The Collector – Sukhpal Ahluwalia
Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia has loved cars all his life, and that passion has driven the entrepreneur to build not only a much-loved collection of automotive delights, but a household-name business that keeps the UK’s motorists moving. He came to the UK as an Indian refugee from Uganda in 1972, and aged 18 set up a small motor-accessories store in London. The UK’s massive growth in imported cars led to this business becoming a specialist parts supplier for German models, and was renamed Euro Car Parts. The company grew into one of the biggest spares suppliers in the country, with more than 100 branches. Since Sukhpal sold the business to LKQ Corp, it has continued to expand and it’s now the biggest car parts supplier in Europe.
Sukhpal’s passion has seen him amass the Ahluwalia family car collection, and forge a partnership with his friend Richard Butterworth of specialist restorer Hemmels in Cardiff. Cars are Sukhpal’s life, and he’s continually looking for quality rare models to restore from all over the world, from the US, Europe and even Australia. He is always looking for a challenge and enjoys using his collection as often as his busy life allows.
Two of his cars date from the beginning of his collecting days – a Mercedes-Benz 280SL Pagoda and a Jaguar E-type 3.8 S1. The latter was a total restoration project that took a few years, but Sukhpal says it was worth it: “It’s the best example I’ve ever seen.” Along with the Pagoda, it holds a special place in his heart. Another car that is dear to him is the Porsche 356 Speedster – it’s one of his favourites, and he loves the styling. He’s a big fan of German engineering, and the 356 reflects the success of Euro Car Parts and the importance of European cars to that. Sukhpal also has a deep love for Mercedes- Benz, as demonstrated by a couple of cars from two wildly different ends of the Three- Pointed Star’s repertoire. The 300S was a real passion project for Sukhpal, requiring a complete restoration – he spent two years tracking down parts from across the world to bring the car back to life. Meanwhile, the Mercedes-McLaren SLR is a more recent purchase, after he spent a long time finding not only the right car, but the right parts for it, too.
There’s also a chance to see Sukhpal’s 190SL, in which he likes to pick his friends up when they come to see him. Away from German machinery, his Aston Martin DB5 is truly special. A huge fan of James Bond films, Sukhpal had to have a DB5 – and this one has been restored to concours standard. The car was acquired by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan in 1986 for his personal use in Switzerland, and was restored prior to being exported. It is understood that the Aga Khan enjoyed the car until February 1998, at which point it was sold to another Swiss resident, who kept it until it was acquired by a UK-based specialist in 2015. During an extensive restoration in 2016, specialist Pugsley & Lewis fully rebuilt the car’s engine and converted it to use unleaded fuel. The final pair of models in the display at the London Concours approach sports cars from two very different angles.
The Ferrari 365GTB/4 brings a taste of the Italian exotic, and is an original UK-market car, while the 1960 Corvette represents a long-held love for this scintillating slice of American muscle. Sukhpal only recently added the Chevrolet to his collection after admiring these V8 machines for years, and when news of one for sale popped into his inbox earlier this year, he just had to have it. However, it’s not just four-wheeled fun – Sukhpal fell in love with the Honda 90 motorcycle when visiting a friend. He was so infatuated with it that his acquaintance couldn’t let him leave without it, and gifted him the bike that very same day. Despite its relative modesty compared with his classic cars, Sukhpal still gets the same thrill from riding his Honda, especially in the summer.
He plans to continue building the family collection with his three sons over the coming years. Yet with his eye on his long- planned retirement to India, his common sense keeps telling him that it actually might be best to stop adding to his collection. Usually, though, the love of cars ends up winning out. Ultimately, he has resigned himself to the fact that he’ll end up taking his favourite vehicles to India with him.