"Now, I love a challenge as much as the next man/woman, and when the boss man emailed me to ask if I’d be up for an mpg challenge featuring a Volvo XC90, I jumped at the chance. Why?! "
Ant Anstead tells us what got him to where he is today
We sent Danni to have a chat with Ant Anstead about how he got to where he is today
When ‘For the Love of Cars’ came back on the tellybox – we know 🙏 – we thought we’d have a chat with the man behind the cars Ant Anstead, to see just how he got into it all.
Danni Bagnall: Hey Ant, thanks for meeting with me! Now, we all know you from Channel 4’s ‘For the Love of Cars’ TV show, but what started your passion for cars?
Ant Anstead: I’ve been into cars since I was little. I was a typical boy, I loved building Airfix, Lego, basically anything I could get my hands on that was either broken or needed making. I was a nightmare for my parents! Cars have always been my guilty pleasure. I’d built my first off-the-shelf kit car by the time I was 16! I didn’t even have a driving licence but knew I wanted to build cars. I remember as a 14-year-old, walking to the local cattle market and buying a lawnmower to power my wooden soap box… I never did get that one going.
DB: What do you do with yourself when you’re not on the big screen?
AA: I own and run my own company building and restoring cars. The majority of cars I make are from scratch. Although they look old, they’re brand new. The business keeps me pretty busy. But while I’m not building cars or on screen, I’m spending quality time with my family. My kids are aged 10 and 13, so I try and see them as much as I can. Granted, that’s not been as much as I’d like with TV work being so busy this past few months. In fact, this year alone I have been on 20 flights and it feels like I live out of a suitcase in departure lounges. I mustn’t moan though; I have a very privileged job. Any brief moment of spare time I have used up racing cars or playing football. Actually, thinking about it…. How the heck do I fit it all in?
DB: Tell me more about your business.
AA: I started making cars commercially over a decade ago. I’m well known globally for building a number of recreation cars, and more recently I have moved away from the replica market to focus more on TV and restorations. The majority of the cars I build are on request, making each one completely bespoke to a customer. I love the individual identity that each classic car has and each car we build is completely unique. We even ensure the seating position, steering wheel and pedals suit the customer’s exact size and frame. Each motorcar is supplied with a detailed photographic build diary and is UK registered, following an IVA VOSA test, MOT, one year’s road tax and warranty. We have a highly-skilled team around me.
DB: Have you always worked on cars, then?
AA: No. Funnily enough, I was in her Majesty’s police service for six years. When I was 18 and a half, I joined the police force. I knew I didn’t want to go down the education route with University etc, so ended up a copper, and I can honestly say, it’s the best decision I have ever made. I loved being in the police. I was there six years, and five years, 11 months and 29 days of that was incredible. The Force is ridiculously understaffed. I was based in Bishops Stortford for two years, basically alone, which forced me to grow-up quickly! When I was 23 I joined the tactical fire-arm unit, becoming one of the youngest armed coppers ever. I saw and did things that people would shudder at. I even spent time in a safe-house with the “railway murderer” John Duffy. It changed everything for me. I received two commendations for bravery and have faced a number of life threatening incidents – really opening my eyes to what humans are capable of. When you’re standing in-front of someone armed – that’s real fear – it kind of makes standing on stage or in front of a camera easy. I always remind myself of that, and how lucky I am to being doing what I do. I have several reasons for leaving the police, which all came about at the birth of my daughter. She’s now 13 years old, but back then she was a brand-new baby, and I knew I had to change something. I looked at what my friends were doing. You only get one life, after all.
DB: What’s your personal car history been like?
AA: It’s actually not been that bad. My first car was an MG Midget. Called Bridget… I loved that car! Vermillion orange with a tatty, ripped black hood and tons of rust! All my friends were rolling around in Astras and Metros, but I had a classic 70’s sports car. Ever since I was 18, I realised I could make money from my passion, so I’d buy classics, fix them and sell them on. Police shift work is great if you have a car passion. The skills I have developed over time have been gained by simply being hands on. I think that’s the only way to learn, is by doing and trying things for yourself. That’s why I support the national apprentice scheme. Anyone else wanting to fix cars and do what I do doesn’t have to necessarily go to University to do it. The passion comes first. If you have a knack at being hands on and you have the love, you’ll get there. I tend to build connections with cars, I bought back one I sold a few years ago, just recently. I’m hoping to launch a campaign to find my first car, the MG Midget, so we’ll see what happens with that, but I’d love to get her back. One of my favourites I’ve owned is a Mk1 Escort Van that I recently sold. I fell for the guy’s sob story and, I have to say, I now regret selling it.
DB: What car is at the top of your bucket list?
AA: How long have you got?! I’m always looking for cars. I’m currently in talks negotiating a Series 1 Land Rover – I’m literally obsessed by them. I recently bought last year’s series winning Ginetta G50 race car and next season I’ll be racing in the Ginetta Racing Series. Another Austin 7 would also be on the list – they are my favourite cars. Oh, and I would love to do a Quattro for Phil (Glenister), because of Gene Hunt (BBC Series Ashes to Ashes). I’d also love to own a post-war single seater Grand Prix car at some point – hmmm, maybe I’ll just build one… watch this space.
DB: What has been your favourite moment throughout ‘For the Love of Cars’?
AA: There have been loads! I literally pinch myself each day. I’m lucky to be making the show. My favourite car was the Land Rover Series 1 – for obvious reasons. At the time, I tried to get Channel 4’s permission to allow me to buy her back. But, she was too expensive, anyway. My favourite contributor was Walter with the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf. His story was incredible. So much more happened off camera and never made the show, as it was just so heart breaking. I will remember that experience forever. Walter and Lorraine were special. Oh, and the car was an absolute mess. The level of rust on it meant we should’ve just scrapped it, but we managed to turn it completely around in just 53 days. I remember the day I turned up at Blackpool, saw the car, looked at the diary. 53 days!! I still wonder how the hell we did that and I’m super proud of the guys and the show for making it happen. Walter drove the build and motivated the team. This next season (on screens now) is just as good, too!
all photos: Carrie Wilson
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