I’m so sorry, I should have done this way before now.
Disregarding the fact I took these pictures in late summer 2018 when I went to see Retropower, what I mean is, I should have done this years ago.
Cal, Nat and the team surrounding this relatively small restomod company based in the middle of England have been on my fuel-filled radar for a long time. But shamefully, I’d never made the one-hour drive to their premises before now. Or then…
Anyway, what I found was exactly what I’d hoped for.
Situated in a discreet industrial estate with no real hint of what lies within, Retropower is the manifestation of the dream garage I have in my head. And because I am an entirely average, normal car loving person, I suspect there’s going to be something here you can relate to as well. The good thing is that brothers Cal and Nat Seviour are like us, but they have the requisite skills to make good things happen with anything featuring an engine.
As an indicator of what they do, this Alfa Romeo is a great start point. Jordan featured it last year and it’s so well observed; the finish, fit and detail are exactly what I would aspire to as a car builder.
Owner David West also has this Audi that I spotlighted, which for me is another indicator of what Retropower are all about. There is no real marque allegiance or selection, and the people that ‘get’ that too have thankfully found their way here.
When the business first came together, Cal and Nat were known for their work on General Motors product, mainly Vauxhall and Opel. But those earlier builds just served as a platform to launch in to a whole world of base models that needed the Retropower treatment.
Restoration and modification work is primarily centred around models from the 1960s through to the 1990s, and anything goes – provided it’s tastefully curated by Retropower.
In case you didn’t know, this is an NSU Ro80, powered by a rotary engine. They rust, they’re rare, and parts are very hard to come by. I haven’t seen one outside of a classic car show in years, and naturally I want one…
But then again, if I had it, I’d only take it partially apart, leave bits lying around and then not finish it properly. Which is why I can vicariously live my best car life by walking around Retropower.
And that’s what a good car shop should be for me. It should part inspire, part leave you envious, but also fill you with a sense of wonder at what you find.
I’m not going to get in depth with every project the team have going on, as hand on heart there’s not one build here that we couldn’t shoot as a feature car. So hopefully Jordan will make it back at some stage, because my track record is shocking.
That’s not to say I won’t talk about what I’m showing you of course, like this Nissan Sunny ZX Coupe. Its styling bridges the late ’80s to early ’90s, when Nissan were transitioning from the boxy R31 to sleeker R32 body shape on the larger coupe that we’re more familiar with. But with added metal box arches from Retropower, how similar does this front-wheel drive coupe look now?
I really admire the dedication of an owner to a model that others would turn their backs on. Work like this isn’t cheap, and for the all-in investment that this Sunny will end up with, you could choose a lot more obvious models. Not that I’d recommend that, of course.
Another thing that becomes obvious very quickly is that Retropower is a one-stop shop, which massively helps when you’re undertaking a full bare-shell build – especially one with modifications. Quite often a project will stall or fail when moving between shops; a strip-down might take place at a body shop, with an engine build somewhere else, and a trimmer creating pieces for an interior space they’ll never get to see.
Not here – it starts on a drawing board with a concept artist, and everything is worked through in detail before the strip-down begins. That’s what happens when you do this day in day out; taking this time now saves so much later on.
And then just as importantly, no matter what you throw at the guys, they’re set up to handle it. This Alfa Romeo came in as a decent, solid running car – until it was stripped and the true horror of previous repairs came to light.
Just take a look at that lump of filler that was intentionally left during the stripping process.
There are three main work areas at Retropower, this one being where the metal work takes place. The body shop for paintwork is out of sight on the left-hand side of this image.
This is where I saw the Mk1 Escort project coming to life, which you’ll recognise from the concept drawings I showed earlier on. As if it couldn’t get any cooler, clearly it’s going to as this is being built for Gordon Murray.
Don’t know who he is? Well, you’ll know some of his work for sure. Mr. Murray headed up the design of the McLaren F1 along with numerous actual F1 cars, and since then has continued to pioneer vehicle design in so many ways.
Put it this way: To have him choose Retropower as the place for his Escort build is a massive accolade for the team, and his trust is well placed. Click here for the build series on YouTube, showing the Escort coming together. It also really brings the whole place to life like my pictures can’t.
As you can probably tell, I’m a fan of Retropower. In a world of over-hype and under-delivery they are quietly turning dreams into reality, making the automotive world a better place one amazing build at a time.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating that either. I’ve been around the world and visited a lot of workshops, and out of the 10 or so I’ve seen that produce work to this standard and variety they’re all still unique in their approach. Some are clinical, others like Retropower feel more refreshingly approachable.
Well-ordered chaos, with a team of highly skilled professionals weaving their way through hours and days, piles of parts and a constant stream of new challenges.
I should probably start planning a trip back now, because it will have all changed.
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