This Workshop is the Definition of Garage Envy. Period.
Back in 2013, I visited a magical place and met this thing; a Ferrari unlike any other. 'This' is how to build a Ferrari ... DNA, eat your heart out.
It's fairly safe to assume that almost all of the users on here would love nothing more than a workshop like the one that you see in films. You know, those with motoring memorabilia scattered around, tools sporadically placed on every work surface, the smell of race fuel in the air and racing cars peppered around the place.
Whilst such virtual playgrounds as Youtube, Instagram and Petrolicious are stuffed full of these mythical workshops (with a healthy dollop of that rose tinted filter to add to the emotion), the majority of us will seldom set foot in one. It begs the question: do these places even exist outside of a film set? Well, much like Platform Nine and Three Quarters in Harry Potter, maybe they're just not where you'd expect them to be.
I agree, it's strange point to make with no evidence. That's why I want to tell you a story about an incredible wonderland that I had the pleasure of visiting back in 2013 (yes, that's a long time ago and I've been sitting on this article for a rather long time. Just never had anywhere to stick it!).
The Petrolicious-style Nirvana that I talk of was actually situated on a very unassuming street, behind what appears to be a very normal and boring house in Leicestershire. My chaperone for the day was none other than the very talented Amy Shore (of Amy Shore Photography fame. These are her shots from the day. Insane) and, when we arrived, I actually thought she'd taken us to the wrong place.
That wasn't the case, you see, this is the home of Bob and Sam Wilson, the talented pair behind RM Wilson Engineering. If you've attended pretty much any event celebrating historic racing cars, then you've probably heard one or both of their names. That's because the pair are restoration experts that have worked on a multitude of cars that have competed at events as prestigious as Goodwood Revival (often with Sam at the wheel. Look out for his name next time).
My leg twitching continuously due to excitement, the adventure started in a very English way - with a cup of tea. Sat at an old kitchen table, we're surrounded by memorabilia from racing tracks around the world, the perfect complement to the incredible stories that Bob and Sam tell us of their 45 years building & racing pretty much anything with wheels; their stories played like scenes from the film Rush in my brain. Awesome.
Beverages consumed, it's time to head out on our journey down the garden. Now, here's the thing, despite the fascinating stories that Bob and Sam tell, it's hard to expect something amazing when you step into the garden of a standard Leicestershire house. That is, however, until you start paying more attention to the artifacts that sit along the lengthy driveway: race car trailers, various racing car parts and a Ford Anglia - hidden away and overgrown with Ivy - are just a few of the highlights.
The concrete snakes down the garden, weaving around grass patches and a large pond, before ending at the gates of a rather impressive looking two-storey garage.
For a petrolhead, a walk down the path in Bob's yard can only be compared to a magical adventure; an experience filled with excitement and side quests (much like that Ford Anglia).
The best part is that this adventure is only just beginning; once you reach the doors at the end of that spectacular driveway, you know that Bob, Sam and their team of wizards come to this place to create magic.
The second that you step through those doors, and into the wonderland beyond, you're welcomed by the intoxicating smells of motor oil and fuel and your eyes are instantly drawn to the number of classic single seat racing cars - in varying states of completion - that are distributed around the room.
Continuing on (in a state of awe. Touching everything. Hoping you don't get told off.) you enter the main downstairs workshop; a place where you are greeted by two more single seaters, these two in racing condition. I'd actually be highly surprised if you hadn't seen this pair at Silverstone Classic or one of the various Goodwood events since my visit in 2013.
After exploring downstairs - in much the same way that an excited child does Disneyland, the only way is up. Ascending the shallow winding staircase, it's impossible not to stare at the karting and racing car memorabilia that litters the walls. There's even one of Sam's old karting chassis mounted above your head.
Once you reach the top of the stairs, the story is initially much the same as the room that you've just left behind - multiple single seaters sitting dormant, awaiting the next time they'll get to stretch their legs out on track. That's where the similarities end.
Venturing towards the back of the room, you can just about spy the nose of something truly special. Hidden behind a workbench sits the very reason that me and Amy have visited this small house in Leicestershire; a simply astonishing Ferrari 330 P4, its engine bay open as if it were a crocodile basking in the sun.
Not sure why the P4 is such a big deal? It's history time. Rolling out of Maranello back in 1967, the 330 P4 was Ferrari's answer to the iconic Ford GT40 - a car that was doing rather well in prototype racing (if you already know about the P4, ignore the next three paragraphs!).
Replacing the Ferrari 330 P3, only four examples were ever made (one of which was a Ferrari P3/4 that shared elements of both cars) and, although they were almost identical aesthetically to the Ferrari P3, they featured significant mechanical updates.
The magicians at Ferrari must have been having a blinding day when they developed the P4 because it became an instant success ... with its most exciting appearance arguably being the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona, where the P3/4, a P4 and a 412p crossed the finish line together, claiming a 1-2-3 victory in a legendary formation.
Sadly, despite being considered as one of Ferrari's greatest endurance racers of all time, only one of the original Ferrari P4s is still around today. #sadtimes.
Now, you may - very rightly - be wondering why the last Ferrari 330 P4 in the world is hold up on the top floor of some random workshop in Leicestershire. Want the honest answer? This isn't that last car, it's a replica. Wait! Don't go anywhere! This isn't some £7,000 modified MR2 from DNA (why are they always so expensive?) and to write it off as such would be sacrilege. Based upon all of the original plans from Maranello, this Ferrari 330 P4 is a 'recreation' so close to the original that you'd never know the difference.
Powered by the scrumptious V12 from a Ferrari 365 GT and straddling tyres as wide as Godzilla's tongue, this gorgeous car has been passionately built from scratch by a team that know Ferrari almost as well as Enzo himself. Despite the fact that this particular P4 has never even been near Maranello - maybe with the exception of that V12 - being around it can only be compared to seeing a unicorn.
Almost all age-defining cars have an overwhelming presence about them. That said, having now spent time with a number of icons, it's rare to find something as imposing as this P4 - even in its sleeping state, it manages to command attention just by entering the room ... that's right, this Ferrari P4 is basically that guy/girl that we all wanted to be at school.
Designed solely to go quickly #becauseracecar, the P4's lines flow effortlessly from front to back with little effort. It's beautiful. Unlike many modern racing cars, there aren't fiddly spoilers or splitters to distract your eye; there are just flawless curves that demonstrate a purity in simplicity. It's stunning, it's gorgeous and it's timeless ... to the point that it stirs up your emotions without even moving.
Heading to the rear of the car, that aforementioned 365 GT V12 dominates. Breathtaking to behold and intricate in design - I have a thing for engines - it creates more horsepower than the original P4 did in 1967. Fastidiously put together by talented engineers, a custom made fuel injection system and dry sump complete the masterpiece.
They say that truly exceptional cars do more than just look pretty, they create drama. The mammoth engine cover held open by a gigantic pole, and that stunning V12 laid out for all to see, the P4 creates more drama than a crowd of carspotters chasing after a LaFerrari Aperta.
Now, this was my first ever journalistic escapade, so I wasn't trusted with getting behind the wheel ... you know, in case I wrapped the insane machine around a tree. Regardless, I needed to know what it was like to drive - good job there was a racing driver in the room with us. Around 10 minutes later - having fired close to 1000 questions at Sam - I'd learned that it's a challenging beast to control but that the rewards for taming it were massive. To this day, I still wonder how it'd fair in a direct comparison with the real thing.
Looking back, that day seems a bit like a dream; the perfect workshop, the smells, the racing cars, the Ferrari P4 (ish), those aren't things that you see outside of a computer screen. You just don't. Sadly, as with all dreams, it was all over way too fast and a couple of hours felt more like five or 10 minutes.
It's hard to explain but, if portals between dimensions exist, then that workshop door is the closest you could ever get. The feeling of looking through that door at a normal house but knowing there's a Ferrari P4 directly above you was just crazy. Even now, some five or six years later, the experience has stuck with me with such vigor that I can still recall all of the sights and smells in complete detail. I can't say that I can recall any other experience in my automotive career with such feeling.
I can only say that those lasting feelings are testament to the work that Bob and Sam at RM Wilson Engineering put into that P4 Recreation. Their passion, knowledge and meticulous efforts created a machine that mimicked an icon in such detail that it truly felt like you were in the presence of a seasoned legend. That P4, wherever it is these days, is a work of art and I hope that owner adores it as much as it deserves.
It was a pleasure to meet everyone involved with RM Engineering and I thank them dearly for their hospitality on that day. Next time you're at Goodwood, Silverstone, Brands Hatch or any other classic car event and you see their name's in the programme, I strongly recommend that you say hello. Having spent a day with them, I can confidently say that their stories will make for one of the most fascinating conversations your ear holes have ever been treated to.
All of these images are from Amy Shore Photography. Do yourself a favour, check her out.
**Side Note: This article has sat on my hard drive for the best part of six years. It's been rewritten around four times and is arguably the piece that launched my career as a professional content writer. Finally having it posted somewhere that it might get read means a lot ... so thank you for humoring me, I hope you enjoyed! **