Cropredy Bridge Garage - Jensen Specialists
Cropredy Bridge and Jensen motor cars. Here are two names as synonymous with each other as bread and jam or Bank Holiday weekends and heavy rain. But unlike those other uniquely British combinations, Cropredy Bridge's work is loved internationally - with a huge and loyal customer base, who keep coming back for more. It's been in business now for more than 40 years, and despite several changes of management over the years, has maintained its focus - specialising in these most British of classic cars.
Cropredy Bridge is a sleepy village in rural Oxfordshire, and for first time visitors, it seems like a strange place to base a business that's so rooted in the sales, servicing and restoration of Jensens - many of which are powered by thundering V8s. But given it's a mere 10 minutes' drive from Brackley, which is at the heart of the rich seam of automotive specialists, known as 'Silicon Valley'. But you can't escape the feeling you've travelled back in time as you drive into the village to visit one of the UK's hardest working single-marque specialists.
We're here to meet Matt Watts, Managing Director - and even before we're out of the car, we can't help but be impressed and fascinated by the line-up of dishevelled Interceptors around the back, either awaiting restoration or acting as parts donors for other cars, The second thing about Cropredy Bridge Garage that surprises is the size of the operation - the business is spread over several workshops fronted by a surprisingly modest showroom and Customer reception area. You could be mistaken for thinking that this is a collection of small and disparate businesses clustered in a 1950s industrial estate on the bank of the River Cherwell - you'd be wrong.
Cropredy Bridge Garages was founded Back in 1972, when Jensen Motors – under American company Qvale – was still a viable concern selling the glorious Interceptor, and its derivaties, in a pre-Energy Crisis world. In 1972, the 7.2-litre Anglo-Italian Grand Tourer was a well respected top-end motor, driven by style icons such as Jason King. And yet, just four years later, the iconic carmaker hit the skids, being declared bankrupt during a decade that was so unkind to the British motor industry.
But during all of this, Cropredy Bridge went from strength to strength. Interest in Jensens, and the Interceptor especially, never tailed off - even when the classic car scene was yet to crystallise into the multi-billion pound industry it is today. From the moment it opened, the Oxfordshire concern enjoyed success selling and servicing a wide range of vehicles, encompassing SP Interceptors, convertible and coupé variants, the rare FF, as well as Jensen-Healeys, to the previous Jensen 541s and C-V8s.
Today, the business looks like one that's doing very well indeed. Matt Watts confirms that it's recently been expanded, and will continue to do so in the coming months. 'We've established a great relationship with Jensen owners and customers. And as our guys are some of the most demanding and exacting in the business, we're proud of the reputation we've earned - and willl work hard to maintain it. For instance, we work closely with the Jensen Owners Club, a group that knows everything that's worth knowing about these cars.'
The company's success is hinged on continuity. We also meet with Robert ‘Bob’ Cherry. He smiles as we shake his hand, and is pleased at the interest we're showing in what was his business until 2011. Yes, Bob has a long history with Cropredy Bridge - he worked there as a teenager, pumping fuel, before serving his apprenticeship there. He moved on to start his own garage in the late-'70s, but retained a watching brief, acquiring Cropredy Bridge in the mid-'90s, and incorporating his own business there. And since then, he's grown Cropredy Bridge, enjoying the boom in interest (and values) of the Interceptor, before selling-up. But he's still there today, acting as a consultant.
A quick tour of the workshops confirms that trade looks good, and that standards of work are exacting. There's a number of restorations going on, with cars receiving engine servicing (above) and extensive work being undertaken on their bodies. No wonder, Cropredy Bridge is confident to offer a year's warranty on its work.
Another big and important part of the business is upgrade work. Cropredy Bridge Garage manufactures the latest incarnation of the Interceptor - Jensen International Automotive (JIA)’s Interceptor R. This car has received plenty of column inches during the past couple of years since launch, as it's a thoroughly updated Interceptor powered by a modern American V8 engine, with modern brakes and suspension upgrades. Matt Watts confirms that he's now looking at ways of expanding this model's appeal - stay tuned to see how that develops.
Cropredy Bridge also sells cars - all of which are prepared in-house, either restored to order or the best cars can be sold on a commission basis for customers. Either way, you're looking at a fully-sorted Jensen - premium priced, perhaps, but with the full support of the business.
But the core of the Cropredy Bridge is servicing, and all of this is carried out in-house. To give you an idea of the extensiveness of Cropredy Bridge's services, it will undertake everything from full engine rebuilds, air-conditioning recharging and repairs, suspension rebuilds, brake repair and replacement, wiring harness replacement, and MoT work.
It can offer this, because the facilities are so impressive. There's a low-bake oven for paint and bodywork, full welding and fabrication services by technicians with decades of experience, 541 and C-V8 glass fibre repairs, refurbished and electrophoretically dipped shell to stabilise and rust-proof to current new-car standards, full leather interior repair or replacement to original design or bespoke client specification, and even alloy wheel repair specialists.
It takes up to a full morning to see the full extent of Cropredy Bridge's work, so if you're thinking of making a trip, either to buy or view a car, or to drop yours in for work, be prepared for a guided tour - which, if you're lucky could be by Bob Cherry himself. It's a hands-on operation, exactly what you need in your classic car specialist. But that's something us Brits seem to do so much better than anyone else...
Visit Cropredy Bridge's website, www.cropredybridge.com
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