Rest in pieces: the lucrative trade in luxury car spares

Martin Buckley
Thursday 01 May 2008 17:40
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Eurospares, based in Essex, holds the largest Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati parts hoard of anyone in Europe.

Think of something and they’ve probably got it, from a £2 Ferrari sticker to £32,000 worth of F40 engine and gearbox. Miura headlights? No problem. Ferrari 328 alloys? Eighty in stock, along with 550 Maranello bonnets and over seventy different styles of Ferrari door.

Seeing the constituent parts of the worlds rarest, fastest most expensive cars laid out in the raw like this is both compelling and demystifying – they are, in the end, just cars – but even more sobering a sight is the firm’s car breaking activities.

For this you must leave your sentimentality at the door or, or if you are of a more sensitive disposition, avert your gaze.

But here, in these innocuous warehouses, 40 Italian exotics a year surrender their choicest parts to the cutting torches and socket sets of the Eurospares staff. There was a rare but crash damaged Lamborghini Jalpa under the knife when I visited, and a Ferrari 456 that didn’t, at a glance, appear to have anything much wrong with it. Another 456, that had been on its roof, were expected in within days.

“Anything worth under £10,000 for which there isn’t a instant market tends to get weighed-in; the owners panic when they get faced with a big bill” says boss James Pumo “so, for them, we are like Cash Converters.”

In fact it is all quite discreet and tasteful. There is no teetering pile of Ferrari scrap or even a tattooed man in a string vest or a Rottweiler guard dog locked inside a Countach with no wheels.

James gleefully showed me pictures of a smart blue Ferrari 400i (it looked a lot cleaner than the one I used to own, annoyingly) recently sentenced to death for the sake of a new exhaust system.

The accident cases have grim tales to tell. “You do see some sights” says Pumo who has been running the show since his dad, Vincent, retired ten years ago “one was a Ferrari 355 that had gone off a cliff in Switzerland. I’ve never seen a car so bent.”

Ferrari, unsurprisingly, is the strongest brand for Eurospares. The huge variety of stock ranges from the fifties to the present day range to help owners who run the cars as daily transport or for track days: 360 wishbones, for instance, are good sellers because they are easily damaged.

James thinks that the internet has made customers more impatient and the younger generation want the cars on the road to use everyday. “I’ve got a friend who uses his Ferrari 355 in the snow.”

Maserati and Lamborghini are coming up fast as the internet and Eurospare’s sophisticated website drives the business forward.

“My dad took on Lamborghini because there was nobody doing it over here” says James “so he had an instant market.”

On the Maserati side Pumo has a soft spot for the classic Sixties and Seventies cars but deals in later models too.

‘The modern 3200 and 4200GTs break well but I’ve stopped breaking Bi Turbos because Maserati are knocking 70percent off their prices. A new rear screen for a Bi Turbo is only £14 and comes in a beautiful wooden box: we worked out that when we wanted a box it was cheaper to order a Bi-Turbo rear screen…’

The company came to Essex at the beginning of the eighties and now employs seven people across three buildings that hold 12,000 square feet of parts. The firm’s late founder Vincent Pumo was a Sicilian born hair salon owner living in Manchester who found he could make extra money importing Ferrari parts from Modena.

James started accompanying Vincent on his Italian adventures as a young lad. “We used to go down in a split screen VW camper: army green left hand drive, no heater.” The trips could easily involve days spent in Italian customs because they were on strike. Bargain exotica would often be picked up along the way - James remembers his dad buying an ex works Lancia Stratos rally car “for next to nothing”.

“To be honest, at the time, I’d rather have had a kick about with my mates back at home but over the years I got to understand it a little more until it has become my obsession and disease: now I can’t let it go.”

Today the parts hauls are getting bigger every time and Modena is still the number one destination for parts booty.

“Nothing is where you expect it,” says James “you find things and people in the middle of nowhere, which is very Italian. You have to get their confidence for them to deal with you but once you have it they are friends for life. I’m still dealing with people that my dad was dealing with when I was eight or ten years old.

“When a new batch of spares comes in I still can’t wait to see what’s in the box – its like Christmas.”

Eurospares (Continental Parts) Ltd Unit 2, Third Avenue Bluebridge Industrial Estate Halstead Essex CO9 2SX England Telephone: +44 (0)1787 477169Fax: +44 (0)1787 472867

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