Is this the world’s most eclectic car collection?
Europe’s largest private car collection is home to almost 500 cars worth in excess of £40 million. Just outside the, erm, M25...
Tucked away just outside the M25 in the little town of Potters Bar resides Studio 434. Hailed as Europe’s largest private car collection, it’s home to almost 500 cars, estimated to be worth in excess of £40 million. Spread over five levels across two warehouses, the collection is still growing, but these aren’t abandoned treasures locked away for no one to see. While Studio 434 isn’t generally open to the public the cars are meticulously maintained, with the majority still in good working order and available for private and commercial hire. They may have even appeared in one of your favourite TV shows, such as The Crown or Peaky Blinders.
When you think of every car you’ve sold and later regretted parting with, Rodger has kept them all. Some of which were acquired from Dudding’s lockup garage company, so there’s a few unexpected oddities in the mix, like a 2004 Peugeot 206, with as-found broken headlight. But somehow it all blends seamlessly into an eclectic and somewhat eccentric collection. And it’s not just a gathering of old cars - there’s everything from pre-war motorcycles and vintage tractors to contemporary sports cars and a smattering of one-offs and prototypes. We’ve managed to whittle down the cream of the crop and picked out some of our favourites.
Words: Trinity Francis
Pictures: Studio 434Advertisement - Page continues below
Jensen 541 Saloon 1956
Restored to an ‘elite’ concours standard, this Jensen 541 is one of only 173. The 541 was distinctive not only for its detailed bodywork and curvaceous lines but its unique bonnet flap. Designed to help the engine quickly heat up to running temperature, once hot enough, the flap can then be opened via a lever under the dashboard so the engine doesn’t overheat.
Fiat 500F 1972
The original Fiat 500 is dwarfed by its modern counterpart. At just three metres long, it’s hard to believe this was once considered a family car but the 500 tapped into the demand for a small city runaround. Just like its success from the 50s to 70s, the modern 500 is still a big hit, proving to be a little more practical.Advertisement - Page continues below
Lancia Fulvia Sport Zagato 1972
Formerly a 1300 Zagato, this vehicle was restored and reconditioned, where possible, to ‘competizione’ spec. The restoration pays homage to Lancia’s rich motorsport history of which the Fulvia saw great success in the 60s and 70s, winning Italian and International rally competitions. This model joins 27 Lancias that were originally created to this spec.
Ferrari Dino 246 GTS 1973
First debuted at the Geneva motor show in 1972, the 246 GTS was released following the success of the 246 GT. Paving the way for mid-engined sports cars, the GTS differs from the GT in that it has a targa roof for topless summer driving. This Giallo Fly Yellow example is one of 1,274 and remains in outstanding condition.
Bond Bug 700 ES 1973
In keeping with Rodger’s love of all things wedge shaped, the Bond Bug is a two-seater, three wheeled doorstop of a car. Available in three specs, this Bug is a top of the range ES example which comes equipped with a puny 700cc with 31bhp engine, mudflaps, ashtray and a spare wheel.
Hustler 8 Space Shuttle 1973
Designed by William Towns, the Hustler 8 Space Shuttle is a kit car built on BMC mechanics, it’s believed to be one of only three ever made. It’s a fully functioning model that evokes golf course travel before space adventures, however it’s true to Towns’ distinctly angular style, as seen most famously on the Aston Martin Lagonda.Advertisement - Page continues below
Zagato Zele 1000 1974
An early electric vehicle, the Zagato Zele is a fibreglass micro car, most recognisable for its orange peel paint. A little less powerful than modern EVs, the Zele had a claimed top speed of 25mph and a 50 mile range. It’s now one of only two known to be in the UK.
Aston Martin Lagonda circa 1980s
Highly temperamental electronics and a critically divisive body shape meant only 645 Lagondas left the production line. Dudding is the proud owner of not one, nor two but 25 Lagonda wedges, almost certainly the world’s largest collection. The most notable is an audacious custom, originally commissioned for a Saudi prince, that has all its chrome trim replaced with 18ct gold plating.
Advertisement - Page continues below
Delorean DMC 12 1981
No car collection would be complete without a Delorean DMC. Whilst the Delorean didn’t sell particularly well during production, publicity from the Back to the Future franchise helped to secure the DMC as a sought after classic, in spite of its namesake’s sordid past. Its signature gullwing doors and brutalist bare metal design still influences automotive design 40 years on.
Ford Granada Mk2 Ghia 1984
The Mk2 was where the flagship Granada came into its own. Before German saloons dominated the market, the Granada was a practical family sized car with a V6 fuel injected engine that added a bit of excitement to the school run. Built to last, it’s a desirable classic to buy today, if you can find one that’s been well looked after.
Maserati Merak SS Coupe 1984
Based on the Maserati Bora, the Merak was Maserati’s second mid-engined sports car. Identical to the Bora at the front, the Merak was most recognisable for its flying buttresses and vertical rear window. It was created to compete with the Porsche 911 and Ferarri Dino but wasn’t as well received as the competition of the time.
Mercedes-Benz 420 SL 1988
The 420 SL sits on the R107 chassis which had an 18 year production run, the longest of any Mercedes-Benz chassis. This model came towards the end of the R107 era and has a 4.2 litre V8 engine, 4-speed automatic gearbox and power steering. The SL marker that stands for ‘Sport Light’ is still synonymous with Mercedes.
Jaguar XJS Convertible Railton 1989
Another William Towns creation, the XJS Railton is one of two prototypes, based on the XJS V12. The underside and interior were largely untouched so mechanically the car is identical to the XJS V12, highly spec’d inside with heated electric seats, cruise control and ABS. Unfortunately, costs proved too high for the XJS Railton to be a viable production vehicle.
Lamborghini Countach 1989
Arguably one of the most iconic Lamborghinis ever made, this 25th Anniversary edition with cream leather and stark black paintwork screams Gordon Gekko. Lauded as the fastest Countach ever produced, it boasts a 5.0 litre naturally aspirated V12 with 455bhp, a 0-60mph time of 5.0 seconds and a top speed of 183mph.
Honda NSX Auto 1992
It’s almost impossible to talk about the NSX (New Sportscar eXperimental) without mentioning Ayrton Senna in the same breath. A complete wildcard car for Honda, Senna was a key influence in the production of the NSX. As well as F1 inspired handling the NSX has a 3.0 litre naturally aspirated 270bhp V6 engine, capable of 150mph and 0-60mph in under six seconds.
Audi 80 Cabriolet 1994 - Princess Diana’s car
Breaking with the tradition of Royals exclusively driving British cars, the Audi 80 caught the eye of the ever-defiant people’s princess. She drove this particular car for almost a year in the 1990s. Whilst Audi was already growing in popularity, it’s argued that Diana’s status at the time helped the brand to flourish in the UK.
Aston Martin V550 Virage Vantage 1996
Once the fastest ever production Aston Martin with a top speed of 186mph and 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds, the V550 Virage Vantage has an impressive supercharged V8 engine that delivers 550bhp. Despite the Vantage namesake there’s few similarities, as the chassis was extensively redesigned to cope with the enhanced performance.
BMW 840 CI Auto 1997
A more contemporary wedge-shaped car, the 8 Series oozes 90s design and tech, with pop up headlights, futuristic interior and an excessive number of buttons and switches. Despite all this, it was still surprisingly practical for a sports car with a 4.4 litre V8, comfortably seating four with room for luggage in the boot.
Skoda Felicia Fun Pickup 1999
Fun is the only way to describe the Felicia pickup. Sporting its signature bright yellow paintwork, the Felicia Fun has a unique party trick, it can transform from a two-seater into a four-seater, with its rear passenger seats folding out into the bed of the truck.
AC 378 GT Zagato Prototype 2012
While this prototype sadly never made its way onto the production line, this AC is road legal and kitted out with a 6.2 litre V8 engine, that does 0-60mph in under four seconds and is said to be capable of hitting 185mph. However, according to Studio 434, its impressive aesthetics are not indicative of good handling.