Interview With A Car Buying Expert Picture this: I’m sitting in the Pilgrim Motorsports headquarters with English springtime blossoming outside, I can smell the fresh paint from the cars being worked on in the factory, and the Paul Bennett (ex design engineer for Lotus, Tyrrell, and McLaren; winner of the Louis Schwitzer Prize in 2000; Pilgrim’s Chief Development Engineer) has just made me a cup of tea. Life is good. I have the pleasure of Adrian Hewetson’s company. CEO Paul Bennett’s business partner and a renowned classic car restorer, Adrian is a car buying expert and Muscle Car UK’s ‘man on the ground’ who has seen and done it all. He usually lives in Phoenix, Arizona, so it’s pretty rare to catch up with him. Luckily, he’s agreed to give me an interview. Despite the entirely spontaneous nature of the thing and no preparation whatsoever, I whip out my microphone and press him with questions. What does a typical week look like doing your job? My job takes me all over the south states of America. I did 85,000 miles last year. Plus about ten in a truck to drag stuff back that I couldn’t otherwise move. It’s hard work. Everybody thinks ‘wow, what a fantastic job’ you know, on the road in America. It’s a visionary thing. It’s like all of these TV programs that portray guys doing what I do as living the best way of life available. But it’s long, hard miles, and looking at ten or twelve cars for every one I buy – if I’m lucky! I went on a three-and-a-half-thousand mile trip down from Phoenix, down to Yuma, down to San Diego, all the way up the coast to San Francisco. Then all the way back down through the central valley back to Phoenix, down to Tucson and back up again. And I didn’t buy a single car. Three-and-a-half thousand miles, over a two-and-a-half week period. And that can get gutty, you know. What do you look for in a Mustang? Condition is everything; the most important thing to me is that the car is original metal [and rust-free]. Originality is to some people very important, but they weren’t particularly well-made in their day. The quality of the paint is nothing like as good as today; the panel-fit gap was very poor. They were really good-looking things, and nobody really worried that they weren’t too well-made, because America is a throw-away society. But these days people look for much higher-quality finishes, which they expect to see on an older Mustang, so for me if I can find a really nicely restored car, with lots of extras on it, I find that they’re the sought-after cars. All cars, no matter how bad they are, are restorable. But the more work that’s involved in the restoration, the higher the cost. And with labour being the highest element of any project [in car buying and restoration], the greater the number of hours that any one man puts into the restoration of the vehicle, the higher the end cost is going to be. Selling Mustangs isn’t really just selling the cars, is it? It’s selling a dream and an aesthetic. Yes, that’s very true. You see, with old cars there are so many different levels at which people enjoy them. There are guys that want to drive the really old, patina’d, rusty-looking, beaten-up, forties-fifties – whatever period they’re into – car, because they like that ‘look’. There are other guys that wouldn’t be seen dead in that, and want a perfectly restored, beautiful, nut-and-bolt, everything-is-perfect type of vehicle. What’s your stance on selling fuel-guzzling machines during a period of environmental awareness? Well that’s an interesting question. One I haven’t been asked before. Recently, we’ve had considerable trouble registering the Cobras that we manufacture here, because of the large engine and poor emissions etc. But if you take into account that most of these cars do very little mileage once they’re in the hands of their new owners… If they were to do a thousand miles a year I would be surprised. People get an enormous amount of enjoyment from that, as do a lot of people who don’t own them but see them out in use. And I think the impact of that car doing a thousand miles a year at fifteen to the gallon with a high level of unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust is very, very small when compared to the impact of somebody doing twelve or fourteen thousand miles a year in a current emission vehicle. So… I don’t think car buying has a desperately adverse effect on the carbon footprint. But it’s an interesting point. I mean the mileage I do is in a modern vehicle, so the exhaust emissions are not high. I fly there and back once a year, so it’s only one flight. But it all adds up. It’s an interesting question. With all the progresses made with AI, how do you think that’s going to impact the future of cars as a whole? I think we’ll get to that stage where you won’t actually have your own vehicle, you’ll just stop one on the kerb, get in it, and it’ll take you to your next destination. They’ll be rather like those we have running in Vegas already. That’s my concept of the future, in a very simplistic format […] you could just flag it down by pushing a key button much like our keys now. What would you miss about the US were you to move back to the UK? Not the food! It’s disgusting, in content if not in taste. So bad for you. I’d miss the people, they’re very friendly. I’d miss the weather. And the diversity of the landscapes: mountains and deserts and things. You see so much more when you’re travelling round there. (This interview was conducted before the COVID-19 lockdown and has been edited for length and clarity.) Do you have questions for Adrian about Mustangs or car buying/selling? Let us know here, or contact us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.