Ladies With Drive - Candy Skene & Pilgrim AC Cobra - Muscle Car

Ladies With Drive – Candy Skene & Pilgrim AC Cobra

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Written by Elise

18th November 2020

Ladies With Drive – Candy Skene & Pilgrim AC Cobra
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Ladies With Drive – Candy Skene & Pilgrim AC Cobra

After forty years of business, Pilgrim Motorsports (MCUK’s mother company) recently sold a Pilgrim AC Cobra Sumo to a female owner for the first time. The Ladies With Drive blog series we have going here loves it when women get involved in motorsports, so we thought we’d sit down and chat to Candy Skene about her rather impressive purchase.

Candy, you recently bought a Cobra from us at Pilgrim Motorsports. That’s quite a big step. Could you tell us more about yourself and how you came into the idea of actually owning a classic car?

I don’t remember the conversation, but it all started when I was small. My mother says I once told her that when I grew up I wasn’t going to get married, I was going to have an E-Type and a red trouser suit!

I told my partner this story and a couple of years ago he bought a Jaguar E-Type at auction (pictured below) and I got my interest in cars at that point. We went to see Ford V Ferrari as well and then we went to the classic car show just before the lockdown at Earls Court. I wanted a car that Mark didn’t have and I really liked the way he hopped into the Cobra over the sides. It was actually a Pilgrim Sumo Cobra that I first sat in at the car show, though my partner didn’t fit in one at that point! 

Tell us more about your visit to Pilgrim when you bought your Cobra.

I thought I wanted a Dax Cobra and very nearly bought one in August but I was a bit nervous about how I’d look after it. So, I contacted Pilgrim to see if they’d look after it for me and I was a bit unsure when we looked at the MOT history of the Dax with regards to mileage – it didn’t seem quite right. 

So, Pilgrim showed us around the factory and I just really liked the way these were built, the safety of it and seeing all the bits inside. Mark said to me “Why don’t you have a go at this one?” and I said no, it’s too expensive! If I sit in it, I’ll want it—and I sat in it and I wanted it! He did try and talk me out of buying one, but I’d been left a little bit of money and I said if I don’t buy a Cobra, I’m not buying anything else. 

I’d driven several Cobras by the time I got to Pilgrim but I just knew this was the one. That’s always the way, isn’t it? You want the one that’s the nicest one. 

I think they just look absolutely amazing, they sound absolutely amazing and I don’t think you can drive around in one without smiling all the time. That’s why I bought one! 

How involved are you in the classic car world?

Well, Mark’s got a selection of classic cars now. He’s got addicted to them and I’m afraid it rubs off a bit! He’s got the E-Type and two other Jaguars—I can’t remember what they are—and he’s got an Alfa Spider as well. But even though I own a Cobra now and I like going to classic car shows, I don’t know how I feel about joining Cobra clubs and talking about carburettors. I can’t see myself doing that!

Had you considered a kit car before?

Yes. For a while, I had thought about building my own because I’m a physics teacher and I thought I could possibly do it, but the dashboard and things definitely have a specific finish on them. 

I think it was the challenge of doing it. I just thought if somebody else builds it, you don’t quite know how they’ve built it, but if you’ve built it yourself you know that you’ve done it properly—or maybe not properly, I suppose! Being a teacher, I quite like doing practical bits like experiments. I just thought it would be something quite fun to do. 

But what I definitely liked about mine is that it’s a professional, factory-finished Cobra. It’s why I bought it in the end!

What’s your view on how far you can restore a classic car and still keep it ‘classic’? 

You can have a classic car that looks absolutely perfect and not actually use it. You can also have one that maybe is a little rough around a few edges but that you can definitely use. It’s sad if you just own them and show them off but can’t actually enjoy using them. With the E-Type, for example, you’re just looking after it for the next generation.

[During her guest feature, Charlotte Vowden was very much of the opinion that the whole attitude around classic cars now defines it for future generations. The more positive and the more aware we can be about what we do to cars is like fine-tuning an art before handing it down afterwards.]

I think I agree with that. I looked at the Muscle Car UK’s Mustangs and I think it’s nice that they have pictures of old ladies on them that go ‘This was 1973″. It’s great because somebody else further down the line is also going to love it. 

We’re in the dying ages of petrol and it’s like preserving endangered animals in the zoo. Their day has been now but looking after them is part of our history. It’s like steam trains: it’s all well and good having them in a museum but if you don’t have the boiler redone you can’t actually use them, so what’s the point of having them if the engineering doesn’t still work? I think you have to maintain classic cars; obviously not make them look totally new but keeping them running is important. 

What’s your most unforgettable moment associated with classic cars?

I think the unforgettable moments have yet to come! I work at a school and I drive in from Lewes; I’m really looking forward to June when you have those couple of weeks of warm weather. I think driving down the Ouse Valley is going to be fantastic. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, providing it doesn’t rain. It doesn’t have a roof, so I can’t drive in the wet!

I hope I’ll use it as much as I want to. It’s a pity because it takes a few weeks to get the car ready and I’ve been warned not to drive in the wet until I get used to it.

How do you feel about driving your brand-new Cobra?

Apparently, it’s quite easy to do some back ends, so I have to be confident.

To me, the Cobra is a ‘proper car’, meaning it doesn’t have all the modern things like traction control or ABS, but I still found it easy to drive. It’s not at all a macho beast and doesn’t feel terrifying; it’s quite responsive and you can drive it at fairly low speeds and feel totally in control. I actually hit a deer with my Mini during the lockdown and they gave me a 900cc Suzuki replacement; that was harder to drive than the Cobra! 

What advice would you give other women who are fascinated by the industry?

Just go with it and don’t be put off! Mark kept telling me a Cobra is a very macho car but I don’t think they’re ‘macho’ at all. Having a car like that as a woman is different than a man because the man just wants to drive it as fast as possible. But to me it’s the image, strutting about in it looking cool and making fantastic noise! If it’s what you want to do, go for it and don’t be put off by people saying it’s a male preserve. 

Soon after the interview, Candy picked up her grey Sumo Pilgrim Cobra and sent us the images used in this article. What were your first impressions?

I picked up the car last Wednesday and I’m delighted with it. It is VERY beautiful—but not as beautiful or as precious as my daughters. Mark has driven the Cobra as well; I like sharing things. We both love driving it and wish I had got it a bit earlier in the year while the weather was warmer. We named her Bette Davis and we planned to take her to Norfolk for half-term, providing the forecast was dry.

You can drive the car VERY fast, I’m certain – 150mph we reckon – but you don’t need to drive crazy fast. You can cruise about feeling very alive and very happy. If buying a Cobra is ever sensible, buying this one was sensible. Pilgrim (aka Muscle Car UK) is brilliant and I feel confident knowing the man that built Bette.

Thank you for joining us on Muscle Car UK, Candy, and enjoy your Cobra whenever the weather lets up!

Muscle Car UK and Pilgrim Motorsports are leading UK classic car specialists for sports cars. We build, service and upgrade all classic cars, specialising in Mustangs, V8 engines, Carroll Shelby Cobras and Corvettes.

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