Born into the car industry – with my father also being a car specialist – I’ve been around cars my whole life. As a full-time employee of my Father’s company, Camberley Marine and Sports Cars Ltd (established 1975), for 6 years and running my own business for 12, I have built up an excellent level of expertise in many areas of the motor trade.
My knowledge of a broad range of motorcars and motorcycles (from pre-war to present day models) led me to branch out and form Toro Sports Cars Ltd in 2014, a company founded to answer the needs of an ever-growing specialist car market.
Whether you are looking purchase or sell, please do not hesitate to get in touch; with nearly 20 years of experience on offer, I am here to go the extra mile.
Please read on if you want to find out more about my journey in establishing Toro Sports Cars Ltd
Where to begin? It’s difficult to know when my huge love for cars began, because it is something I have no recollection of not knowing – it sits somewhere alongside the memories of learning to walk, and getting a Ferrari F1 peddle car that I would use in my own imaginary race around the world-famous circuit ‘The Front Room’. The early onset of my car infatuation was no coincidence, as it had already been my Father’s trade for the last 14 years.
Having been born into the business, the trend of my life started to form. By age 3, I had cemented my first memories of my love for cars – the first coming in the form of a rabbit, who I attempted to name Ferrari but ended up Rari – a love for the model that stemmed from my F1 pedal car (and the fact that my Mum’s everyday car at the time was a Mondial); the second – my first driving experience. Eager to get behind the wheel for my debut, I put an XJ12 into neutral and rolled down the hill of the driveway with my Dad looking on in horror. Luckily, I found the brakes in good order in the form of my Mum’s new MG Metro. In fact, most of my memories involve cars when I was young – from my Dad building me an F1 car out of sand on the beach in Larochelle, to going to a Kruse sale during a trip to Disneyland in Florida. Many evenings and most weekends were spent going out as a family looking at cars for sale, often spiced up by an argument between my sister and I about which of us would get to drive back with Dad if a deal was struck.
I remember attending countless amounts of classic car auctions, motorsport events and classic car shows, nearly always traveling in one of Dad’s ever-growing collection – none of which I remember more notably or fondly than in the E-type V12 Roadster he had. My sister and I would sit in the back on the luggage shelf while a tape of Dire Straits would be playing in the background. Being in that car never feels right unless Dire Straits are playing, even now. The family ‘A to B’ taking the form of a classic, a sports car, or even a supercar was never unusual, and being dropped off and collected from school in a Lamborghini Countash seemed quite natural.
With my 7th birthday approaching, I recall coming home from school and my Dad asking me “What would you like for your birthday, a BMX or a motor bike?” Even at 6 I knew that was a daft question, and on my 7th birthday my love for two wheels was born in the form of a Yamaha PW80. At a similar age my Dad acquired me a go-kart and a ‘colourful’ Mini, with orange dots and no front windscreen, in which he taught my sister and I to drive. With my new acquisitions I was now fully equipped for the newest world-famous circuit, ‘The Front Garden’.
A jump to fourteen and my career began. I started by breathing new life into cars destined for the scrap heap, buying for as little as £10 or as much as £40. My source of cars came from a local friend and pub enthusiast to my Dad, Clive Dandridge. Clive, being a transport driver, collected cars for the local council and if he thought they were fit for further life he would bring them to me. As you can expect, there was nothing glamorous in my early fleet – they were mainly Fords, Fiats, Vauxhalls and Minis. However, they were invaluable to me in starting to understand and master how both car renovation and the business of buying and selling worked (in-between the inconvenience of having to go to school). My favourite car of this period was a Fiat Uno i.e turbo, a rare pocket rocket of yesteryear. At fifteen, I bought my first Jaguar – an opalescent silver blue MK1. This was the beginning of a long, personal love affair with Jaguar.
At 16, my love for the open road began when I bought a Peugeot Speedfight and passed my CBT. I left school with no doubt in my mind about what I wanted to do, and I officially started my business in the Motor Trade in September 2000. I continued trading on the cheaper end of the scale for a while, mainly supplying friends with their first cars, until an opportunity arose in the form of a Jaguar MKII 3.8. The bond with jaguar continued to grow. A light restoration and sale later, and still aged 16, I bought my first E-type. It was a primrose yellow S1 2+2 – a momentous day.
As you’d expect, I passed my driving test just a few weeks after my seventeenth birthday. I had my day-to-day run-around in the form of a Renault Clio and the Kawasaki KMX I acquired my bike licence on, but I had my heart set on a cheap, tax-exempt classic to keep. What I wanted was a Ford Escort MK1 Mexico – little did I know just how hard it would be to find a genuine car. After many miles, I finally found one in a small place near Henley-on-Thames called Nettlebed. The car had been there in an open field for who knows how long. Saying that taking on this car was not a job for the faint-hearted is no understatement; however, it was a genuine 1972, 3-owner, 80,000 miles from new tawny brown custom pack MK1 Escort Mexico. £500 later, the search was finally over.
Alongside running my business and undertaking the restoration was my ‘apprenticeship’, I decided not to attend college – no courses seemed the right fit for me, and working alongside my Dad, with his unrivalled experience and knowledge of the industry, was better than any college course I could ever have enrolled on. The Mexico took 18 months to completely rebuild and restore, and in March 2003 I finally put the car on the road. I managed to take it to the AVO day at Stanford Hall, where thankfully it received more than its fair share of compliments. Sadly, in September that year my circumstances changed. I was forced to learn a new eye-opening lesson in business, selling the Mexico to fund a more prosperous acquisition. This came in the form of a Jaguar E-type S1 4.2 F.H.C. Maybe, one day, I’ll have the opportunity to buy the Mexico back. The blow of losing my personal classic was softened by always having the option of using one of Dad’s collections. I’ve always had a soft-spot for his S1 3.8 E-type roadster HMT 598B, that he bought in 1978 from the well-known ‘60’s band ‘The Dave Clark Five’ – a car extensively used in their press.
By 2002, the business was growing and becoming more established; I started to concentrate on trading and restoring classic and sports cars rather than small cars for friends. Between the years of 2002-2006 I bought and sold Jaguars (mainly E-types), and other classic models including Triumph Stags and TRs, Porsche 911s, Rolls Royce Shadows, Mercedes SL Pagodas etc. The same year I turned my dream to be behind the wheel in a competitive manor into a reality by buying a Toyota Starlet 1300cc stock rod and racing with Fleet Motor Club at the newly opened oval circuit in Rushmoor.
In 2007, I knew my next step needed to be home ownership. Whilst renovating a Jaguar XK140 Roaster, I had to start seriously thinking about how I’d afford capitol for trade whilst buying a house. Fortunately, my Dad came to me with an opportunity that I could not refuse, and one which shaped my next few years in the motor industry. In June 2008, after the sale of the XK and all my other assets, I started work at Camberley Marine and Sports Cars Ltd. Looking back at my years working for my Dad’s company, I can see without doubt that it was my biggest learning curve of my career – adding far more armour to my arsenal that I previously (and somewhat naively) thought was already well-stocked. Working directly alongside Dad and his employees increased the knowledge about cars and trading I had gained in my earlier career ten-fold.
As discussed earlier, I’ve always had a deep love for Ferrari and in the brief window between buying a house and starting work at Camberley Marine and Sports Cars Ltd, at the age of 24 I bought my first Ferrari, a 355 GTS. I toured around the great driving roads of Europe in this, visiting Milan, Monaco and Paris along the way – a final hoorah before home ownership. I drove all the main mountain passes of Switzerland and northern Italy, including the most notably famous Stelvio Pass. What a road!
Another accomplishment for me in this time was taking the ARDS test, something I had wanted to do for some time. In my first year, I took to the circuit in Rowan Atkinson’s former Renault 5 Turbo Cup car – still in all its original livery, with his name on the door. I ran the car in the
Classic Touring Car Championship in the pre-93 series but unfortunately, the car failed to be competitive racing against far more powerful cars of the era. With this in mind, I sold the car and bought a Caterham to run in the Roadsport A Championship. This series really cut my teeth, and I ran in this for the 08, 09, and 2010 seasons. This was an incredible period and I had a lot of fun; I still take the opportunity to race in Dad’s E-type when I can.
After spending 6 fantastic years at Camberley Marine and Sports Cars Ltd, I felt the skills acquired over this period had set me in good stead to once again go it alone; this is when Toro Sports Cars Ltd was born. I feel settled in my decision, and despite increasing my workload ten-fold, I haven’t looked back. Cars and motorcycles, as you can tell, are without doubt my biggest passion and I feel that comes through in the knowledge and service I provide. Like any job, you never stop learning and there are always going to be challenges, but it is clear to me I’d never consider a career in anything else.