Kent Life meets the Ferrari family
PUBLISHED: 19:23 25 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:10 20 February 2013
Ian Barkaway has been restoring and servicing Ferraris for 30 years and last summer formed his own company doing just that – with a little bit of help from the family
The Ferrari family
Ian Barkaway has been restoring and servicing Ferraris for 30 years and last summer formed his own company doing just that with a little bit of help from the family
So tucked away that it takes me 15 minutes driving around a really quite small industrial estate to locate Barkaways, I realise why discretion is key immediately its founder and namesake, Ian Barkaway, ushers me into the workshop.
There are gleaming Ferraris everywhere you look, simply exuding money and power. Even to a non-petrol head, its a thrilling sight not to mention a shock to realise they dont just come in red.
Ians own 308, with its personalised number plate, is in the traditional colour but I fall in love instantly with the most perfect 1970 246 Dino in silver, the original colour before red took over.
I picked well owner James Needham, (the James of James Villa Holidays) pops in to check up on his baby. He wasn't going to buy yet another car (he has quite a collection), but his wife Shelagh spotted it in a corner looking a bit scruffy and said I like that silver one, so he relented.
Ian worked his magic, turning scruffy into a thing of beauty and to his and the Needhams delight, at The Ferrari Owners Club National Concours in July the restored 246 Dino drove away with the Best in Class honour on its debut appearance.
Often there are more of my cars here than at home, admits James, who is Kentish through and through, just like Ian. They're an investment these days, but I'm also investing in something I enjoy.
The big thing with Ian is that people want to know who is working on their cars. Cars have changed so much in the last 50 years that some of the new kids just don't know how to deal with the old cars and can only use computers - Ian is hands on all the time and theres nothing he doesnt know about Ferraris.
Ian was car mad from childhood, leaving school at 17 to go straight into a motor trade apprenticeship with Rolls Royce. He then spent the next three decades learning his craft, including managing a Ferrari/Maserati dealership and working as head of restoration with a Ferrari specialist.
I started the business in a recession but I guess it's a slightly recession-proof one - Ferrari owners don't have a money problem
Ian is no stranger to awards himself and his career highlights include winning the Hurlingham Club Fte Champtre three years on the trot with three different cars, and he had his own FOC Concours win with a 288GTO.
Last August he finally stopped working for other people, signed the lease on this former wood yard in East Peckham and started to think of a name for the business. That was the easy bit.
It's a family affair thats why we called it Barkaways, Ian says. My wife Andrea has an HR background and runs the accounts, Dan, 18, is studying business at A-level, Ben, 15, is still doing GCSEs but he comes in on Saturdays and Gemma is only nine and at the moment just likes to ride in the cars!
The family involvement extends to his uncle and cousin, who run the brilliant butchers Barkaways of Faversham and supply all the pies and sausage rolls for the many social occasions held by the West Kent branch of the family.
Apart from when specialist help is required in the workshop, such as trimmers, chromers and platers (Ian uses local people as much as possible), he never delegates
Even though I'm the boss, I still do all the engines myself. My PA Tara fields all my calls and emails and I will often only get to talk to the owners at 8pm, but they'd far rather I was building their engines than on the phone and email all day.
What was Ians vision for Barkaways? My goal for this place was to create an environment where someone could walk in with a million-pound Ferrari and feel comfortable leaving it with me, he says.
That Ferrari is their baby, so they are very, very protective about who they give the keys to - they've worked hard for it. These cars live in air bubbles, so we have to have a facility that matches the way our clients look after their cars, while still working on them.
Thats why we spent so much time getting the layout right and why we don't advertise Ferrari out the front; security is paramount, weve got CCTV all round the building and it takes half an hour at night to lock up the place.
And as Ian points out, Ferrari owners are generally very private people. You expect them to be brash, walk into the pub, throw the keys on the table and say the Ferrari's parked outside, but they are a very reserved lot, don't tend to show off, it's a very closed circuit.
We are in the bizarre position of trying to market a business we can't market. But on the flip side of that, Ferrari owners are a massively supportive bunch and we do lots of charity events every year with them through The Ferrari Owners' Club of Great Britain and of course the Kent FOC, with whom we work closely.
So who buys Ferraris these days and more importantly, why? You dont drive them when its wet, you need a secure environment to keep them in, and you cant even boast about owning one.
Our average client is one who is cash rich and looking to take some of that cash out of the bank and put it into the right Ferrari as a great investment, says Ian. If you invest in a painting you can hang it on the wall and admire it but with this, you can drive around in it and play in it, but you've got to do it right and get the right car.
I started the business in a recession but I guess it's a slightly recession-proof one - Ferrari owners don't have a money problem. We are the means to make their dream come true and create an asset for them.
Its hard to believe some of the barn finds in the showroom can be turned into fabulous award-winners, but given enough man hours, expertise and money its highly probable.
Once the numbers add up, that is. The first thing we do is check the chassis and engine numbers, as it's a waste of time working on a rogue car. It might look like a pile of junk but if it's got the right numbers, we can work our magic on it.
We do all the metalwork and restoration in house, it then gets painted, while that's been going on I've been doing the gearbox, engine, suspension then it all gets put back together and ends up as a Concours winner!
But dont you get a bit attached? When you spend on average two years building a Ferrari, you get to know them inside out. It can be hard to part with them, he admits.
But it's brilliant to see a car finished and then you can sit back and enjoy it when it's in a setting like the Hurlingham Club rather than in the workshop.
I love to see people crowding around Ferraris we've done. And the owners get enjoyment showing off what we've done.
Sounds like someone has created the perfect business for himself and his family.
GET IN TOUCH
Unit 6, Arnold Business Park,
Branbridges Road, East Peckham, nr Tonbridge TN12 5LG