Celebrity interest in the classic car industry increases as Richard Hammond and David Beckham enter the fray
We’re used to the historic vehicle sector making celebrities of its leading lights through television or media exposure, but now it seems that process is working both ways as established names like David Beckham and Richard Hammond turn their attention towards classic cars.
Earlier this month, Beckham invested in the classic vehicle electrification company Lunaz. The former Manchester United and England footballer has taken a 10% stake in the company, which was founded in 2018, and joins investors such as the Reuben and Barclay families. The Silverstone firm aims to provide 500 highly skilled jobs by 2024 as part of ambitious new growth plans.
Lunaz has already converted a wide portfolio of classic cars since it started production in 2019, including electrified versions of the original Bentley Continental, the classic Range Rover and Rolls-Royce Phantom V. And while converting classics to electric remains both a divisive and complex issue, Lunaz sees it as the way forward to make them sustainable for the future in light of tightening emission regulations.
As well producing classics, the firm’s expansion will include the electrification of existing commercial vehicles on a mass global scale as a sustainable alternative to replacing with new. This will start with industrial HGVs such as refuse trucks and fire engines.
The firm also announced plans for an expanded Lunaz Group with three individual divisions. Lunaz Design will focus on classic car revival, Lunaz Applied Technologies will upcycle fleet vehicles, and Lunaz Powertrain will provide the manufacturer’s proprietary modular powertrain as a turn-key, white-label product for OEMs.
“Lunaz represents the very best of British ingenuity in both technology and design,” said Beckham. “I was drawn to the company through their work restoring some of the most beautiful classic cars through upcycling and electrification. David Lorenz and his team of world-class engineers are building something very special and I look forward to being part of their growth.”
Meanwhile, The Grand Tour and former Top Gear presenter, Richard Hammond, is also making an entrance into the classic car sector by launching a new classic car restoration business.
For his new venture, Hammond has teamed up with restoration experts Neil and Anthony Greenhouse – the father and son team responsible for the restoration of a number of Hammond’s own collection of classics. Based close to Hammond’s home in Herefordshire, the new business is called The Smallest Cog – apparently a reference to the intricate attention to detail required in the process of restoration rather than Hammond’s own diminutive stature.
“It’s in my bones,” Hammond explained. “My grandfather was a coachbuilder; he worked at Mulliners in Birmingham and thereafter at Jensen in West Bromwich. I’ve always wanted to prove to him that there’s more to me than driving around the world, talking about other people’s supercars, crashing them and then pretending to weld them up in a desert.
“It’s also about a passion of mine to preserve crafts – my grandfather could work with wood, metal and just about anything. I wanted to do something real in the car industry rather than just being a commentator on the outside of it. This business is the perfect opportunity for me to do that.”
The business will make its public bow at the London Classic Car Show at Syon Park on June 25-27. It will be exhibiting three cars to show the before, during and after stages of restoration. These include a tatty Ford Escort RS2000 project car that Hammond has just purchased at auction, a British sports car that is mid-renovation, and Richard’s own Jaguar XK150 that the team has already restored.
Beckham and Hammond’s respective ventures follow examples such as the Association of Heritage Engineers’ Sustainable Skills Network, which includes Salvage Hunters TV star Drew Pritchard, Chris Haynes of the Haynes Museum and BBC Antiques Roadshow specialist Marc Allum as ambassadors in promoting a sustainable future based on maintaining heritage skills. “It’s fantastic when iconic people like David and Richard invest so publicly in our industry, especially given their huge media reach and following,” said AoHE founder, Dominic Taylor-Lane. “This can only be positive.”
Indeed, having such household names involved with classic cars can surely only help to raise awareness and the profile of the sector as it seeks to survive and justify its existence in a fast changing environment. It could be another small but vital step in preserving old car for use on tomorrow’s roads.