breathing more diesel fumes than fresh air! We used to mend everything in those days,” he says as he sips from his floral teacup, “from holes in wellington boots to the wheel on Granny’s pushchair!” His father then went on to own his own motor business and the flame for cars grew.
When asked what he enjoyed least about his job he replied simply and with a grim look on his face, “Invoices.” I, personally, couldn’t agree more. “I just can’t stand paperwork. I absolutely love the fabricating side of the job; I find it ever so satisfying and creative. Oh, and welding.”
Like all jobs, we have good days and bad days at work. Things sometimes go to plan and sometimes they don’t—we all make mistakes in our work. “Anyone that’s never made a mistake has never done anything. If you’re going the wrong way about something, do a U-turn and carry on!” he says. “We’ve got some old photographs of when we’ve finally finished a job to the deadline and the clock in the background reads 3:04 but it’s pitch black outside – that’s because it was AM, not PM.”
Apparently those nights were not as few and far between as he would have liked. “There was another time where Sam was hammering something when then head of the hammer flew off and fell down the ramp to the downstairs garage. We heard a good thud and thought nothing of it until we found a huge hole in the Testarossa later that afternoon.”
Today, Bob and Sam continue working away in that same garage on various jobs. When Sam, at the age of 16, first asked his dad if he could work for him, Bob said “no” and encouraged Sam to go to college first and complete an apprenticeship at Cosworth Engineering before allowing him to join the family business. Bob commented on how valuable Sam’s knowledge of engines has come to improve their business and work. And Sam wouldn’t be caught doing anything else—unless you count his racing career, winning multiple races at venues such as Goodwood and Silverstone.
I have absolutely no doubt that RM Wilson Engineering will continue to attract many more unique and extraordinary vehicles to their workshop, which, when complete, will be marveled at by thousands around the world who will know little about the story of how the beautiful machine before them was returned so superbly to its former glory. Bob and Sam are artists and some may lament that only a handful of people have had the opportunity to observe the time and effort they devote to their craft before revealing their final masterpiece. But does an artist ever truly want to reveal all of their tricks?