Howard Robinson takes us around Collectors Car parts in Egham
Collectors Car Parts first opened its doors to the public in 1982 and since then it has gone on to become a treasure trove of long- obsolete components, stocking nearly every part imaginable for classic cars.
Howard Robinson has been the owner of the operation since day one, and little did he know that his hobby as a young man would turn into a large business venture supplying components to customers across the UK and overseas. Robinson previously owned two factors in the Heathrow area, but due to the large quantity of stock in his possession and some customer parking issues, he relocated his business to a large warehouse space in the Thorpe Industrial Estate, Egham two years prior. We paid a visit to the parts enthusiast to find out how business has taken off since the move.
While entering, we were taken back by the size of the facility with one third of the space catering to Robinson’s motor factor and manufacturing business and the other
section home to a large hall filled with parts, or at least with boxes that are filled with parts. “I moved here in September 2014 but we couldn’t move into the main hall because the builders were piling the floors”, said Robinson, “The estate was built on infill so it was sinking and we couldn’t do anything for six months”. However, this didn’t leave a chink in his armour as Robinson built his own mezzanine floor to continue business and line his wares on the shelves.
Although there’s still some unpacking to do, this hasn’t stopped the business from running with customers dropping in and motor factors on call every day enquiring about his classic spares. “I have customers calling me from all over the world but one of the big companies on my books is a factor chain who call virtually everyday for parts”, said Robinson: “Monday is always my busiest day. The phones just go absolutely ballistic with calls I can’t cope with so many coming in”. For his UK base, the one-man- band uses APC to deliver parts around the country while using a local international freight company to distribute products overseas.
Robinson has built up a strong customer base over his last 34 years in the trade and accumulated most classic car components between the 1920’s and 1980’s. If this space wasn’t enough, he also owns a small farm containing hundreds of sets of pistons up to 1980 just a stone’s throw away from the warehouse. Robinson elaborated: “I’ve probably got the best comprehensive collection of parts books anywhere in the UK” he said. “It took many years to accumulate so many books and change part numbers and so forth. I do all British car parts from the 1920’s right up to the 1980’s or anything that has been made in the UK I’m sure to have it somewhere”. From braking and water pumps to exhaust silencers and trims, Robinson has parts that cater towards ‘the bottom end of the market’ including Ford, Vauxhall, BMC and many more.
With so many parts at his disposal, logging them onto a computer management system
would prove a daunting task, so we were curious to know how Robinson keeps track of sales and stock. “Although I have a computer myself, I’ve been bought up with the old system
of card indexes, books, changing part numbers and I think it’s nearly as quick as doing this old stuff rather than doing it on a computer”, he said. “If it was all on a computer, I’d be here for the next 100 years because I have so much stock”. His parts catalogue collection is quite the spectacle with one room serving as a miniature library with shelves filled with catalogues and price lists from manufacturers and suppliers dating back almost
Robinson’s combined industry knowledge along with his most up-to-date price list allows him to price his wares competitively for dealers to buy and sell on to consumers. He elaborated: “I came into this business because there are people in this business that charge way too much. If I can sell something for half their price I will undercut them so they don’t get away with charging ridiculous sums”.
Robinson has some exciting challenges ahead, which includes going into new territory specialising in motorcycle parts and hosting his own events for the local motorcycle clubs over weekends in the main hall. “I’m going to have a small shop to cater for motorcycles on the weekend, selling motorcycle silencers, trims and all sorts of things”. He will also continue running his auction in the main hall on Saturday afternoons selling anything from ‘greasy gearboxes’ to old ‘back engines and rusty parts’. “I’m always on the lookout for old spares dating backing as far as I can go. I’ll sell anything, there’s no air and greases in my auctions it’s as it comes”.
Robinson is giving himself another year to finish setting up and getting his motorcycle business off the ground, and has cordially invited us back next year to see everything in action. “The future is doing these motorcycles. If I can make this successful I will be doing the same thing opening places across the country. It’s going to be quite ataskandaneweraforamotor factor which is what I am”, he concluded.