Review By BBC Top Gear Magazine
suprised Nigel Sandells ever managed to mend anybody's car, because he
seems to spend all his time washing his hands. As he stoops for the
umpteenth time over the small workshop sink, he says, "I wash them at
least ten times a day". Every week the catering-sized tub of hand
cleanser needs replacing.
He is a very tidy man and
encourages the same trait in his two assistants and two trainees. Tools
are neat and tidy, cars are clean and shiny; I even witness the floor
And there always seems to be one bloke at the sink pumping the plunger
the soap dispenser. I've been in quite a few small garages in my time,
this is the first one that smells of lemons.
In one corner of the workshop is
Nigels office. The shelves are neatly stuffed with books on Rollers and
Bentleys. There are models of cars, car badges, pictures of cars, a
painting of his own concours-winning 1979 Shadow and a representation
of a Phantom II made from old clock parts. Upon entering, one is
invited to wipe one's feet on a Rolls Royce / Bentley doormat. Being a
Rolls Royce and Bentley man at
heart is essential to understanding the culture of the business he is
"I love'em" he confirms. But he's no snob. He once mended a Ferrari.
most independent specialists, Nigel began his spannering career as an
at a Rolls Royce dealership. Five years later he was snapped up by
big dealership and worked there for six years until something obviously
pissed him off very deeply. "The trouble with big dealerships is they
know how to treat their staff," he says cautiously.
It transpires that our man completed a
£60,000 restoration job on a car belonging to Elton John, and
with which the popstar was well pleased, but was given only a
£100.00 bonus and instructions not to complain or "we'll take it
away again." So he packed up his Snap-Ons and that was that.
worked "very happily" as a self employed contractor to Royce Service
and regularly travelled the world to tend people's cars until he
he could go it alone and, in '98, sank all his cash into the industrial
he now occupies.
It's not very big. There's just
room for four cars, three up in the air and one on the ground. As our
is elevated, its rear wheelarch clears the wall of the office by only a
inches; if you left the office at the wrong moment, you could lose a
teeth on the rear bumper. The bays are full and there are more R-Rs
outside. This is a good sign, like finding an Indian restaurant
frequented by Indians.
||Nigel caters for real
toffs - he has a nearly new Arnage on his books - but also appreciates
that many old-car owners are strapped for cash or are, as in the case
of Top Gear,
skinflints. His golden rule is: spend a little, and often. "Treat the
as a project," he says."Make a list, and tick something off every
a car like ours, he will list everything that ought to be done in order
priority, from the essential (the rear spring cups) to the merely
desirable (hardend bushes).Nigel is, as I said, a meticulous man, which
reminds me of
a famous saying of Henry Royce himself: "Whatever is rightly done,
however humble, is noble." with an ageing Turbo R, it is tempting to
think that whatever is rightly done, however humble, will cost a
bleeding fortune. But it needn't.
His 'to do' list was long but not
far from our budget - until he discovered that the exhaust blow
demanded a new pipe section at £479.61, that is. Parts can be a
below-the-belt blow. Still, at £35.00 an hour, the personal
attention of Mr Sandell works out at less than half the price charged
by some main dealers. And with this bloke, there's absolutely no risk
of finding an oily thumbprint on the upholstery.