Why Serious Car Enthusiasts From All Over the World Are Going to Clark
Two old Mustangs gleaming in the mid-morning sun greet me as I pull up just outside a warehouse at the Special Economic Zone in Clark Field, Pampanga. The cars are technically old: one's a 1966 Fastback in jet black, and the other is a 1968 Shelby GT 500 in deep cobalt. But one look at both cars and you’d instantly know they’re worth more than the 2017 edition of the Mustang I drove to get there from Manila.
That’s because both classic cars underwent major restoration work in the hands of the fine craftsmen of Classic Speed, a company that specializes in taking old classic muscle cars and restoring them back into spruced-up versions of their old selves.
Classic Speed used to be owned by an Australian businessman who later sold the business to a group led by running enthusiast Rio Dela Cruz and his family. Dela Cruz’s father-in-law Wilfredo Wuthrich now runs the business along with his two sons, Willote and Wayne.
“Right now movie cars are in demand,” Wayne says as he gives us a tour around the warehouse where the magic of restoration happens. “Our bestseller is the John Wick car,” he says, pointing to a 1969 Mustang similar to the one that Keanu Reeves’ character drove in the blockbuster action film. “We have another one at the back. We also have a few Eleanors like the ones that were used in Gone In 60 Seconds.” Wayned added they are also working on Mustang models that made an appearance on The Fast and The Furious franchise
Since it was founded in 2008, Classic Speed has shipped over 100 cars to enthusiasts all over the world, but mostly from Australia and New Zealand. I asked why they had a lot of clients from Down Under; don’t they have car restoration places there?
“The prices over there are much higher,” Wayne replied. “At the same time, when you’re talking about the level of quality, we’ve already branded ourselves as the best so that’s why many of them choose to come here.”
Classic Speed can work on most types of classic cars, or those produced before 1970. I spot a 1968 Chevy Camaro S (“Original engine, original chassis”), a 1942 Ford Willy’s Beat (“All original, no modern parts added. It still drives like how it did back then”), a Porsche and a Jaguar. Wayne says they even have a (Dodge) charger, and a Plymouth Hemi Barracuda.
“But we’re really known for Mustangs talaga,” Wayne adds.
As they take me around the sprawling warehouse, the Wuthrich brothers discuss the restoration process and just how meticulous and laborious it is. Hearing them talk, it’s evident they possess near-obsessive knowledge about Ford’s classic sports car.
“What you see here are cars undergoing structural changes,” Wayne says, gesturing to one corner of the warehouse. “When we get an old Mustang, it may not be aligned properly. When you put the body of the car here, when some parts of the car won’t touch the body itself, that means it’s misaligned. So from there, we have to proceed with modifications.”
On the other side of the space, group of mechanics are working on one particular car. “This came from Australia. It’s a 1966 coupe. This will undergo conversion, as well as some major upgrades as well.” Wayne points to a section of the side panels that has obviously seen better days. “This is what it looks like when it gets here. The panels are somewhat beaten up, so we have to repair it. This is a coupe. Most of what you saw back there are fastbacks. That’s also a quick history lesson of the Mustang—you have the coupe, the convertible or the fastback.”
While some owners prefer their cars rebuilt exactly like the original, there are those who don’t mind installing modern conveniences. The black 1966 Fastback parked outside, for example, is fitted with power windows controlled by an old-fashioned hand-turned crank handle.
“It’s completely up to the customer,” Wayne says. “Whatever he wants, we can do.”
At the time of my visit, Classic Speed had about 17 cars in various stages of restoration work. “The demand for these cars is actually increasing,” Wayne tells me. “But the supply is running low. If you want to make a car like this, it’s best that you do it now. Otherwise, next year, prices will rise. These are vintage cars. Every year, the value only goes up. So not only is this a passion, it’s also an investment.”
The obvious question is how much they charge, but it’s difficult to put a price tag on their services as it can vary wildly depending on how extensive the work that needs to be done, but I pressed the brothers for a ballpark figure.
“Usually for export, the range is from $125,000 to $150,000 depending on the specs,” Wayne says. Yes, they charge in dollars as they work in a freeport zone. (Their workers earn in dollars, too).
That’s about Php6 to Php7 million to jazz up a car that’s at least 40 years old. But of course, for many men (and women), it’s a passion, and spending millions is nothing compared to the thrill of recreating a driving experience like no other.
Classic Speed is at Clark Pampanga. For more information, visit classicspeedinc.com