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Launching a brand-new marque specialist sounds daunting.
But for Mark Coleman it’s continuity, picking up where Bristol Cars Services left off. And Bristol legend Brian Marelli, late of Bristol Cars Services, remains involved.
“A year on from [Bristol Cars] liquidation and here we are,” says Coleman, who opened his new workshop in Maidenhead, Berkshire, in March 2021.
“In between times I was doing work for Bristol customers from home and for other classic car specialists who needed marque experience.
“News is getting out, and there’s a lot of goodwill – the next customer due in is dropping off a car from Lancashire.”
It’s quiet and clean, just five minutes’ walk from the main-line station into London.
There’s room for six cars at a pinch, with two lifts, and plenty of space for Coleman and apprentice Antony Snook, who’s also ex-Bristol Cars, to work in peace and calm.
A 411 is in for a health check: “It had gone from 250 miles to a tank of fuel to 150, so something wasn’t right. We got it back to 250, and now it’s back in for more work.”
A Frazer Nash Le Mans Rep has just received a new clutch and a nicely patinated 405 is in for a service and brakes while the radiator is away being re-cored.
“We’ve got a 406 waiting to come in with a seized engine that we’ll have to get back to a running standard,” Coleman adds.
“We don’t get involved with full rebuilds because we don’t have the space, but we have good contacts for bodywork.
“It all started with a holiday in the early ’80s, when my father’s 2.5 Ford Consul blew a head gasket. I don’t think he was too upset because he saw it as something to do!
“We stripped the heads off the V6, purchased the parts and repaired it. To this day, I’ve no idea why he even had the tools required to do the job while on holiday, but it got me hooked on the mechanics of cars.
“At 14, I opted to do my work experience in a workshop that specialised in MGs. After seven thoroughly enjoyable years, the opportunity came up in 1991 to join Brian and his team at Windlesham.”
To celebrate his mentor’s 60 years of service to the marque, Bristol Cars Workshops was renamed Brian Marelli Workshops in 2019.
“I stayed there until the sad liquidation in 2020,” continues Coleman, “in that time acquiring some 35 years of experience working on pieces of great British engineering.
“I’m a member of both the Bristol Owners and Drivers Association and the Bristol Owners’ Club, and the enjoyment I’ve had, the knowledge I’ve gained in Bristol cars from key staff at the factory – many of whom I’m proud to still have regular contact with – the specialist tools and access to parts is what led me to continue with the marque and other classics with our own workshop
“The bonus is that Brian is on hand for support, and he comes in part-time.”
“Since opening, and not knowing fully what to expect, we have been overwhelmed by the support from existing customers who visited the Windlesham workshop as well as new customers who have been in to us.
“There has been excellent feedback from all over the UK and worldwide.”
Spares supply is run by Graeme Payne at the Classic Bristol Car Parts Company Ltd, which acquired the former Bristol stock and with whom Coleman works closely.
A small selection of parts is in the office, some of which has been remanufactured. “Less waiting,” he points out.
With so few staff and Coleman covering both the phone and the workshop, it’s a family affair for now: “My wife helps out with paperwork and my four-year-old son comes in at weekends – he loves it here. And my accountant has three Bristols, too…”
Images: James Mann
- Name Coleman Classic Cars Ltd
- Address Bell Business Centre, Maidenhead SL6 1HX
- Specialism Classic car servicing and maintenance, with a focus on Bristol cars
- Staff Two, plus one part-time
- Prices £70 per hour
- Tel 020 3987 3812
- Web colemanclassiccars.co.uk
- Email email@example.com