Car collections are personal things featuring vehicles that have been cherry-picked by their owners for nostalgia, investment or pure ‘wow’ factor. For Paul Brailsford, the former Vice-Chair of the Bexhill 100 Motoring Club, his collection is a showcase of his long-standing passion for cars, and his love of head-turning motors.

To find out more about his interest in cars and his collection, which includes a sunshine yellow Elva Courier, we sat down for an in-depth Q&A with Paul.

Where did your love of cars come from and what makes classics so special?

I’ve spent most of my life moving around a lot due to my work in the military and the Foreign Office, so I bought cars, shipped them around and inherited them in different posts. This has meant that I’ve driven a huge range of really fantastic vehicles.

I got my first ever car in Germany while I was in the military a Volkswagen Beetle 1952 that cost me £50! This would actually be a great classic to have today as it had two windows in the rear and there weren’t many of them made.

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Paul’s Volkswagen Beetle in 1966.

I went through numerous cars after that, including an Opal Kapitän and a Mini Cooper S, which is probably what first started to get me into fast cars. I then got posted to Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, and while there I had a Ford Cortina GXL. I sold that before I went to America and bought a Rover SD1. I paid to have that shipped over with me when I relocated to Brussels, where I ended up switching to a Volvo 760 GLE.

Now that I’m retired, I own 3 classic cars in addition to my everyday car. I suppose I just naturally drifted towards these classic cars. In my opinion, you don’t buy classic cars to make money on them. You buy them because each car has its own era. The people who own these cars now often remember them from their childhood or youth a time when they couldn’t afford them. Now they can, and it takes them back to that time in their past.

This may mean that some ‘classic’ cars have an upper limit on how much they could be worth. Once their current owners are gone, other people may not have the same connection to them, whereas really iconic classics continue to gain value.

This means the term ‘classic’ can be really debatable. I went to a show once with my Ford Sierra Cosworth and someone said that it wasn’t a classic car. But there were only ever 4,500 of them made, and although most of them didn’t come to the UK, they went around the world. Today, people’s heads turn when I drive it!

Can you tell us a little bit about the cars you currently have in your collection? Do you have a favourite?

I just have 3 cars in my collection at the moment: an Elva Courier, a Ford Sierra Cosworth and a Triumph TR6.

When I retired, my neighbour had a Ford Sierra Cosworth. One day, my son came home and asked if we could buy it! To be honest, it was a good investment. It’s never been played with and is basically as it was sold in the 1980s. I then bought the Triumph TR6 as a present for myself.

About 5 years ago I got the Elva Courier. It really is a fun car to drive, although I’m a bit too tall for it and there isn’t much room around the pedals. I have to wear small driving boots my wife calls them my pixie boots!

I suppose, however, that the car I like to drive the most is the Cosworth, although I try to keep the mileage down. It’s 37 years old and has only got 80,000 miles on it.

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Why were you drawn to the Elva in particular? What makes it so special?

Elvas are special because there are so few of them. I think only about 450 of these Couriers were ever made, and not many of them are still in the UK. 

I was drawn to it because it looks so different. When the former owner passed away, I decided to buy it so I could keep it in Bexhill, where it was originally made. From the 1950s, there were two or three Elva workshops all in this one area. It was a bit of a mishmash with some parts being made behind the chip shop on London Road and then the body being made somewhere else. But the Elvas made here were actually quite successful as race cars. The decision was then made to create the Couriers, which were designed to be sporty road-going cars. Increased demand then led to a factory in Hastings being opened to build them.

Unfortunately, Elva didn’t get paid for a big US order and the company went bust in the 1960s. Another company bought the licence to make the Couriers and it carried on for a bit, but it didn’t last beyond that decade.

I was very lucky to get this car. The previous owner of my Elva actually got this car in boxes and rebuilt it himself. It’s therefore got a lot of original parts, besides the engine. This includes the original Wolseley brakes, which makes stopping it interesting… You put your foot down on the brake and then have to wait for something to happen! Luckily, I was brought up with cars without power steering and things like that, so as long as you don’t expect something to happen as soon as you put your foot on the brake, you’re alright!

What do you like to do with your cars?

I show the cars a lot. For instance, I go to the Classic Car Show at the NEC. Last time, I drove the Cosworth all the way over there and it got a lot of looks! Driving it is fun it can actually reach a top speed of 140mph, which is not at all bad for a car from the 1980s.

I love giving rides in my cars too. Soon I will be taking the Cosworth to a wedding the bride’s son is really into supercars and she is going to surprise him by having the Cosworth as one of the wedding cars. I’ve taken kids to their prom as well. I’ll always do things like that because it’s important to keep people’s interest in old cars it ensures that there will be someone in the next generation to keep them going and to keep the classic car community going too.

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How did you become involved in the Bexhill 100 Motoring Club?

My second wife was born and bred in Bexhill. So after I retired we moved back here. Her aunt was a part of the Bexhill 100 Motoring Club and I got introduced to it through her. I’d never been a member of a club before because I’d always moved around so much, but I got involved with running the website and became Vice-Chair. I’ve now left that position but I’m still involved in producing the club magazine, The Flagman.

When you have such special cars, is finding the right Car Insurance difficult?

Actually, no. The main difficulty we have had in the past is that my 18-year-old son wanted to go on the insurance. Getting a young person onto a high performance car’s insurance is pretty tricky!

Otherwise, the main difficulty is establishing the correct value for Agreed Value Car Insurance. I take a look online at similar cars so that I can get a better idea of their worth. You also have to look at their mileage, as lower mileage can increase their value.

How has Chris Knott Insurance helped you to get the right insurance in place and would you recommend them?

Chris Knott has always gotten me a good deal. I’ve had lots of conversations with Ian Willis [Personal Lines Manager] about value so that I can get the right level of cover and I like the fact that they are interested in the cars themselves and in the Bexhill 100 Motoring Club. I always recommend them: I’ve never had any problems and I don’t need to shop around!

Talk to us about Car Collector Insurance

If you have a car collection featuring at least one classic or specialist vehicle, get in touch with our knowledgeable team. We’ll work with you to make sure you get the right cover put in place.

And, if you’re a member of a car club, you could get a preferential rate along with some money back for your club.

Call us now on 0800 917 2274 to find out more.