A £100 MILLION vintage car collection – the largest private set in the UK –was created by a Newport born multi-millionaire and stashed in a secret Herefordshire hangar for years.
Now James Hull, who started his dentistry business in Gwent, is looking to sell his prized collection which includes Elton John’s Bentley, a car owned by Winston Churchill and some of the rarest Jaguar models ever put into production.
He moved the 457 vintage cars to their county home, believed to be somewhere near Ross-on-Wye, after a "devastating" break-in in Newport which saw vandals drive them around the warehouse like rally cars.
Now he is hoping to sell the collection within the UK – and turn his attention to a new pastime.
He said: “My wife hopes it will be something smaller like stamps.
“This is the culmination of a life-long hobby.
“Each car has its story and all have played a part in the history of British motoring.
“It is part of our heritage and, with luck, I will succeed in finding a home that can not only be enjoyed and treasured by the British public but also be admired by visitors from across the world.”
While attracting interest from overseas buyers, Mr Hull – known to his friends as Lazarus after beating cancer three times – is also in discussion with five local enterprise partnerships over setting a permanent exhibition.
“It’s already bigger than most museums,” said Graham Searle, from the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club.
“When you add up the value of some of the individual cars alone, it’s a good deal - if you’ve got a £100 million to spend.”
Among the rarest cars in the collection is a Jaguar XKSS – one of just 16 ever made, and a favourite of fast-living fellow Jaguar enthusiast Steve McQueen.
The XKSS, like many in the collection was originally used for racing before being restored, re-painted and reassembled by a team of mechanics – a painstaking process that typically takes around three years due to rarity of parts involved.
Eardisley-based Phoenix Car Restoration were one local firm tasked with helping get the vehicles ready for exhibitions and motorshows.
In 2003, Phoenix owner Steve Grimsley put the finishing touches to one of Mr Hull’s Jaguar XK’s that was named ‘Champion of Champions’ at the prestigious International Motorshow in Birmingham.
First inspired by his grandfather’s Jaguar, Mr Hull – who amassed his fortune in cosmetic dentistry – wanted to put together “a memory-evoking display”.
Now, after 35 years collecting, Mr Hull will finally hand over the keys, as health problems have taken their toll.
He said: “I have merely been a passionate custodian of this hugely significant part of British history.”