Words by Raj Hunjan
I first became aware of Jay and his company Targa Florio Classics while researching the Alpine A110, a US based website called Bring a Trailer (or BaT as it’s known as) had an article featuring a stunning Michelottie Blue example – to my surprise it was located in the UK. They don’t come up for sale very often on the open market and this one was a corker. I followed the breadcrumbs to Jay’s website and within days I was standing outside his unassuming, non-descript industrial unit.
It is so low key that I had to call Jay to make sure I was in the right place while standing just outside, all the units in the block were closed with the metal shutters locked firmly in place. No signs adorn the unit, Jay doesn’t want to draw too much attention to the jewels that lay within. It is understandable, his clients are not locals window shopping, they are based all over the globe and find him online. Eager buyers have taken his cars as far as Mexico. There is no need for a glitzy glass fronted showroom, just a virtual showroom viewable online. Once you are inside the unit, colourful banners on the walls from historic events and odd bits of motorsport memorabilia set the scene for the cars laying in wait.
The Alpine A110 had been sold several weeks prior, soon after it was listed on BaT, to a buyer in North America, but that doesn’t concern me too much because the collection of cars Jay has gathered in his industrial unit are to die for. Two neat rows of European historic racing cars, in no particular order: a ‘66 Alfa Romeo Guilia Super 1600 Corsa, ‘80 Autobianchi A112 Abarth, ‘75 Lancia Fulvia Safari Edition, ‘69 Lancia Fulvia Rallye 1300s, ‘75 BMW 1602 Coupe Rally Car, ‘72 Lancia Fulvia 1600HF and a ‘70 Alfa Romeo GT Junior 1300 GTAm spec. It’s the Alfa GT Junior that catches my eye and after saying barely more than a couple of words to Jay, I am running my hands along the curves in the bodywork. Like all of the cars in the unit, it has a story to tell, the riveted GTAm wide arches and eight inch wide wheels have clearly lived an exciting life. These cars have been enjoyed, not left untouched and unused, with all the evidence of this on every inch of them. I find myself continually returning to the Alfa, it had already got under my skin and kept pulling me in to reveal it’s colourful past.
Targa Florio Classics has grown organically from Jay’s lifelong fascination with Italian historic race cars, particularly cars that competed in the Targa Florio endurance event which took place in the mountains of Siciliy up until 1977. It was banned in 1977, classified as too dangerous. From 1978 the Italian Rally Championship held a Targa Florio staged event in Sicily and the cars that competed in the early days of that event are also high on Jay’s list of classics. Having such a clearly defined passion has enabled him to build up a unique historic car business around it, so he can continue to explore his love of Italian racing cars.
Owning his own classic Alfas early in his driving career, maintaining them, modifying them and sourcing elusive parts gave him the necessary skills and knowledge to start helping others who wanted to do the same. He took the plunge into becoming a trader three years ago, sourcing choice cars from all over Europe, mainly from their spiritual home in Italy. He even commissions racers to be built from suitable road cars in Italy. Seeking out rare and interesting cars with motorsport history attracts enthusiasts worldwide who enlist him to find their ideal road racer. Following the sale of the Alpine A110, Jay has been approached by a number of enthusiasts who are trying to seek out a similar car. They are all anxiously waiting for him to find another gem. He got close recently; a contact had found an owner with two A110’s – a 1300 Gordini version and an A110 1600, both highly desirable. The owner had been persuaded to part with one of them and decided to take both for a last drive before deciding which one to sell. Unfortunately for Jay, the owner fell in love with the cars all over again and had to break the news that he would not be selling either. That is a big problem in this game, when seeking out these hard to find, ultra rare historic cars, the people who own them sometimes have an unbreakable bond with them. For Jay it seems that the thrill is in uncovering these amazing cars, having them arrive from far off parts of Europe and placing them in his unit. That’s not to say that he doesn’t own similar cars himself, at the time of print he is having an Autobianchi Abarth commissioned in Italy and he tells me that when it arrives it will likely be his, to take part in historic rallying and hill climbing across the UK.
Jay’s knowledge of FIA papers, import rules, car history and registration documents is immense, it needs to be for the business he runs. When he buys a car the first thing he does is run through exactly what parts are fitted to it so he can see if it is fully compliant with a particular race category. Quite often he will buy cars unseen, from owners in other countries and then have to wait for months for them to arrive on a container and clear customs. Only then he gets to see whether the car is as good as he expected it to be, with all the necessary components and papers to justify the price he paid. The historic racing enthusiast community is truly worldwide and to get involved you need to trust the people you deal with, buying an Alpine A110 from Germany, sitting in your home in the UK is a big risk. But the thrill you get when it all works out is off the scale. Jay has built up a solid reputation among his clients and suppliers worldwide. His open and honest approach is refreshing in the “used car” trade, he has a factual approach, highlighting all the issues to potential buyers that he himself would have used to assess the car. He lets the cars do the talking when people come to view. He takes around two hundred photos of each car and uploads them to his Flickr account allowing people to browse the entire car in minute detail and be confident about what they are buying.
To get hold of these cars when they aren’t on the market leads Jay to dynamically trade his current stock with collectors. A recent deal involved him swapping two of his prized historic cars for one car that a collector would not sell for cash. In fact the A110 he sold was sourced from a collector who would only part with it if Jay traded a Fiat 124 Abarth. Collectors often consider these transactions over cash, as it gives them a way of owning another hard to obtain car which Jay has spent months seeking out himself. It may also allow them to change the race class they compete in, as Jay’s cars are eligible for a range of different events, an owner may be sitting on a Group 2 car and wishing to move to Group 4 for example. Jay jokes that he is just trading football stickers on a bigger scale! If you have a desire to relive the childhood pastime of “Got, got, need” then give Jay a call!