Beaufort & Blake: At Lunch With James Cottingham, DK Engineering
Over the August bank holiday, we caught up for lunch with James Cottingham – classic car racing driver and part of the founding family of DK Engineering. Having just returned from California, he took us through the DK showroom and workshops nestled away in leafy Hertfordshire and explained where the business all began.
SO, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING OUT IN CALIFORNIA?
“We were out there for the Monterey classic car week – there’s all sorts of classic car concourse events including the world famous Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance. It not only serves as a great opportunity to catch up with lots of our clients but you get to see some of the best cars in the world going across the auction block or at some of the concourse events.”
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT DK ENGINEERING?
“DK is a family business, founded in 1977 by my parents David and Kate – hence the name DK engineering. The business stemmed from a love of cars, my father had been racing Jaguars since the early 1960s and always had a passion for buying, selling and restoring cars in his free time – he got a real buzz from it. Over time my father realised that his passion could become commercially viable and consequently founded DK.”
HAS DK ENGINEERING ALWAYS BEEN A FERRARI SPECIALIST?
“Originally, my father’s passion was for Jaguars but in the mid 1970s he realised how special a brand Ferrari was - a little bit more complicated but more diverse at the same time. Being a naturally inquisitive chap, my father was just looking for a bit more of a challenge.
“At the time, there was only one other Ferrari specialist in the UK - so it was a stroke of luck when a couple of projects came my fathers way. He then bought a couple of 1950s Sports Ferraris that were in desperate need of restoration and people had passed them by because they were too technically challenging and complicated.
“That’s where it all started really – the 1950s sports Ferrari is what our business was built on. Over the years we’ve restored a lot of 1960s GT Ferraris and racing Ferraris and have expanded into the modern servicing and sales of all those cars.”
IT SEEMS RACING IS IN YOUR BLOOD, WHEN DID YOU FIRST BEGIN COMPETING?
“Racing was always something I wanted to do but school got in the way – it wasn’t until I left school that I actually started racing. I first started racing in an MGB in 2003 – I did two seasons in that car and then over the years I’ve progressed and been fortunate enough to race other people’s cars.”
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO BE RACING AT THIS YEAR’S GOODWOOD REVIVAL?
“On the Friday night I will be racing a Jaguar E-Type in ‘The Kinrara Trophy’, which is a race for pre-1963 special occasion GT cars. There will be lots of Ferrari 250 short wheelbases, 250 GTOs, AC Cobras – lots of good stuff in that race. Then on the Saturday I will be in my fathers 500 Testa Rossa in the ‘Freddie March Memorial Trophy’ and there’s one other car I’ll be racing on the Sunday [he chuckles] but it’s completely slipped my mind.”
WHAT DO YOU DRIVE ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?
“I’m currently driving a BMW 1M – it's an understated yet powerful car and actually quite a good place to put money. I have a few other cars of my own, a couple of Porsches, a few older MGs and a half share of a classic Ford GT40.”
I’M GUESSING THAT SOME OF THESE CARS ONLY COME OUT ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS?
“Some of them are racing cars but the majority are for high days and holidays.”
WE’VE HEARD THERE ARE SOME GREAT CHARACTERS IN THE CLASSIC CAR WORLD….CAN YOU GIVE US ANY STORIES?
“We’ve certainly had lots of interesting customers over the years including Lord Anthony Bamford (owner of JCB), Chris Evans and Ralf Lauren. Generally in the classic car world, anyone who’s had a classic Ferrari - we’ve probably dealt with them at some point.
“For a while, Chris Evans actually used to come and join us straight after his breakfast show and we would have to make him breakfast. He got to like our toast!”
WHAT IS THE MOST EXCITING CAR THAT’S BEEN THROUGH THE DK DOORS?
“Hmm that’s a tough one. At the moment we have a 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB 4 competition car – one of only 15 built. The last one built ran at Le Mans in 1973 and it’s been in storage since the early 80s - no ones really seen it. This year we pulled it out and gave it a full reconditioning, very sensitively – it's a very original car and we’re about to take it to the Royal Concours at Windsor. Not many people have seen the car in the last 30 years - it’s got such a lovely history and the condition of the car is second to none.”
Follow James Cottingham & DK Engineering on Instagram (@DKEngineering)