1967 Porsche 911 Targa soft-window by Manor Park Classics
Offering a fresh, no-nonsense approach to real-world auctions, Manor Park Classics is fast establishing itself as one of the UK’s leading classic car sales and enthusiast hubs, with special focus on air-cooled Porsches and first-time buyers… Words Emma Woodcock and Dan Furr. Photography Chris Wallbank and Phil Burge.
New auction house, Manor Park Classics
ACCESSIBLE CLASSICS HELPING HAND
Whether you’re interested in the beautiful blue 1967 911 soft-window Targa in our photos, a big ol’ Bentley or a humble Fiat 500, the Manor Park Classics team wants to share enthusiasm and answer your every question. The newly launched auction house in Runcorn held its first sale in April, offering up a beautiful 1973 2.4-litre E Targa in the process, and by the time you read this article, Manor Park Classics will have completed its second highly anticipated auction. Star lots include a 1971 911 E 2.2 coupe and an older 911 E recently subject to a Carrera RS 2.7 makeover. Exciting stuff, with more classic Porsches to follow in the third Manor Park Classics auction, scheduled to take place in November. It won’t be any ordinary day at the market — the company is putting transparency, public access and its love for classics centre stage. In short, if you’re looking to join the ranks of air-cooled Porsche ownership, you can sleep easy knowing this is a real-world auction service curated by time-served enthusiasts with the needs and concerns of new-to-market classic car fans in mind.
It’s an idea driven by a deep appreciation for the customer experience when trading historically significant vehicles. Sales Director, Sam Grange-Bailey, grew up at her family’s car dealership, Southern Cars, and returned in 2004, operating the business to this day. Roger Nowell, Manor Park Classics Managing Director, has been selling specialist cars since 2017 and enjoyed a period with auction house, H&H Classics. The pair started dialogue with classic car collector, Stephen Ashworth, about their collective auction experiences. “We saw gaps in the market where processes could be significantly improved,” says Sam. “Stephen suggested creating a one-stop shop that could become a classic car destination in its own right.” In 2020, the trio’s planning blossomed into Manor Park Classics.
The company premises is a cornerstone of their new approach. Covering 30,000ft2 and owned by Stephen’s Hurstwood Holdings property firm, the twin auction halls offer a fixed location contrasting sharply with traditional event sales. “The usual auction format is almost a travelling show,” Sam reasons. “Cars are delivered and put into place two days before the event, there’s a single day to view them statically, and then there’s the sale. We consider this quite stressful for buyers, who, it must be noted, generally can’t see the cars outside business hours.”
Manor Park Classics counters with an unhurried approach putting flexibility first. The company offers five consecutive viewing days (including weekends) before its auctions and plans to provide evening sessions in the not-too-distant future. Potential purchasers will be welcome until eight o’clock at night, though even then, there’s capacity to stay longer if needed. “We want to make Manor Park Classics and the cars we’re offering completely accessible, thereby removing the anxiety often associated with classic car auctions, brought about as a consequence of hurried, limited viewing time,” says Sam. “After all, it’s not unusual for a prospective purchaser to want to spend more time looking at the vehicle catching their eye, as well as to dig into its history file.” There’s no rush after the auction, either — while most auction houses require winning bidders to collect their cars within hours of the hammer dropping, Manor Park Classics offers three days of complimentary post-event storage.
Sam and Roger want attendees to build confidence in their car of choice, something they feel static sales simply don’t provide. To this end, Manor Park Classics headquarters boasts a dedicated test area allowing enthusiasts to see offered cars on the move. Interested parties are even invited to engage in a test drive. And, as coronavirus restrictions lift, the team plans to offer accompanied test drives on the open road. “We want to be completely open about our cars. The idea is for there to be far less risk than buying privately,” says Sam. “For example, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with selling a car in need of attention. After all, they’re often the most interesting vehicles with fascinating stories to tell, but we’re completely transparent about the condition of every car passing through Manor Park Classics, so much so that a four-post lift has been installed on-site, allowing enthusiasts to thoroughly inspect their potential purchase.”
Drawing on their own industry experiences, Sam and Roger have devised a system that works as smoothly for sellers as it does for buyers. “As a second-generation car dealer, I really want to support the trade,” Sam explains. “Manor Park Classics’ fixed premises means cars can arrive whenever the seller needs them to, plus in addition to free storage, we’re offering free national collection for our first sale.” Entry fees and seller’s commission have also been waived for the firm’s inaugural auction. A competitive five percent seller’s fee and reduced trade commission will be introduced for following events.
ALL THE DETAILS
Images, video and social media content also ensure every lot can tell its full story — explore the Manor Park Classics website and you’ll see each car is photographed in exacting detail, including a 360° view of the cabin, complete with interactive details. The team film the cars running and make sure to catch their history files too, all in a concerted effort to bring each machine to life on the small screen — extremely useful for bidders unable to visit Runcorn in person. Car SOS presenter, Fuzz Townshend, is also producing enthusiast-oriented videos and reviews of the star lots. “Fuzz is a hugely experienced engineer and an all-round nice guy,” says Roger. “He’s an inclusive car fan with a penchant for all kinds of makes and models. He came onboard with Manor Park Classics as soon as he heard about what we’re trying to do.”
Stephen has always wanted to build a unique hub for classics enthusiasts in the northwest of England, which is why Manor Park Classics plans to expand into in-person meets and events later this year. Monthly ‘cars and coffee’ get-togethers are planned, though the team welcomes opportunities for owners’ clubs to use the Runcorn site (located six miles from the centre of the UK, within 100 miles of Wales, the Midlands and most northern counties) for their own gatherings. Meanwhile, away from base, Sam and Roger are aiming to organise social drive-outs through the surrounding Cheshire countryside. In a thoughtful touch, they’ll be bringing a flatbed and mechanics along for the ride to make sure owners feel well supported.
“We’re not just about buying and selling,” Sam continues. “Of course, when trading classic cars, it’s easy for dealers and auction houses to focus on just this aspect of the business, but Manor Park Classics is keen to showcase the oft-ignored bit in the middle, creating a warm and welcoming automotive environment, not to mention activities for people who own and use their cars.” Vast personal experience helps the three founders advise curious car fans — Stephen’s collection ranges from a Morris Traveller to an Aston Martin DB6, Sam grew up around American muscle cars and Roger has been carried by pre-war Rolls-Royce since childhood. “Stop by for a cuppa and we’ll help you wherever we can. The three of us have experienced all the pitfalls of classic car ownership. We’re here to answer any queries enthusiasts might have.”
The team is especially keen to point first-time and would-be classic car owners in the right direction when navigating the sales market. “We know it can be a confusing arena, especially when you’re new to our community,” says Sam. “For example, it might seem obvious to those of us in the know, but you’d be surprised at how many people would think nothing of taking either of these 911s to a generic car maintenance workshop lacking the skills to adequately care for the cars. People can contact Manor Park Classics and we can genuinely and honestly recommend businesses we’ve used ourselves, or those we’re confident offer first class services fit for each enthusiast’s chosen chariot.”
Car storage is another fundamental part of the business. To this end, a purpose-prepared facility is devoted to keeping cars under wraps in the safest possible conditions. Priced and pitched for every model, from classic Minis to multi-million-pound Ferraris, this storage section is dry, gated and fitted with round-the- clock closed circuit security cameras for peace of mind. Using their industry links, the team can organize specialist services, such as vehicle preparation or recommissioning for dormant classics, too. Don’t go thinking the service is for private owners or preauction convenience only: Vauxhall (Britain’s oldest car manufacturer) recently entrusted part of its famous Heritage Collection to Manor Park Classics.
“The brand’s representatives came to visit and saw we could look after their valuable exhibits, as well as keep them running,” Roger explains. “They wanted to leave these cars in the custody of specialists who really understood classics.” A rotating cast of eight vintage Griffins now takes pride of place at Manor Park Classics, where they’re displayed alongside a range of ex-factory artefacts. Current highlights include a 1904 6HP and the factory retained Lotus Carlton (Type 104 chassis no.820, in case you were wondering!).
SINGER WHEN YOU’RE WINNING
You could see the same wide focus in the catalogue for the April auction, where a pre-war Singer Nine rubbed elbows with a Chevrolet Corvette C1 and a super-rare Citroen BX GTi 4x4. “As long as it’s a genuine classic car, we’re happy to entertain it in our sales,” Sam smiles. “As far as breadth of offering is concerned, Manor Park Classics is about quality more than quantity, which is why we’re purposely setting out to offer a wide range of vehicles.” This comes as no surprise when you look at the founders’ personal car collections: Sam has held on to a low-mileage Chevrolet Corvette C4 Indy Pace Car once owned by her father, while Roger is the custodian of a 1930s Rolls-Royce, a Series 1 Land Rover and a split-screen Morris Minor. Most important of all, however, both recognise the value of a good Porsche. “The 911 is such a complete machine and I’ve yet to find anything to better it in terms of optimised performance balanced with everyday usability,” Roger muses. He has fond memories of his previous 964 Carrera 2 and 911 SC Sport. Sam sets her sights further back and admires the classic 356 Speedster. “How can you not love that shape?! I currently drive a factory-built Chesil Speedster. It’s a beautiful car to look at and to drive, plus I can leave it in a supermarket parking lot without the responsibility or worry associated with being a custodian of the real thing!”
At its first sale, Manor Park Classics successfully sold the soft-window 911 Targa pictured here. Roger is quick to point out what makes the car so special and why it didn’t take long for bids to come flying in from all four corners of the world. “It’s one of only 718 such Porsches made for 1967,” he reveals. “As a ‘matching numbers’ example, it’s in near purist form and has been in the same ownership since 1999, with a comprehensive body restoration carried out between 2016 and 2018, work totalling £21,540. We offered the car complete with its original order form and delivery note, a complete service history from new, all original handbooks and a Porsche Certificate of Authenticity.” The sale price was a cool £94,500, but while both Roger and Sam recognise the need to cater for Porsche collectors, they know only too well they need to cater for enthusiasts playing with modest budgets. As if to prove the point, with an upper estimate of £6,000, a recently recommissioned 1959 Porsche-Diesel Standard tractor will have gone under the hammer at Manor Park Classics by the time this magazine lands on newsstands.
In partnership with Stephen, the dynamic duo of Roger and Sam are working hard to grow the business through 2021. “We want to make this the North West’s auction house of choice. Enthusiasts are always welcome to come and see us when they’re passing.” Whether you want a new way to buy or just want to chat old-school cool, the Manor Park Classics doors are always open. We’ll see you at the next auction.
Above Something tells us Roger would quite liked to have kept hold of this Targa! Above and below Blue soft-window Targa is one of a handful of exceptional 911s to pass through the Manor Park Classics auction hall.
A PURPOSE-PREPARED FACILITY IS DEVOTED TO KEEPING CARS IN THE SAFEST CONDITIONS
Above Sam and Roger are presenting a new, relaxed approach to the classic car auction scene, putting enthusiasts front and centre.