With bases in Worcestershire and Connecticut, this outfit is well placed to deal with collectors and racers in both the old world and the new
Words: Rob Widdows. Photography: Charlie Hopkinson
Automotive is based in the heart of the Cotswolds. And in Connecticut. We visited their home in Bourton-on-the-Water, because that’s where the story begins.
Adrian Rush started the business just six years ago so it’s hardly a legend itself, but it does deal in them and prepare them for the racetrack.
The teeth of this cog in the machinery of the British historic motorsport industry are in its sales and servicing. But that covers a multitude of excitements for founder Adrian and his Legends partner Melvin Glanz who runs the North American side of things with a ‘branch office’ in Connecticut.
Adrian started out as an apprentice at Coys, having trained as an engineer. It wasn’t long before the boss, Geoffrey Pattinson, plucked Adrian from the workshop and put him in charge of running and maintaining Pattinson’s own collection of cars.
“I went through the whole 1980s thing,” he recalls, “and I witnessed first-hand the boom and bust of the classic car market. It was a good experience and I learnt a lot at Coys.”
A fast learner he was. By the end of the following decade Adrian was ready to go his own way, having nurtured an impressive list of clients and negotiated the labyrinth of networking so vital to success in the world of $1m machines.
“I started up on my own in Farringdon and the business grew pretty rapidly,” he says. “I wanted to get out of London, find a workshop for the race preparation business and a showroom for the sales side. The first two years were crazy, we had our own racing team, we ran cars for other owners at events all over Europe and we were sourcing cars for collectors. It was becoming too much and I was keen to grow the sales side, hunting down great cars for individuals who knew what they wanted.”
The watershed came in May 2002, and the timing was perfect. While at Coys Adrian had met collector Melvyn Glanz at auctions, often advising him on the worth or provenance of a car that interested him. Now, a decade later, textile tycoon Mr Glanz was looking for a change of career, having made his fortune with clothing stores in London and New York. And Mr Rush was looking for a joint-venture partner to take Legends Automotive into its next phase.
“I guess it was some kind of mid-life crisis,” recalls Melvyn. “I’d built up the textile and clothing businesses, I’d had the shops in the King’s Road (remember Oggi Domani?) and was looking for a new challenge, something that would take me closer to my passion for cars.”
The joint venture, with Rush and Glanz sharing the load, took Legends into a more focused business area, concentrating on the sourcing and sale of collectors cars and scaling down the race preparation and restoration.
“We wanted to forge a reputation for private treaty acquisitions of classic competition cars and collectors’ motor cars,” explains Adrian, “and we expanded the showroom to broaden the quality of the business and to encompass both road and race cars from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s using our skills in the discreet acquisition of cars for private clients.”
A recent coup has been the private sale of the Chevron Formula 3 car which the much-missed Elio de Angelis raced at Monaco in 1978. Not surprisingly, a genuine de Angelis car with proven history commands the attention of many a serious racing car collector.
A loyal and long-time Legends client is rock star Chris Rea, a huge fan of Ferrari and the man who commissioned a replica of the shark-nose 156 grand prix car in which Phil Hill became the first American to win the World Championship in 1961. Many will remember an emotional morning at the Goodwood Festival of Speed when Rea handed the car over to Hill for a run up the hillclimb course. Replica it may have been but it was a very real moment for both owner and driver as the former champion slid down into the cockpit of this iconic grand prix car.
“Chris Rea is not your normal pop star,” says Melvyn Glanz. “He takes a close interest in every detail of his cars, and they are not all glamorous Ferraris. He wanted a Lotus Cortina with a real history and we found him one that had been raced by Clark, Gurney and Sir John Whitmore. He was very excited about that.”
That, then, is the short but dynamic history of Legends Automotive. Rush and Glanz respond in unison when asked about future plans and strategy. “To enjoy ourselves, have fun finding great cars. That way our clients will enjoy it too.”
That, it would seem, is a fair deal for both sides.